So you’re short on time, but you want to live more mindfully.

Where do you begin?

Try using these 7 writing prompts. By the end of writing out your answers (to even just one of these contemplative prompts), you may well start to feel more grounded, present and mindful!

These journaling prompts are some of my personal favorites, which I’ve taught to hundreds of writers in various workshops and classrooms across the United States and Europe.

Unlike lots of free writing prompts you’ll stumble across online, these prompts give you the opportunity for simple, mindful reflections, instead of making up a random fictional story about a random creative idea (like, “You found a red shoe in the forest, how did it get there?”).

These prompts are designed to help you align yourself to a feeling of mindfulness because they invite you to better understand the experience that you’re having in your life right now.

Personal journaling (or writing by hand) is also a practice in mindfulness, itself because hand-writing is more deliberate and slower than typing. When journaling is coupled with smart, simple reflections 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. Happy writing!

Prompt #1: Your Story

“What story have I been living lately? What is my ‘story of the moment’?”

We’re always telling stories — to one another, and in our own heads.

A “story” is anything that we communicate to ourselves in our own heads, or out loud to others. As humans, stories are how we create and communicate context, understanding, and relevance between random events and details. While the word “story” might make you think of fairytales or Marvel movies, a story doesn’t have to be fictitious, embellished, or fantastical.

How did you commute to work today? Your answer is a story: a series of choices that describe your understanding of the events and details of your commute to work.

When you sit down and reflect upon the story that you have been living lately — or, your “story of the moment” — you begin to shed a mindful light on how you have been feeling.

Answer One or All of the Following:

  1. What is the story that you’ve been living lately?
  2. Is it a story of struggle, or hope? A story of perseverance, or overcoming? A story of expansion, growth, and new frontiers? Or a story of steadiness and survival amid rapid changes?
  3. How would you describe your “story of the moment,” and why?

Explore your “story of the moment” for at least 5 to 7 sentences.

When you finish, go a bit further by analyzing your reflection:

  • 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 choosing to reinterpret events, circumstances, and what’s happening right now?
  • Can you find a silver lining or sense of meaning or purpose by shifting your perspective?
  • Is there a new story you can tell in place of the story you’ve been telling?
  • Or, do you need to make some significant changes to your life in order to change the story, itself?

Prompt #2: On Your ‘Guiding Beliefs’

“This week, I intend to align my life to these three values, feeling states, or guiding beliefs: ________, ________, and ________.”

“Values” or guiding beliefs are emotional, experiential qualities that all human beings use to instinctively distinguish what matters most to each of us in our everyday lives, and why.

In our society, people are always more quick to fixate on goal-setting to try to change their lives. But the downside is that goal-setting creates a dependency upon distant outcomes or results that may be outside of your control.

Instead of setting goals to feel more mindful in the future, focus on what you might be able to do today to guide your actions, words, and thoughts more mindfully. They’re the lens through which we interpret what will bring us fulfillment.

To begin, review the list of guiding beliefs, values, or core feeling states below.

Then, choose the top 3 feeling states or values that you would most like to experience, every day, and as often as possible, in your work, relationships, home, creativity, or any aspect of your everyday life.

What are your top values or guiding beliefs in the moment?

Pick from the list below, or write your own…

  1. Abundance
  2. Adventure
  3. Artistry
  4. Authenticity
  5. Celebration
  6. Clarity
  7. Collaboration
  8. Community
  9. Ease
  10. Independence
  11. Leadership
  12. Freedom
  13. Love
  14. Play
  15. Purpose
  16. Individuality
  17. Openness
  18. Nuance/Depth
  19. Joy
  20. Faith
  21. Leadership
  22. Service
  23. Simplicity
  24. Spirituality
  25. Tolerance
  26. Wealth
  27. Other ________

Once you have your top 3 values or feeling states selected, continue by answering the prompt:

“This week, I intend to align my actions, words, and thoughts to these three values, feeling states or guiding beliefs: ________, ________, and ________.”

Continue by brainstorming at least 1 way in which you might embody, exemplify, or put energy towards your core values or guiding beliefs in the coming week. For example…

If you selected individuality, consider a way that you might feel more like an individual this week, or help you express more individuality this week:

  • Is it by wearing an outfit that makes you feel stylish?
  • Is it by expressing more of your voice and point of view at your work meeting?
  • Is it by exploring what makes you a unique individual in your journaling sessions?

By reflecting upon your personal values or desired feeling states in your reflection, you create a bridge of mindfulness between your sense of self and how you live your days.

This, to me, is an expression of true mindfulness!

Prompt #3: On Reminders-to-Self

“I dedicate the remainder of my day to the memory of ________ {a person, event, time of my life}. And, in doing so, it reminds me ________.”

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.

When we lose track of time, we feel mindless — not mindful. This prompt intends to help you “flip the script” on your ungrounded day and find a more mindful sense of presence. Sure, we can’t completely fix the hectic feeling of your day, but what we can do is take 7 minutes to reflect on some memory from your past that makes you feel grateful, inspires context, or helps you to remember how far you’ve come.

Begin by  back to a memory of a person, event, time in your life that taught you something meaningful.

  • What memory comes to mind, first?
  • Is it a difficult memory to reflect upon, or an inspiring one?
  • What lessons did you learn from this person / during this time in your life?
  • How do those lessons

Evoke the memory to reconnect to the lesson or lessons. And dedicate the remainder of your day to that memory.

  • 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?

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.

Prompt #4: On Giving Gratitude

“Today, I am most grateful for _________ because _________.”

Reflecting on what you’re grateful for is consistently shown to be one of the most reliable ways to increase your overall wellbeing and satisfaction with life.

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 awareness for why you’re grateful for it. So, don’t skimp now! Get specific, and detailed.

Keep up this practice daily for a few weeks, and you may be surprised just how effective it is!

Prompt #5: On Your Feeling States

“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 three “feeling states” (or, emotional experiences) on any given day, what three feeling states would you want to feel? And, why? What is it about those feeling states that matter to you?

Sure, it would be easy to say “Happy” or “Rich” but try to challenge yourself to find more nuanced and unique feeling states that better describe your goals, wishes and desires. Resist the urge to quickly list what you might think “ought to” list. 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, Replenished, Rewarded”?

Maybe you’ll surprise yourself in what you discover by reflecting on what feelings you’d hope to feel on most days.

Prompt #6: On What You Can Change Today

“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 on 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.

Prompt #7: On Visualization

“I would describe how I’m feeling with the color _______, my upcoming week with the color _______ and my monthly outlook with the color _______.” (And, why?)

There are plenty of reasons why it can feel difficult to pinpoint exactly how we’re feeling (let alone, describe how or why we’re feeling that way) using the language of emotion.

In this prompt, you’re invited to explore how you’re feeling by describing it through a description of color.

If how you were feeling right now were a color, what colors would you be? And, why?

Here’s the trick to this writing prompt: you not only get to pick your color, but you also get to define and describe what that color means to you and why. And, you don’t have to subscribe to typical descriptions that others may use to describe a color:

  • Sure, red may mean stop, or fiery, or angry for many people, but for you, it may instead represent earth, grounding, peace and sturdiness.
  • Maybe blue means feeling sad or ice or cold to most people. But perhaps for you, blue might represent oceans or the open sky you’ll pass through when traveling to a new, unknown place. You choose!

So, what colors would you use to describe how you’re feeling, what your upcoming week holds, or what your monthly outlook is like?

And, most importantly, why would you choose those colors? What do they mean to you?

Remember! Mindfulness means a little less mind-less. It 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. This 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.