Tap Into Self-Discovery With These 77 Therapist-Approved Journaling Prompts
We all have thousands of thoughts running around our head on a given day—so many that it can require intention and attention to self-reflect and integrate what you're going through.
Putting pen to paper and giving those thoughts somewhere to go, also known as journaling, is one of the best ways you can get in touch with yourself and learn something about who you are in the process. Here's why, plus 77 journaling prompts for self-discovery to help you get started.
How (& why) to work with journaling prompts
Journaling allows us to explore our own mind, reflect, and discover things about ourselves we may not have known otherwise. As artist and author of the Create Your Own Calm guided journal, Meera Lee Patel, previously told mindbodygreen, "The purpose of journaling is to awaken conscious thinking, which is simply having an honest conversation with yourself."
She adds that it's a great way to get to know yourself a little better, noting, "Through journaling, I have learned how to organize my thoughts, alleviate stress, and challenge certain ideas and habits I previously believed were inherent parts of me."
And research on journaling backs this up, too. Numerous studies show that journaling can help with everything from boosting your own emotional awareness to increasing your mental well-being. As one 2018 study1 notes, in a web-based journaling protocol, participants showed less depressive symptoms and anxiety after one month of journaling along with greater resilience after the first and second month, relative to usual care.
Journaling prompts are simply questions or statements meant to help inspire you to write. If you're unsure where to start or what to write about, they're a great way to get your gears turning, with virtually limitless prompts to choose from. (That said, here are our favorite guided journals if you're in the market for one.)
77 journal prompts for self-discovery
All of the following prompts are approved by experts, including Patel, licensed marriage and family therapist Tiana Leeds, M.A., LMFT, and board-certified clinical psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP. We've grouped them into a few different categories depending on what's on your mind, from your relationships to your future goals.
Journal prompts to warm up & get started
- If you were a natural landscape, what would you be?
- Describe your childhood bedroom using all five senses.
- Write a love letter to yourself.
- When do you feel most alive?
- Write down the best three things that happened to you today, five beautiful things you saw today, three little habits you want to do tomorrow, and/or a goal you're excited to work toward in the future.
- What about your home do you love?
- What have you recently introduced into your life that's brought you peace, joy, or comfort?
- Name 10 things you like about yourself.
- What about your health are you thankful for?
- What are your quirks, talents, and skills, and why are you grateful to have them?
- When do you feel most free and alive? Describe the moments or activities that have helped you tap into a sense of profound vitality.
- What are some little things you used to stress about that you now realize are not so important?
- Reflect on the qualities you admire about yourself. Which of your strengths or attributes do you like most?
- What are your top five values?
- Are they aligned with your actions and choices in life? If not, how can you make any necessary adjustments?
- Make a list of the major events that have shaped your life. Then, write down the struggles that have shaped who you are today.
- Write a letter to your past self at an age that was especially difficult for you. Give yourself the advice and encouragement this younger version of you needed to hear.
- Paint a vivid picture of your ideal day, both on a weekday and a weekend. Walk through the entire day, from the moment you wake up until you fall asleep at night. Explore the activities, environments, people, and interactions that would create a fulfilling day for you.
- Imagine five alternative lives you would like to lead, each exploring different passions, purposes, or paths.
- What were your interests and favorite activities from childhood? How can you infuse elements of that childlike joy into your present life?
- Which of your accomplishments evoke a sense of pride in you? Reflect on the lessons, strengths, and personal growth that resulted from these achievements.
- Reflect on your preference for consistency versus spontaneity. How does this preference shape your experiences, relationships, and personal growth? To cultivate balance and self-growth, do you need to lean more into one versus the other?
- Identify the circumstances, activities, or environments that spark your creativity. How can you create more space for these moments in your life?
- If you were to write a book, what subject would it revolve around? Explore the stories, knowledge, or experiences you might like to dive into in written form.
- What powerful lessons have you learned?
- What's something your past self did that you're grateful for today?
- What's a challenge you've overcome to get where you are today?
- What do you appreciate about your current life circumstances?
