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  • Writer's pictureEaston Gaines, MSEd, PsyD

Journaling Prompts for a Stuck Mind

Letting your thoughts flow can be cathartic. However, staring at a blank page feels discouraging. Good news -- there is no 'right' way to get those thoughts out. If you're stuck on where to start, give one of these prompts a try. You just might find a bit more space and energy after.

Reflect on your day. Since our days add up to our months and months make up to our lives, it can be helpful (even necessary) to check in. Try to determine where your mental, emotional, and physical energy is being used.

  • When was I most at peace today? Where was I? What was I doing or not doing that was helpful? How can I replicate that moment?

  • What was the toughest part of the day? What was the best part of the day?

  • What was something I did today that was in line with my values?

  • What pattern did I reduce today? Did I maintain or build upon any patterns?

  • What would have been a more helpful response to a difficult situation today?

Express Gratitude. Practicing gratitude can shift your mindset from what isn't working to what is. By deliberately slowing down, we allow our brain time to make positive connections. After writing, take a moment to read through what you wrote and invite in peace and acceptance.

  • Describe a simple moment of joy, relief, or contentment with as much detail as possible.

  • What are you grateful for today? The more, the merrier.

  • What is going well in your life? Explore it all (relationships, family, career, you time, travel, spirituality, friendship, hobbies).

Set goals & intentions. Writing out goals makes us more likely to achieve them. Plus, the satisfaction of crossing things off of a list brings an extra special buzz (or is that just me?). That sense of success can increase your motivation to harness your power and continue checking off your goals.

  • What do I need to do today?

  • What do I get to accomplish today?

  • Are my goals in line with my values?

  • My life is creating...

Record & Release your emotions. Venting works. Journaling can be an effective way to release the thoughts, emotions, and fleeting ideas that flow through us each day. Often, these thoughts and emotions go on without our recognition (just like muzak). With added awareness, writing them down offers space to process them later if we so choose. If you prefer a more structured approach, try the self-compassion prompt below. This can free up mental and emotional baggage.

  • I forgive myself for believing... I forgive myself for feeling...

  • It makes sense that I responded/felt that way because...

  • Ten-minute free write about your emotions/thoughts

Discover your Growth. Taking stock of yourself allows you to realize what works and what is no longer serving you. Cultivating a regular self-evaluation practice helps us to continually realign ourselves as we deal with life's shifting tides. This can also move our mindsets from victim to creator.

  • What can I do tomorrow to cultivate more peace in my life? How can I remind myself of the agency I have? Where do I need to release and accept my limitations?

  • List three habits that support the person I am becoming. List three habits that are no longer necessary.

  • How am I building happiness in my life?

  • What can I let go of that is holding me back?

Positive Affirmations. When looking for a quick boost, focusing on the positive parts of you can improve self-esteem, confidence, and motivation.

  • Today, I am proud of...

  • I was able to...

  • I am wonderful because...

Center Yourself in the Moment. Centering yourself in the present during moments of overwhelm can be grounding. Journaling can assist! It forces you to slow down and approach the situation with curiosity instead of blame. What assumptions are we treating as facts? What information are we filling in? You want to pause the story in your head and put it down on paper, where you separate reality from anxiety.

  • What is the story I am telling myself about this situation? What history am I bringing in and what assumptions am I making?

  • Where am I holding tension or other sensations in my body? What is my body signaling to me about my emotional state? What is it like to notice these sensations? What do I need to care for myself in this moment?

Cultivate Comfort. If you are dealing with intense distress, knowing how to self-soothe is key. This can often look like fostering a sense of peace or joy. Tapping into feelings of safety and trust can assist in empowerment. If you can, be as vivid and detailed as possible -- this makes a deeper connection.

If a happy, peaceful experience seems out of reach, try noting an inspiring quote or lyrics to a favorite song.

  • I know that I am safe because...

  • When did you feel the most secure? What about the most confident?

  • What is the best day you've had in recent memory? Get super detailed about everything that happened that day. Is it possible to replicate some of the elements of that day in the near future?

  • Describe a situation or place that makes you feel safe, protected, loved, or calm.

  • Write down the lyrics to your favorite song or a quote from a poem or inspirational post.

Dream Towards Tomorrow. Effective journaling prompts often poke around into our vision for the future. This allows us to focus on the life we'd like to be living rather than the overwhelming details of how to get there. How motivating!

  • If you could wake up tomorrow and your life would be exactly the way you want, what would it look like?

  • Write a letter to your future self, the person you hope to be in the future. Where do you live? What kind of job do you have? Are you in a relationship? Be as specific as possible.

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