Journaling Ideas For Capturing the Happy Moments + 25 Prompts

25 Ideas for Starting a Journal

We are forgetful beings, us humans.

I’m mortified, absolutely mortified about what I forget. I’ll look at pictures from high school and realize I don’t recall half of the people’s names.

But the things I forget that make me go bananas are the things I’m sure I won’t forget. 

I forget the happy and meaningful moments I want to cement in my memory!

That incredible conversation with a friend, a meaningful interaction with a stranger or a transformational moment at an event. I promise myself, I won’t forget this.

But…

I forget the details. The impact gets fuzzy. Bleh.

David Allen, author of the book, Getting Things Done (among other books) is known as a productivity expert. I’ve not read his book, but he said something on an interview that committed me even more to journaling. He said, “The brain wasn’t meant to be a storage unit. We actually wear down our brain’s capacity to do other things when we try to force it to remember things.”

Something happens to an event when we write it down. Not only do we give our brain a break from the work it takes to try to hold on to memories, we remember it much better and we process it differently than if we simply let it mindlessly move away. It’s like passing go twice in Monopoly and getting to collect the $200 again!

Not only do we think about it and remember events, conversations, people, precious memories, etc. better, but we become more focused on what we write down.

If you’d like a printable pdf of the 25 Journaling & Listicle Ideas, sign up in the top bar. Sometimes I like to keep things handy for a quick reference when I want to write.

Writing and Creating List Journals

I’m not someone who thinks journaling needs to be written in long hand, with rambling thoughts and ideas. Nor does journaling need to take a long time. Many of my journaling sessions are less than ten minutes. There is a lot of different types of journaling. Lists work well too.

Creating a journal from lists and doodles is not only effective, it’s fun! Plus, writing out lists are a great way to get thoughts and ideas out quickly. We’re still capturing the memory, but in bits.

And if you’ve started journaling in the past, but it’s been a while, I hope the idea of creating lists in your journal gives you reason to dig out your pen and paper. It’s the perfect time to start again. Using lists to journal is a great way to warm up into longer-style writing, if and when you want to do that.

I’ve written this list specifically for the time we are in. Many of us have shelter-in-place orders. Everyone has some sort of restriction that has constricted what we are able to do, where we can go and who we can see.

It’s easy to get bogged down by all of this, but it’s important to reflect, listen, rest, heal, pray, stay as positive as possible, take care of ourselves and others and keep the hope bucket full.

It is important to move our thoughts, feelings and prayers from our brains and hearts to paper. We’ll feel better, remember more and have processed much of what is going on: the good, the bad, the frustrating, the beauty in the mess, the grief, all of it.

Remember, this is an important impression of who you are right now. Your future self will appreciate looking back on this time. Your present self will benefit from the ability to share, process and release much of what is going on.

25 Prompts for Journaling & Listicles During the Pandemic

  • Compose a list of 10 things bringing you comfort right now.
  • List three gifts of the day before going to bed. Don’t feel the need to expound on them. They can be brief.
  • Write down all the television shows you’ve watched. Now take a marker and give them each a 1 to 5-star rating.
  • Do the same with television shows.
  • Outdoor walks have become a respite for many. Are you walking? Note what you are seeing and write it down. Doesn’t need to be technical. I’ll describe the colors of the birds I’m seeing, different flowers, dogs with their caretakers, couple with the two labs who wave to me, the black cat running around on the trail like she’s a native, etc.
  • List the books you’ve read. Write a few descriptive sentences about them, what you love, hate or were completely bored by.
  • What hobbies, activities have you started by yourself or with your family that are new?
  • Journal about thoughts that you are having that perhaps, wouldn’t come to mind if life was as busy as it normally would.
  • Are there any desires and drams resurfacing? Make a bulleted list or write about them. No limits!
  • Write a list of all the anxieties and fears swirling right now.
  • Journal for ten minutes about your feelings and thoughts about what is happening around the COVID-19 virus. Bullets or long hand both work.
  • If you can recall your feelings and thoughts in March when things started increasing in shut down orders, increased hospitalizations and deaths, write down those feelings, thoughts and ideas. What you recall from last month will still be so much sharper than what you remember in a few years.
  • If you have them, print out a screenshots or articles you’ve read. Print them and stick them in the journal. Write out a few notes about thoughts, feelings, your reality in the middle of this pandemic.
  • Write out a list of things that make each day a “good” day. Make it no longer than five items. Write down each night if you did them. For example, in my life, if I do these four things each day, I choose to call it a good day, even if NOTHING else gets done: bible study in the morning, exercise of some sort, reaching out to a friend or family member, write a thousand words. It’s personal, physical, others-focused, productive. Knowing these parameters helps keep my emotional temperature in check!
  • What weird things have you done that you’ve never done before? i.e. virtual birthday party
  • List out all the people you’ve connected with. Write out a few descriptive words of why they are special to you
  • What good habits and things have you done (i.e. writing letters, re-learning how to sew)
  • How has this experience changed things about how you think about the future? Do you have new hopes and dreams? What doesn’t seem as important as it once was?
  • Who have you reconnected with? Who reconnected with you? List out the people and jot notes about the interaction.

The following is a list of “gratitude” list ideas. There is a reason gratitude lists remain popular. They work. Writing down and focusing on the blessings makes us more aware of the many good things out.

Feeling gratitude in a difficult time may be hard right now. That sensation is normal. Instead of trying to drum up feelings that aren’t there, try a different perspective: look for the gifts.

No matter what is happening, we all are receiving gifts each day in all sorts of simple ways. Anne Voskamp opened my eyes – along with thousands of other people – to capturing and listing the gifts we discover each day in the book One Thousand Gifts.

You don’t need to capture a thousand, though it may be a fun idea (and fill up a journal!)

What is God gifting to you each day? Look for the simple and there the profound will come up.

Here are some ideas to start:

  • Write down the gifts God is presenting to you in nature. Bring a notebook with you or use the notes app on your phone to start a running list of gifts.
  • What are the people gifts right now?
  • Have you shared any “virtual” meals over zoom or other media? Describe the conversation, the people, what you ate. What gifts do you want to remember from this event?
  • What time gifts is the shelter-in-place providing?
  • In the kitchen: what are the gifts showing up in the kitchen (I’ve loved being home in the evenings to make dinner and the opportunity to bake bread).

If you enjoy more pictures and less words, I’ll be back in a few days with a list of ideas to start and continue a visual journal!