Journal Prompts for Managing Thoughts & Feelings

Your thoughts and feelings are always changing. It’s important to know this because when you’re feeling angry or sad, you know that you won’t always feel that way. It will eventually change. And when you’re really happy, you won’t try to make it last forever, because that’s impossible.

Everything changes. 

Have you ever felt really down or sad and felt like things would always be that way?

No matter how strong those feelings are, something shifts and you realize with time that those feelings have changed. That’s the nature of our emotions; they give us information but they are not who we are. 


JOURNAL PROMPTS: 

  • Think of the last time you were excited (alternatively: worried or sad). How long did that last?

 

  • Reflect on a difficult moment from your past. Now that it’s in the past, was there some benefit to this experience? What did you learn from it?

 

  • Write down the things that are causing stress, fear, and anxiety right now. Once you are done, turn the page, and write down the things that are bringing you joy. 

Journal Prompts for Watching Your Thoughts

Sometimes we tell ourselves (in our minds) about how good or bad we are, about what we can or can’t do, or about other people. When we notice these stories, we can step back from them and decide if we want to believe them or not. If we are aware of them, the stories no longer have so much power over our actions. Noticing our thoughts gives us the power to change them if we want. You can notice your stories or thought patterns by watching your thoughts come and go. 

Watching your thoughts is different from “thinking.” When you watch your thoughts, you try not to get carried away by any one thought or fear or fantasy. 


JOURNAL PROMPTS:

  • Can you think of any beliefs you had about yourself in the past? Do you think these beliefs were helpful or harmful to you?

 

  • Write about some of the things you think you should do. Then, write about some of the things you think you shouldn’t do. Why do you think you feel pressure to do or not do these things? What do you think is stopping you from starting or stopping these habits? 

 

  • What strengths and what weaknesses do you think you have? Why do you consider certain traits strengths, and why do you see other traits as weaknesses? Can you try writing about the things you consider weaknesses as additional strengths instead?

Journal Prompts for Focusing Inward vs. Focusing Outward

You always have the ability to focus outward or focus inward. Focusing outward means paying attention to what’s happening around you. Focusing inward means paying attention to what’s happening inside you: your breath, your feelings, and your thoughts. Most people are good at focusing their attention outward – on their friends, on their phone, or on what people around them are doing. Focusing outward can keep us safe and help us read social cues.

It is equally important to be able to focus inward. If you don’t, you might not notice your thoughts or feelings until they get really strong and start to affect your behavior.

Another thing, we tend to hold onto negative comments from others much more strongly than positive ones. If we’re not careful, negative comments can affect us for weeks, months, or even years!


JOURNAL PROMPTS:

  • Do you spend more time focusing outward on what’s going on around you, or focused inward on yourself?

 

  • Write about some of the people in your life. Think of the people you spend the most time with and reflect on how they impact your life. How do you feel about yourself after spending time with them? In what ways do they affect your thoughts and behaviors?

 

  • While trying to ignore outward definitions, what do the words success, happiness, love, courage, and harmony mean to you?

Jotting Down The Good

Stress from work, friends, family, and mundane routines have a tendency to put us in a pattern of negative thinking that literally feeds on itself and creates more stress and unhappiness for us.

This cycle of negativity that develops from prolonged stress can lead to irritability, more stress, insecurity, anxiety, depression and so much more. So, it’s important to find a way to cultivate a positive attitude that can reprogram our thoughts to be dominantly positive, break the cycle of negativity, and start bringing some good stuff into our lives.

One of the ways you can shift your mindset out of the negative is by gratitude journaling.

Writing can be a great release. Often, when we write about things that make us feel good, we generate a feeling of gratitude. You might find that a gratitude journal is the best approach for incorporating a gratitude practice into your schedule. 

How you decide to go about this gratitude journaling practice is up to you. Maybe you’ll have a journal solely used for gratitude purposes or maybe you’ll use a journal that you use for a handful of purposes. Some people have a personalized journal or use one that was given to them that evokes some type of emotion or sense of importance. Maybe you’ll find journaling in the morning right after you wake up works best, or maybe you’ll find writing in the evenings is a better fit. For some people, writing by hand feels easiest, while others prefer to type. Allow yourself to be flexible as you find the approach that works best for you, but do try to put some effort into sticking to a gratitude journaling routine. Once you get into the habit of gratitude journaling, you will find endless benefits.


Here are some tips for success as you start your gratitude journaling practice. 

