Mental Health

Journal Prompts for the Holidays

Through journaling, I think it’s possible to turn the chaos of the holidays and this year as a whole into something more constructive.

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Originally published December 11, 2020

⚠️Trigger Warning: COVID-19, stress, the holiday season

I always get pretty reflective towards the end of the year. I enjoy thinking back to the previous months, looking at the pictures I’ve taken, reading through the things I’ve written, meditating on how I felt.

This year has felt particularly long, and I know I’m not alone in feeling like it was particularly difficult.

So while I’m sitting here being reflective, to be honest, I’m feeling more overwhelmed than nostalgic or inspired.

Still, instead of running from those feelings of stress, I think it would be better to lean into them and figure out what I can do with them.

By going through some journal prompts, I think it’s possible to turn the chaos of the holidays and the past year as a whole into something more constructive.

Hopefully, these ideas will help anyone struggling with this time of year to get through the holiday break and arrive on the other side more prepared!

Related: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay During the Holidays

4 Journal Prompts for the Holidays

Holiday Journal Prompt #1: What’s something you’re excited for next year?

Having something to hope for and be excited about is important when it comes to mental health.

Hope is that one thing that often helps us hold on when everything around us looks dark.

In fact, hope is the thing that can get us to where we want to go, because “You can have the best engine in the world, but if you can’t be bothered to drive it, you won’t get anywhere.” (source)

I know there are many reasons why finding something to be excited about could be difficult. If you’re suffering from depression, looking to the future often feels daunting. If you’re unemployed, dealing with loss, or feeling the impact of the pandemic, you might struggle to come up with something to look forward to.

If you find it hard to think of something you’re excited about, my advice is to start small

Be excited for the days getting longer, the chance to try a new ice cream flavour, reading your favourite book again. “It’s the little things,” isn’t that what they say?

Holiday Journal Prompt #2: What’s on your grown-up wish list?

December is definitely a time for giving. It fills my heart when I get a gift for a friend or family member and they light up opening it. Yeah, it’s hectic ordering everything or going out to buy it all. But I think it’s worth it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a happy byproduct is that I receive gifts! I’ve noticed, though, that I’m really good at thinking of what other people might like, but not very good at making my own wish list.

Most of the things I want aren’t tangible objects. I’d really just like “direction” to be laying there under the Christmas tree. Or better than that, “a respectable career.”

For this journal prompt, think of anything you might want right now. It can be something physical, of course, so long as you reflect on why you want it. Is it air pods? Do you want them so you can fall asleep listening to music? Would that improve your sleep quality and as a result improve your life?

If you’re like me, in need of something vague, this is the time to explore those wishes.

I always struggle with sitting down and writing goals, or even imagining where I’d want to be in five years. I feel like this wish list is a way to circumvent that difficulty and be creative to figure out what I want or need.

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Holiday Journal Prompt #3: What’s your favourite holiday memory?

I celebrate Christmas. It’s one of my favourite days of the year. I love the atmosphere, the palpable feeling of excitement and magic. I love seeing my family. And I even love the excessive amount of Italian food (take that, anorexia!).

Now that I’m an adult, there’s a lot of reminiscing on Christmas Eve and Day.

My sister and I laugh at the weird ornaments on our parent’s tree, my cousins and I joke about old family traditions, our parents all tell stories about when we were little.

This holiday season is different because of COVID-19, so most of that will be virtual. Still, I don’t think there’s a better time to look back on happy memories.

Reminiscing is useful because it makes us happier while we’re thinking about it. It can also guide us into the future by reminding us what to strive for.

Do you have a favourite memory of a December holiday?

Holiday Journal Prompt #4: If next year was a movie or book, what would you want the theme to be?

Okay, this one’s a bit out there. It really comes from something I’ve seen a lot of people online doing the past few years, which is choosing a “word of the year.” I’ve actually done it two or three times.

The purpose is for the word to represent what you want to attract, like “strength.” Or it could show how you want to be. Last year my word was “unbothered.” It could become a mantra you repeat to yourself when stressed, like “calm.”

Think of it as a replacement for a new year’s resolution.

Because even though we’re going to be hearing a whole lot about those in the coming weeks, I’ve noticed that strict resolutions become toxic really quickly.

I thought instead of choosing one word this year, I’d choose a “theme” to focus on.

I like the idea of thinking I’m the main character of a movie or book –starring me!

If I could go back to January knowing what I know now, my theme would have been “beating the odds,” since I feel like that’s what I did!

This year I’m leaning towards “empowering myself” or “quest for discovery.”

Google a list of themes, and choose one that sounds interesting! And make the coming year more interesting as a result.

Related: Journal Prompts to Help You Mentally Heal From 2020

Closing Thoughts

This crazy, messed up year is finally coming to an end, and I’ve spent a lot of time recently wishing on every star in the sky for next year to be better.

While I was wishing, I realized there are also more concrete ways to make sure that happens.

Writing, which has always allowed me to explore my feelings and come to conclusions creatively, seems like the perfect way to get started with that!

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My name is Laura! When I was a teenager, I fought what I call a crazy battle with anorexia. After three years of intense struggling, I was lucky enough to be shown that there was another option: recovery. It took years of hard work, mental grit, and introspection, but I learned to live a life of freedom. Now I’m learning (once again) that you don’t just choose recovery; you have to keep choosing it.

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