The Stoic Journal Prompts That Will Keep You Sane
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Many people answer this question by saying they immediately check their phone to see if anything important happened while they were asleep. So much of our day-to-day lives are spent attached to our smartphones that we’ve become conditioned to be instantly available at all times, ready to jump at the next incoming email or text message. This constant access to information and instant communication can sometimes lead us to feel too tethered to our everyday stresses, which can get pretty overwhelming over time.
- What am I grateful for today?
What am I grateful for today? is a simple way to start every day by focusing on what you have, rather than what you lack. It’s important to feel gratitude for all that we have in life, so take a few minutes each morning to think about what is good in your life. Whether it be your family, friends, or health — you will find there is always something. And when you make gratitude a habit, studies show that people become more positive and optimistic throughout their day. By taking just a minute each morning to focus on what you are grateful for — no matter how small — you start building an attitude of gratitude and appreciation which will help keep stress at bay as well as improve overall wellbeing.
2.What am I excited about today?
This question makes you appreciate what is going on around you, and also helps you to notice good things that otherwise pass us by. It forces us to pause for a moment before getting lost in all of our tasks, and to take time for joy. The best part about it is, there’s no right or wrong answer. A simple smile will do just fine! If we each took a moment out of our day to be grateful for what we have instead of dwelling on how much we lack then I guarantee everything would feel better. So today, write down something new that you’re excited about and remember how great life can be when we allow ourselves to appreciate it!
3.How do I feel right now?
Most of us have a tendency to ignore our emotions. Instead, we push them down and pretend they don’t exist. But ignoring your feelings just causes them to fester inside of you until they erupt, usually in an unpleasant way. When something upsetting happens to you, ask yourself how you feel about it. Taking a few minutes each day to do so will make your feelings more manageable and will help prevent emotional outbursts. It can also give you an early warning system for bigger problems that might be on their way. If it turns out that there is an issue that needs more attention than what you can give it on your own, you’ll know exactly what to do next!
4.What am I happy about?
Happy about? Well, I am happy about getting my best friend back. She ran away after that fight we had and she has been gone for a long time. Thankfully, I have her back again now and it is so good to be spending time with her again. To make things even better, we are going on a much needed trip together next month and I can’t wait! Taking some time to ourselves will do us both a lot of good I think! Do you journal regularly? If not, why not? If you do journal regularly how does it help your life? What would happen if you didn’t write in your journal every day? What do you think makes for an interesting life anyway? Why should people try practicing stoicism daily in their lives?
5.What could be better than it is right now?
The Stoics believed that there are two key values in life — virtue and external things. External things can be lost or taken away at any time, which is why they don’t deserve much of our attention. Instead, we should focus on developing virtue, because that is a state of mind that cannot be taken away. Throughout your day today, consider how you can better yourself. Remind yourself to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and not as threats to your well-being. Think about how you can face difficulties with courage and bravery and look toward future goals instead of focusing on past disappointments or failures. The less you obsess over what is out of your control, the happier you will be — and isn’t happiness one of life’s greatest achievements?
6.What have I been avoiding?
As humans, we are often quite adept at avoiding discomfort or difficult situations. Sometimes, that can be healthy and help us live a better life. But sometimes, it’s not. When you start recognizing patterns of avoidance in your life, write them down on paper. Think about what you’re avoiding and why? Are these actions actually helping you? What would happen if you stopped avoiding them? Could they benefit your overall wellbeing in some way? If so, try to experiment with confronting some of these uncomfortable situations head-on by including them in your journaling practice. Remember: only through confrontation can one truly find peace and happiness!
7.What would happen if my fears came true?
One of my biggest fears is that I’ll never amount to anything and be a nobody. What would happen if that fear came true? How would I react if it did? What steps would I take to make sure it didn’t happen? Maybe, for example, I’d go back to school or find a mentor or learn how to better sell myself. Maybe that fear isn’t so scary after all. Having thought about it for a bit, I see some upside to failure (as well as some steps I can take today). Keeping your mind in check is just as important as keeping your body fit, and journaling regularly is one way to keep both in shape.
8.Can I really not control this outcome?
As Seneca says in On Tranquility of Mind, You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. While not every external event is within our control, we do have complete control over how we respond to situations (or at least should try to do so). Does it really matter whether an event is out of your control? No, but how you react does. So when a situation arises that you are powerless to change or otherwise uncomfortable with, take a moment to ask yourself if there’s something about it that you can change — for example, by finding silver linings or practicing self-acceptance.
9.What are the consequences of this choice?
We’re not just making choices, we’re also making commitments. What might seem like a small decision can lead to some pretty big consequences. Before making any choice, ask yourself, What are the consequences of my actions? It doesn’t matter if you have an epiphany later; if you don’t think about what might happen, it could come back to bite you later. If your choices are leading down a bad path and you don’t realize it soon enough, those bad decisions will cost you. Just like a small crack can become a devastating hole in something solid, so too can small choices lead to big problems down the road.
The questions that come out of a daily journal aren’t always pretty, but they are real. Make time for reflection, listen to your thoughts and feelings with an open mind, then write it all down. The more you practice, the easier it will be to express yourself honestly without fear of judgment or criticism. If you make a regular habit of journaling, you’ll eventually grow in confidence as a writer and find that expressing yourself through writing has become much less daunting. Happy writing!