Positive Words, ONLY: Don’t use this space as an area to vent out the negative. Stay focused on the good stuff. Do NOT fix your pen to write the words “don’t, can’t, won’t, not” – none of it. Use positive words, only.

 

Use Prompts: Writing prompts are a great way to help your gratitude practice and process come easier. I would aim to write about 5-10 things each day. Here are some of the prompts I use:

“I am so grateful for..”

“I always feel good when..”

“Today was amazing because…”

 

Be Genuine: Please don’t do this if it feels like a chore. If it’s too much of a hassle, we can find you something that is a better fit. Allow this to be something therapeutic for you. A release, that pours right back into you. The worst thing you can do with your gratitude practice is simply go through the motions. In order to really reap the benefits you have to cultivate the feeling of goodness and thankfulness. You have to make a conscious decision to make an effort to be more grateful. You need to be able to feel what you write and believe that it’s true.

 

Speak It Into Existence: I don’t use my gratitude journal just for the things I’m grateful for now. I write about the things I’m grateful for in advance because I know the potential of my mind and positive thinking.

“I am so blessed in my business. I work with 8 clients per week to help them strengthen their yoga/mindfulness practice.

“I am so thankful for all of this opportunity through A Peace of Yoga. I work with the best and the brightest everyday to master my craft and become great at what I do.”

 

There’s No Right Time: While I do advise you to start writing down things that you’re grateful for in the morning, don’t limit yourself to that time frame. As good things happen to you throughout the day, write them down! I like to jot down a few feel goods before I call it a night too. It leaves me with a sense of peace and oftentimes I awake with that same sense of gratitude.

It’s okay to journal when times are bad too. Use this as a tool to help shift you into a better mood by reflecting on the things that make you feel good. You can’t be mad and grateful at the same time. It’s just how it works. So choose gratitude. Turn the negatives into positives – but only write in the positive tense. Does that make sense? So for example:

“My relationship didn’t work out.. (insert name) turned out to be a waste of time, but at least now I have time to focus on myself and know what I want.”

                      Nah.

DO NOT Waste Your Energy Throwing Shade in Your Journal.

Try this: I am thankful I have time to work on myself and I know that when the time is right  I will attract the perfect partner with all the qualities I desire. Maybe elaborate from there on what that relationship will look like..Have a little fun with it.

See the difference. The key is to Stay. In. The. Good. Don’t even acknowledge the negatives. This is specifically about GRATITUDE. 

 

Elaborate:  Depth over Breadth. So, I just mentioned elaborating on your journal entries. Explore what you really feel by going in depth on what you’re grateful for. This will help you in the genuine department. Make it clear what you’re writing about so that if you were to go back a year from now you could understand what you felt in that moment and maybe even regenerate that good feeling.

There is a big difference between:

“I am so grateful for my favorite student, Alex.”

&

“I am so grateful for my favorite student, Alex. That boy cracks me up everyday. Today, I convinced him that he set the school on fire with his magic powers (we had a fire drill) and had him confess on video…

 

Don’t Rush: Give yourself time with this exercise. Don’t just jot it down and run out the door. Write it, absorb it, feel good about it.

 

Mix it Up & Get Creative: Don’t put the same things everyday. Continuously find reasons to be grateful. I know people who use ticket stubs, pictures, receipts, etc. as prompts to reflect on. I personally like to keep a picture or two of my niece, Aria, laying around. She’s amazing too. 

 

But This Is Corny…Listen, if you find something that makes you feel good and helps you to live a life you enjoy, you need to keep doing that. No one has to know that you do this, or that you repeat affirmations in your mirror, or that you say “thank you” to yourself with every step. This is a process for you and if it feels a little weird, great. It’s good to step outside of your comfort zone!

 

Just Be Patient: Most studies will say it takes 21 days to form a habit so let’s give it three weeks before we give up and say it isn’t for us. After all, according to my audience, we’re probably dealing with at least 20 something years of mostly negative thinking. It’s going to take some time for the brain to get used to this new way of thinking.

 

The goal here is to get to a point where your brain automatically defaults to looking for the good in every situation. You want to make gratitude what your brain looks for when it needs to feel good. Always searching for something positive, always pulling away something positive from every circumstance. What you will learn overtime is that your thoughts are like any muscle, the more you exercise them, the stronger they become. Positive thoughts reap positive results. Negative thoughts reap negative results. So, stay in the good. Happy journaling and as always, create a great day.