Why you should pick up a pen and paper today
Journaling (also known as “expressive writing”) offers a multitude of psychological benefits such as the chance to release anger, to make sense of difficult or traumatic events by setting them down, and granting yourself a degree of psychological distance from personal problems.
It also gives you the chance to engage in some deep self-reflection, which can help you clarify your values, goals and overall life direction. Journaling has the power to be truly transformative if you take the time to analyze yourself. As the saying goes, knowledge is power!
Why use prompts?
However, facing a blank page can be an intimidating prospect. What should you write about? Start with the following five prompts. They have all been designed to get you thinking about some of life’s deeper questions and to kickstart some serious self-reflection.
1. If I were given a year off work, I would…
This prompt will help you bring your most cherished dreams into focus. What would you do if you had a year in which you could do anything? Would you study, do some volunteer work, start your own business, or undertake some self-development? Writing out your answer to this question can help you redirect your attention to long-forgotten or deeply-held dreams and ambitions.
2. If I had a time machine, I would…
This prompt can help bring any regrets you are carrying to the surface. Although you might not want to dwell further on what has gone wrong in the past, writing about what has happened can be a good step in working to overcome rumination. Use your journal as a place to examine where you have gone wrong but also what you can learn from your mistakes.
3. If I could give my younger self a piece of advice, I would say…
Making mistakes is a painful but inevitable part of life. On the plus side, making mistakes is one of the most effective ways of learning about ourselves, how best to relate to others, and the world in general. This prompt will help you realize that your experiences have made you into a wiser person. Furthermore, you will come to appreciate that even if you could go back and deliver advice to your younger self, they would still learn much more in making their own mistakes!
4. The seven things I could never do without are…
This prompt forces you to examine your relationship to material possessions. What do you truly need to lead a “good life”? Do you suspect that you might be overly attached to certain items? Does the thought of choosing only seven things make you panic, or do you feel as though you will always be fine as long as you have friends and family around you? Answering this question can highlight dependency on money or status symbols.
5. If I could ask an omniscient being one question, I would ask…
If you believe in God, what question would you ask him or her? If you are an atheist, imagine that you have an audience with an entity who knows everything about the universe and those within it. Either way, this prompt will help you realize your most pressing concern about life in general and how best you can direct your energy.
For instance, if your question would be “Will I ever find love again?” then this is a valuable indicator that you should consider investing more time and energy into refining your relationship skills and meeting new people.
How to make the most of these prompts
Take your time when answering these questions. Your answers are for you alone, so be honest. Allow yourself an hour for each. Quite often, when you grant yourself permission to write fully and honestly, you will be surprised by how much you have to say. If you are embarking on a journey of personal development, why not re-answer these questions every few weeks or months? This will allow you to track your progress as you move towards a more authentic, fulfilled life.