- Picture a wise, loving, and more evolved version of you. Not someone else but the you you're meant to be. Imagine becoming that you. Describe yourself.
- What values did your parents have, and do you hold those same values?
- How would you describe yourself without any titles? (i.e. without any roles like "mom" or jobs like "writer."
- What are 10 everyday occurrences that make you happy?
- What emotion do you tend to experience the most?
- Is there anything you're currently working on changing or shifting in your life?
- What would you like to stay the same?
- Who is your hero and why?
Love & relationships
- Who in your life makes you feel the most at home? Identify the qualities they embody that bring you comfort and a sense of belonging.
- Which traits or qualities in others do you admire most? In what ways do these traits already exist within you?
- Reflect on how the biases you hold shape your worldview and relationships. Which bias is your top priority to shift?
- In which ways have you remained compassionate and giving to others despite finding yourself in a stressful situation?
- Write a thank you letter to someone you care about.
- How comfortable are you with expressing your emotions?
- How do you feel when others express their emotions?
- In what ways do you show up for others?
- In what ways do others show up for you?
- Is there anyone in your life you need to forgive?
- Is there anyone in your life who you want to forgive you?
- What does success mean to you?
- What about your financial situation are you grateful for?
- What about the way you make money brings you joy?
- What problems do you usually run into in the workplace?
- How do these issues reflect your inner values possibly not being met?
- What is your dream job and why?
- Do you think career and purpose are intertwined?
- What is your relationship to your purpose?
- Explore the traits or aspects of yourself that you have a hard time embracing. How can you cultivate self-acceptance and wholeheartedly embrace these parts of yourself?
- Examine the limiting beliefs that get in the way of your growth. How can you reframe these beliefs so they are more empowering?
- Reflect on the age when you started doubting your worth. Identify the experiences or influences that may have contributed to this shift and explore ways to reclaim your self-belief.
- Reflect on the parts of you that evoke shame or guilt. How can you shift into a place of greater self-forgiveness and self-compassion regarding these aspects of who you are?
- What makes you feel anxious? What does that anxiety feel like? What are you afraid will happen? What action will you take if this happens?
- Is there something you've had to sacrifice so something of greater value could be born?
- In the past, when you experienced a crisis, what are some healthy and unhealthy ways you coped?
- Is there some way you have a similar trait to the person who is triggering you, but it is more minor or suppressed in yourself and more obvious in this other person?
- What dreams do you shy away from within yourself? What holds you back from embracing these desires?
- Can you apologize when your role has resulted or may have resulted in a negative impact on another?
- What emotions do you find most challenging and why?
- What have you not forgiven myself for?
- What have you not forgiven someone else for?
- Which emotion do you avoid the most?
- What kind of self-destructive habits or behaviors do you exhibit?
- When you are disappointed in the way you handle something or react, how can you practice more radical self-love?
Life plans & goals
- What do you want your life to look like in five to 10 years? Even more importantly, how do you want to feel?
- Write a letter to your current self from your future self envisioning where you want to be in five years and what it would have taken to get there.
- What are you doing today, as far as plans and actionable steps, to take good care of your future self?
- What's one thing you'd like to be proud of by the end of this week/month/year?
- Envision your own funeral and contemplate the impact you wish to have had on others. Who do you hope is there? What values, contributions, and qualities do you hope to be remembered for?
- Write out your bucket list.
What are journal prompts for self-identity?
Journal prompts for self identity include any prompts that help you get curious, explore, and learn about yourself. (i.e. What would your ideal day look like? or What are your favorite things about yourself?)
Does journaling help with self-discovery?
Yes, journaling allows you to sort through your thoughts, reflect on and learn from past experiences, and get to know yourself on a deeper level.
What are journal prompts for self-acceptance?
Journal prompts for self acceptance include any prompts that help learn to accept and embrace yourself as you are. (i.e. What do you appreciate about your health? What advice would you give a friend who was facing what you're facing?)
Whether you've been journaling for years or you're just getting started, sometimes the right prompt is just what you need to ask yourself the important questions. With just a few minutes of journaling a day, you can continue to learn more about yourself on a deeper level.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.