With 2017 just around the corner — and 2016 turning out to be one doozy of a year for a whole lotta folks — now is the perfect time to take a breath and process all that went down: the good, the bad, and the exceptionally ugly. And one of the best ways to do that, in my opinion, is by checking out some great journaling prompts for self-reflection in 2017. Plus, journaling could really help you come up with the kind of New Year’s resolutions you’ll stick to, if you’re into that kind of thing.
I, for one, love setting New Year’s resolutions. The problem is, I don’t always stick to them (but, to be honest, some years I end up making so many resolutions that a few are bound to get left behind.) On the other hand, I always, without fail, stick to my written to-do lists. So if you’re anything like me, and tend to notice that your goal of walking 12,000 steps a day is looking a little more like 7,500 come February 1, (or that novel you’re writing is still just 375 words sitting in a drawer) jotting down a few writing prompts for self-reflection might be just what you need to set more mindful — and achievable — resolutions for yourself.
If you’re ready to journal your way into a foolproof New Year’s resolution, or if you simply want to take some time to evaluate the totally crazy, messy, beautiful year you just had, then check out these 13 journal prompts for self-reflection in 2017.
1. Catalog Your Yeses And Nos
Think back on all the times you said “yes” and “no” this year — it was probably a lot, and probably with some measure of joy or sorrow, relief or dread, confidence or surprise, at times when you didn’t want to and at times when you did. In the spirit of self-reflection and growing into a more confident, empowered you, take a moment to think about some of the things you said "yes" and "no" to this year — and how you felt once you did. Make a list of the things you said “yes” to (and meant it!) and all the things you said “no” to (same!) What surprises you? What decisions are you proud of? What did you learn about the power these two small, but transformative, words can have in your life? Is there anything you want to change, going forward?
2. Mapping That One Giant, Scary Goal
Anyone who has ever taken a 12th grade seminar on mapping your future or sat through a performance review at the office has been asked to fill out a goals map. You know, they're those big, spider-webby charts with the empty boxes, designed to help you layout how you’re going to excel in college or meet your monthly deadlines, one step at a time. This isn’t like that. Instead, begin by deciding what you want to achieve this year. Write your biggest, most lofty, most intimidating heart’s desire at the top of the page — even if it seems silly, or impossible, or frivolous, or just too damn big. Now, image you’ve just accomplished your goal: free write about where you are, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, what kind of work went into achieving this goal, how your life will change now that you’ve accomplished said goal, and how you’ll feel if your life doesn’t change now that you’ve accomplished this goal. Does your goal still seem worthwhile? If so, great! If not, turn the page and find yourself a new goal, girl. You’ve got pages and pages to brainstorm.
3. The Best (And Worst) Words Of 2016
When you think about all the words you heard (or read, or hashtagged) in 2016, what stands out? Make a list of the best and worst words you experienced throughout the last year, and what each word brings up in you — feelings, thoughts, memories, and more. What words would you like to hear more of in 2017? Are there any words you would like to use more (or less) in your own life in the year ahead?
4. The Best Moments Of 2016 — Insta-Inspired
You’ve seen those #BestOf2016 Instagram collages — nine of your fave pics from the year, organized into one totally hashtaggable cube. Take your #BestOf2016 pic (or just think about the posts you would include) and draw a similar box of nine squares in your journal. Now write about each memorable moment you chose.
5. 2016 Experienced Through Your Body
You probably don’t need me to tell you that 2016 was a rough year for women’s bodies — from the numbered sexual assault cases appearing in the media to the politicization of women’s healthcare and reproductive rights, our agency over our physical selves has been disrespected, challenged, and threatened a lot this year. Take some time to put all that behind you and focus on a moment when you felt strongest in your physical body during this past year — did you run a 10K, master that complicated yoga pose you’ve been trying, take your first Zumba class, dance around the living room Risky Business-style, design your own tattoo, or finally fall in love with all those perfect curves you see in the mirror? Put your pen to page and celebrate!
6. Host A Q&A Sesh For Yourself
Write out all the questions you have for your life in 2017 — everything, big and small, from whether this is going to be the year you really finish your novel to whether or not you should finally, finally donate that well-loved pair of jeans you’ve been saving since high school. Then answer them.
7. Recognize The Bestie In Your Life
Ask yourself: who is the one person you couldn’t have lived without this past year? Journal about everything they meant to you during the last 12 months: when they were there for you, what they helped you with, what things you couldn’t have achieved without them, and what qualities they possess that made them so invaluable to you this year. Are there any qualities or character traits they have that you wish you could grow within yourself? What great qualities do the two of you already share? And most importantly (just kidding): what kind of present are you going to get them for making such a difference to you in 2016?
8. Recognizing The Bestie In You
Who were you an absolute BFF hero to this year? (Totally cool if this is your cat, but bonus points if it’s a human person.) What kinds of things did you do to make a difference in their lives in 2016 — now is not the time to be humble, list ‘em all. What qualities or characteristics in yourself enabled you to be a best friend to someone this year — and how can you use those qualities to take better care of yourself in 2017? You deserve it too, you know.
9. Write A Love Letter…
…To the person who made you angriest or hurt you the most this year. Family or friend, famous or fictional (you never know.) Write it, don’t send it. Even if it seems impossible, even if you have to pretend to be their mother or their pet goldfish, even if your letter is only one sentence long and you tear it into a thousand angry pieces when you’re done writing it, write it. You’ll be glad you did — maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday this exercise will prove valuable.
10. Write A Letter To The Past
It’ll go something like this: “Dear Me On January 1, 2016… Here is a list of all the things you totally freaked out about for no reason this past year, because they actually turned out just fine, as most things do, (except for that one thing — but you’re working on it, and I believe in you.) Here are some of the things that completely surprised you over the past 12 months — and here are all the ways you handled them well, and a couple ways you could have maybe handled them a bit better. Here are some lessons you learned in 2016, and a few you’re still working on (and that one big lesson you thought you already learned, but had to learn again. And again.) Here are all the reasons you’re going to forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it this year, and here are a few reasons you should totally celebrate what a complete badass you were…” And so on and so forth. You with me here?
11. Write A Letter From The Future
Now imagine yourself on December 31, 2017. Write yourself a letter from that future woman. What has she done in the past year? What has she learned? Where has she been? Who was meaningful to her? What books did she read? (This one is critical.) Reconnect with this letter throughout the year ahead — are you growing into the person you imagined yourself to be?
12. For Moving Forward And Letting Go
Sometimes we don’t have the best of years (for me, 2014 was especially brutal.) And that’s OK. If you had the kind of 2016 that’ll go down in record as one of the most difficult years of your life, congratulations — you just survived something awful, and now you’re walking towards the other side. Reflection will help with that. Who hurt you this past year? Who did you hurt? In what ways did you disappoint yourself, or others? What has been especially difficult to learn? What things do you wish you could go back and undo, or redo? Let it all out on the page, and then come New Year’s Eve, this is one of those journal entries you light on fire and release into the atmosphere (just make sure this journal entry is the only thing that catches fire, or your 2017 could be off to an iffy start too.)
13. Write A Gratitude List
Note who, what, where, when, (and which books!) Once you’ve got that list nailed down, add a “why” to each. Pick the one that was most meaningful to you this year, and then brainstorm how you can help add that to someone else’s gratitude list in 2017. It's always good to pay it forward.
Images: Simson Petrol, Ian Schneider, Green Chameleon, Dana Marin, Dariusz Sankowski (2), Doug Robichaud, Álvaro Serrano, Carli Jeen, Katie Treadway, Kristopher Roller, Freddy Castro, Dustin Lee, Annie Spratt, /Unsplash