Many of us have kept a journal or diary at some point in our life. Whether it be to reflect upon your day or vent about how stressful life is, writing down your thoughts can shape your attitude towards life.

According to Kaiser Permanente Healthcare, journaling supports self-care by tracking your growth and progress.

Writing in a journal.

With the right ideas to guide your writing, you can shape your outlook on life to be more positive and beautiful with these 4 journaling prompts.

#1: Talk about your day

This classic journal prompt is simple and reflective: talk about your day. Since your journal will only be read by you, share your thoughts and feelings about what happened. Reflection can release the day's stress from you to the paper.

A woman asks,

Reflect by:

  • Creating bullet points of things that stood out to you

  • Writing about one specific event

  • Retelling your day in chronological order from the time you woke up to you writing right now

  • Ending your entry with goals you have for the next day

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Activity: Mix and match these ideas to your preferences!

#2: Express appreciation for someone

We often forget to appreciate the people in our lives and how much of a difference they make. Think about a person you care about and how different things would be had you two never met.

Write a letter of appreciation to that person. Talk about how much they mean to you and why.

Two puzzle pieces with one being

Think about:

  • How they make you feel

  • Special moments/memories

  • What would be different had you two never met

This exercise highlights how important relationships are to your well-being and happiness.

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Activity: Write this letter for yourself or give it to that special person!


Kathy is thinking about how her brother Pedro has always stood up for her. How might writing a letter of appreciation help her have a more positive outlook on life? Select all that apply.

#3: Make a list of things you're grateful for

As with people, think about the things you're grateful to have.

Jennifer Coolidge accepting an award. She says,

There are many things to be grateful for:

  • Basic needs — shelter, food

  • Everyday things — the Internet, music

  • Functions — the ability to exercise, good health

  • Things in the moment — the smell of coffee, relaxing outside

  • Experiences — your first time doing something, overcoming challenges

  • Achievements — graduation, your career

  • Within yourself/others passions, friendship, support

  • The universe — sunrise, life itself

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Activity: List 3 things you're grateful for today!

#4: Balance positives and setbacks

Balance the positives and setbacks in life with this rose and thorn exercise. The University of Colorado Boulder suggests this activity to reflect upon your successes and areas for growth.

A man offers a rose.

Draw a rose (or any flower) and create a two-column table with "rose" on the left and "thorn" on the right. For "rose," list as many good things that you've recently experienced as you can. Put setbacks or "downs" that come to mind in the "thorn" column.

Try to list more positives over negatives. For example, if you're reflecting on your day:

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  • Someone brought me coffee today!

  • I saw a rainbow after a week of rain.

  • I was given an extension for my next report.

  • I saw a cute dog on the way out of the office, and the owner let me pet it!

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  • I woke up late and had to skip breakfast.

  • I was in traffic for over an hour.

  • I didn't email my report on time.

This activity highlights life's ups and downs; times may be challenging (thorns), but there is always something beautiful to look forward to (rose petals). Look how the positives outnumber the negatives!

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Activity: List the roses and thorns of your day!


Ivan is doing the rose and thorn activity. What are some things he might put under the "rose" column? Select all that apply.

Take Action

Journaling your thoughts, experiences, and appreciation can help you achieve a more positive outlook on life. Taking the time to reflect upon your life not only helps you remember the little things that make life so wonderful but also reminds you to look forward to your future.

A man looks at his dog and says,

Whenever you're stuck on what to write, consider these journaling prompts to help you become more optimistic about life:


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