You’re short on time. But you want to live more mindfully.
Where do you begin?
Spend just 7 minutes in journaling with these 7 writing prompts.
These journaling prompts are some of my personal favorites. I’ve taught them to hundreds of writers of all levels of experience across the United States and Europe in various workshops and classrooms.
Unlike lots of free writing prompts you’ll stumble across online, these prompts really work in helping you align yourself to mindfulness because they invite you into the experience you’re having in your life right now.
Not only is writing a practice in mindfulness — when writing is coupled with smart, simple topics that encourage you to explore what is happening in your head and heart, you accomplish twice as much:
- First, you slow down and experience more presence through the artful practice of writing,
- Second, you cultivate self-knowledge and inner awareness by exploring your mind and feeling-states.
These 7 simple but meaningful writing prompts are a wonderful starting point.
Breathe as you write. Bring your attention fully to your words. Make your ideas and beliefs real by birthing them onto paper.
And that’s all it takes. You’re on the path to more mindful living, already.
“What story have I been living lately? What is my ‘story of the moment’?”
Think of your life right now as a story: a narrative consisting of choices that you have made to construct, define, and understand the arc of your everyday life. The truth is that we’re always living stories and telling stories to one another (and telling them to ourselves). A story doesn’t have to be fictitious, embellished, or fantastical. A story is just another way to think of how we naturally create context, understanding and relevance.
If your life these days were a story, what is the story that you’ve been living lately?
Describe your “story of the moment” in as few as one or two sentences.
Has your story been one of change that you can hardly keep up with? Has it been one of making strides, trying new things, and finding excitement in the everyday?
Once you articulate your “story of the moment,” step back, and analyze it.
Is this the story that you want to be living right now? Why or why not? If not, can you possibly change the story by reinterpreting its meaning or importance in your head (in other words, by simply shifting perspective and telling a new story in its place)? Or do you need to make some real, physical changes to your life to change the story itself?
“This week, I intend to align my actions, words and thoughts to these three values (or guiding beliefs)…”
Values are the way we distinguish what matters in our lives, and why. Although it’s easier to pick goals (like outcomes and results) that we desire to achieve or acquire, values emphasize how we lead our actions, words and thoughts. They’re the lens through which we interpret what will bring us fulfillment.
Illuminate your top 3 values (or guiding beliefs) that matter most to you right now, so your actions and words may follow suit.
What are your top values or guiding beliefs in the moment?
Pick from list below, or add your own…
- Other ________
Choose based on instinct — this list is certain to change over time!
Once you have your top 3 values chosen, brainstorm one to three sentences describing literal, tangible ways that you may embody or exemplify those values in the coming week!
“I dedicate the remainder of my day to the memory of… (a person, an event, a time, a reflection…), which reminds me that…”
Is your day not going as planned? Maybe it’s been full of stresses, or has flown by so quickly that you can barely remember when you last ate. Flip the script on your ungrounded day using this prompt.
Dedicate the remainder of your day to the memory of a person, place, thing, lesson, or time in your life that has taught you something important: something that you need to remember on days like this, in particular.
- What was that lesson that dad taught you when you screwed up really badly as a kid?
- Remember your first job and how intimidating everything was? How did you cope then? How can you now?
- That sudden sickness in college that hospitalized you for a week. Remember the perspective it taught? How it cleared the distractions, and pointed you toward what matters most in life?
Think back to a memory that taught you something meaningful. Evoke the memory to reconnect to the lesson or lessons. And dedicate the remainder of your day to that memory.
“Today, I am most grateful for…”
Your prompt is to simply list 5 things that you’re grateful for, and to describe why and how you are grateful for it, in 1 to 3 sentences, for each item.
Your list might start really broad, general and mundane:
- I’m grateful to be alive.
- I’m grateful for clean air.
- I’m grateful for water to drink.
(Make sure you actually use the word grateful or thankful, too!)
From there, you may get more specific:
- I’m thankful for my right to express myself freely.
- I’m grateful for two legs that hold me upright.
- I’m thankful for my best friend.
Go deeper. Get personal, and maybe a little vulnerable, too.
Describe why and how you’re grateful for each item. This is the actual magic of any gratitude exercise: not just listing what you’re grateful for, but connecting to an awareness for why you’re grateful for it. So, don’t skimp now! Get specific, and detailed.
Keep up this practice on the daily for a few weeks, and you may be surprised just how effective it is!
“Today, the top 3 feeling-states that I wish to create, share, or experience with others around me are: _______, _______ and _______.”
If you could ideally experience 3 feeling states on any given day, what feelings would you feel? And, why?
What is it about those feeling states that matters to you?
Try to challenge yourself not to default into expected feeling states — the ones that we feel like we “ought to” list because it sounds pleasant, or self-complimentary, or because we assume everyone else will probably say something similar to that.
Sure, it would be easy to say “Authentic, Happy, Fulfilled.”
Try to find different words to describe your ideal feeling states in ways that resonate personally.
Might it feel more personal and meaningful if you chose, “Artful, Loved, and Contributing”? or “Rested, Rich, Rewarded”?
Maybe you’ll surprise yourself in what you discover by reflecting on what feelings you’d hope to feel on most days.
“By the time my head hits the pillow tonight, I intend to feel like I really _______.”
What are you hoping to feel by the end of this day?
Guide the rest of today with intentional energy and direction.
By the time you go to bed tonight, what do you want to feel like you really put out there, feel proud of, won’t have a regret about, or feel fulfilled by?
Try not to focus on the exact outcome or result of your day. This prompt is instead all about focusing yourself into the intentions of your actions, words and thoughts. It’s a metric for guiding your day. Outcomes and results are probably beyond your control, anyway. And expectations have a way of breeding resentments and disappointment.
What do you intend to lead your day with? Follow that energy.
Express a few ways that you can specifically align your deeds, words and thoughts to that guiding light.
“If how I was feeling right now were a color, I’d feel somewhere between the colors _______ and ______. (And, why?)”
There are plenty of days and reasons when it can feel tough to pinpoint how we’re feeling (let alone, how or why we’re feeling it) using our common words and everyday language. So instead, try to pinpoint the feeling through another form of descriptors: colors!
If how you were feeling right now were a color, what blend of two colors do you feel between? And, why?
Here’s the trick to this writing prompt: you not only pick the colors, you also get to define the quality to the colors that you choose. You don’t have to subscribe to typical emotional qualities that others may use to define colors.
For example, red may mean stop, or fiery, or angry, but maybe instead it represents earth, grounding, peace and sturdiness. Maybe blue means feeling sad, or represents water. But perhaps instead blue represents the open sky and traveling to a new, unknown place.
So, what two colors are you feeling between right now? Why?
Remember: Mindfulness takes time. It starts small.
There are no highways to presence; no shortcuts to mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a matter of gradually and sustainably training the machinations of your mind. It’s self-examination in practice: nurturing awareness of one’s self (the good fluffy stuff, as well as the shadows).
It’s a really popular topic nowadays, and more and more people are searching for “how to find it.”
But the whole point of living more mindfully is that it can’t happen instantaneously. It’s a manner of experiencing your self, and your life, over and over again. Which is why artful practices like journaling, writing, and other forms of simple self-expression are perfect for revisiting time and time again.
Rather than trying to accomplish the goal of mindful living in one enormous leap (like we tend to with “success”), think instead of mindfulness as a series of hundreds of choices that build upon one another. One page of writing at a time.