Perhaps you agree with Time Magazine declaring 2020 the “Worst Year Ever” on the cover of its’ December 14 issue, or maybe you believe this year was an excellent turning point in creating change for the better. Whatever your individual feelings are towards the year 2020, it’s important that you end it feeling as though it has helped you in some way — whether it be through the important lessons you’ve learned, the resiliency you’ve gained, or the clarity you now have on your true values.
As both a yoga teacher and Ayurveda practitioner in training, I know that the benefits of journaling and personal reflection are undeniable. Now of all years, these practices are of the utmost importance.
2020 brought along many challenges for us as individuals, in our communities and as a society at large. These 10 mindful journal prompts will help you get started on living a more intention-filled and fulfilling 2021.
- This is how it feels to be [your name here] right now…
This open-ended journal prompt gives space to jot down any feelings or thoughts you might currently be having. In a study done by Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, it was found that referring to yourself using third-person language (ex: “How is Emily?”) decreases emotional brain activity, which leads to better emotional regulation, particularly during stressful times. Creating this verbal separation between you and your emotions gives you the ability to process situations with more clarity, allowing you to have an enhanced perspective on reality.
- These things (people, places, memories, objects, personal values, etc.) are very important to me…
Everyone brings a unique set of gifts, values and life perspectives to the table. Gaining clarity on what truly matters to you as an individual allows you to align your daily actions with those qualities, making your life feel more fulfilling and authentic. Reflecting on personal values at the start of a new year helps you set New Year's intentions that are in direct alignment with these values.
As David Allen once said, “You can do anything, but not everything” — and that is a good thing.
- If I had all the time, money and resources in the world, this is what I would be doing…
This reflection question encourages you to visualize your ideal life and what it would look, feel, and be like. It is a way to initiate the law of attraction and ignite the problem-solving parts of your brain.
This prompt trains your mind to look for opportunities in your everyday environment to manifest these things, even if your response to this prompt is not currently within the scope of what is fully possible in your present-day reality. Thoughts become actions which become habits, and you should never underestimate the powerful role you play in manifesting your desires.
- What aspects of myself or my life did I neglect in 2020?
This prompt encourages accountability. Note that 2020 brought along numerous unprecedented challenges, and it is more than OK to feel as though you weren’t on your A-game this year. Whereas the previous prompt initiates the law of attraction, this prompt brings us back to the present-day reality. Respond with a dose of self-compassion, please!
- Dear 2020, thank you for teaching me…
Pretending that there were no negative aspects of 2020 is just as unhealthy as hyper-focusing on them. The benefits of practicing gratitude have been studied for generations, including the psychological, physical, and social benefits it brings; some of which include enhanced social relationships, a more positive mood, and heightened immune function.
This prompt helps you transform your suffering into something powerful to be learned from, rather than letting it stay as something negative to dwell on.
- It is New Year’s Eve. I am so happy and grateful that…
This prompt again encourages visualization. It is especially helpful for individuals who are more realistic thinkers, as it takes a more objective approach to initiate the law of attraction. By describing what you want your life to be, look, and feel like a year from now in as much detail as possible, it makes you more able to create New Year’s intentions that feel authentic and purposeful to you.
It’s important to use “I am” statements rather than “I want” statements. “I am” statements allow you to step into your power and realize the impact you have in manifesting your true wants, needs, and desires. It is also a step into practicing gratitude, which will bring benefits in and of itself.
- These are the commitments I am making to be kinder to my mind, body, and spirit in 2021…
Here you begin to set your intentions for 2021 through creating tangible, realistic goals that will help you bridge the gap between your current reality and your highest self. As Brene Brown writes in her book, The Happiness Project, “one of the best ways to make myself happy is make other people happy,” and on the other (or rather, same), hand, “one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.”
- It is a new year. I am releasing ___ to make room for ___.
Oftentimes, the hardest part of forgiveness is not in forgiving the guilty party, but rather in freeing ourselves from any lingering pain or resentment we might have. In his book, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve, Lewis B. Smedes writes, “to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”
This journal prompt encourages you to forgive 2020 for any external challenges it might have given you, similar to how you might be forced to forgive another person. Although you may not be responsible for the majority of the struggles you faced during this past year, you have the ability to heal from them.
- Dear [your name here], I am so proud of you for…
This reflection prompt encourages self-acknowledgement, which increases self-efficacy, or the belief you have in your ability to successfully handle the challenges that life gives you. Even if the majority of the accomplishments you made during 2020 cannot visibly be “seen” by others, each of us have grown in some way during this past year.
The practice of self-acknowledgement is particularly healing for people who have lingering trauma or childhood wounds as it comforts our inner child.
- This is my mantra for 2021:
A mantra is a word, sound or phrase that is traditionally repeated during meditation (known as japa in Sanskrit). A similar, more Western approach to the practice of japa is through creating personal affirmations.
By closing your journal practice with a short, one-word or one-sentence phrase, you summarize the work you’ve done with a tangible takeaway that you can easily bring with you into your everyday life.
The practice of journaling offers many benefits, including enhanced mindfulness, increased self-esteem, and an improved ability to achieve goals. 2020 has been the most difficult year of many people’s lives so far. Journaling is be a powerful tool to both transform our suffering and amplify personal growth, particularly as we make the external transition into a new year.