The human brain tends to remember negative experiences with more clarity than positive experiences. A good day becomes a golden haze in your memory, while a bad day stands out in stark detail. You can call it a survival trait, a way to remember where there are tigers and poison berries in your life, but it can make living a life of happiness a little more challenging in the modern world.
Remembering to appreciate all the ways our lives are good is the key to happiness. While your ancient human brain may want to focus on the negative, you can make happiness a habit by thinking about what is good in your life. This is where appreciation journaling comes from.
Journaling is a cost-effective yet valuable tool for improving emotional and mental health, and can help you see the good in every day and improve your outlook on life. We’ve compiled ten appreciation journal prompts to help you reveal positivity and embrace happiness daily.
10 Journal Prompts
Journal prompts are ways to kick-start your brain into remembering and appreciating the good things in life. Appreciation journaling explores what you are grateful for and what you should remember to be happy about, even though your mind naturally lingers on the negative. These prompts can help you clarify and crystallize positive memories from your day so that when you look back, you remember the smiles you saw, the compliments you received, the good things that happened, and the kindnesses you witnessed, while negative memories take a less prominent position in your mind.
Try each of these ten appreciation journal prompts for yourself, exploring one each day or trying several a day to embrace your daily positive experiences fully.
1. What are three things you’re grateful for?
Name three things you are grateful for that make your life better just because you have them. They can be simple things like the refreshing taste of cold soda and your cat’s purr or more profound things like your best friend’s sense of humor. They might be things that matter only to you or that anyone could be grateful for. Let your appreciation well up with whatever you feel, see, and are thankful for now.
2. What is one good thing that happened to you recently?
Overcome the mind’s tendency to remember only negative things by looking back through your memories and finding at least one good thing that happened to you. Maybe someone held the elevator door open, your favorite snack was on sale, or a bird alighted on your windowsill this morning for a moment of pure, unexpected delight. Good things happen to you daily, but remembering them can be challenging. Writing down these joyous moments of human kindness and little joys can help you remember that every day has a new opportunity for happiness around the corner.
3. Who has done something kind for you recently?
The world may be a chaotic place, but people are still kind to each other all the time. These kindnesses can be small, but they improve each person’s life. Look back on your recent experiences and identify a kind act someone did for you. Maybe a coworker brought you coffee, or your child drew you a picture. It might have been a stranger who moved their cart for yours in the store or let you take a parking spot in a busy lot. Or maybe a friend listened to you rant for a few minutes with genuine sympathy. Remember to thank them, at least in your journal, each time you remember a kindness.
4. Who have you done something kind for recently?
Consider your own kindness. When you’re feeling down on yourself, remember that you are kind and can do things to help others. Maybe you complimented a stranger, got up early to cook someone breakfast, or gave a friend a ride when they needed it. Or perhaps you were the friend lending a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to lean on. If you feel good about these moments, seek more opportunities to be kind.
5. How will you be kind to yourself today?
Making plans to be good to yourself is one of the best ways to overcome negative self-talk and self-neglecting patterns. Plan to do at least one good thing for yourself each day. Eat a healthy breakfast, give yourself positive affirmations, or take time to unwind in the bath. Make plans for self-kindness in your appreciation journal, and keep them.
6. Describe something that made you smile today.
Pick one thing that makes you smile. It might have been a butterfly, an old song on the radio, or a silly joke made by a friend. Remember these moments that bring you happiness instead of frustration or sadness. Taking the time to re-engage that smile-worthy memory will help you remember that smile repeatedly.
7. What was your favorite moment this week?
Look back on your week and pick a favorite moment. Consider the brightest moments each day and renew those memories so that they live longer and with greater clarity. Then, when you’ve refreshed your memories of the week’s happy moments, pick your favorite. It may be a moment you laughed uproariously with a loved one over a shared joke, a fun adventure, or a peaceful moment of pure snuggles. Every week should have a favorite moment, one you remember to cherish and a memory you will refresh as time goes on.
8. What are you looking forward to this weekend?
Make positive weekend plans for yourself, even if those plans are staying in to watch your favorite show in your pajamas. Consider what each weekend holds for you so you remember to look forward to these days with positive anticipation. Let yourself get excited for the weekend because something good is coming up, and each weekday will feel a little brighter.
9. Describe something you appreciate about your life right now. How does it make your life better?
Consider something you appreciate right now. Pick one thing for each journal entry that is actively improving your life. It might be breakfast pastries, daily exercise, or the scene outside your window. It might be the company of a friend or the entertainment of a favorite TV show. You might be feeling historical and writing about the benefits of indoor plumbing and refrigeration in your life today or appreciate the technology that’s made life easier.
10. What is the best thing that’s ever happened to you?
Take time to refresh your favorite memories. Consider the best things that have happened in your life. Roll the memory around, write out every detail you remember, and consider why you are grateful for these moments. Taking time to recall positive memories clarifies them and brings them to life. You will remember the smiles of your loved ones, your best adventures, and your greatest moments more clearly later in life if you take the time to write down these happy memories today.