Journal Prompts to Close Out 2020

It seems like we’ve been looking forward to the end of 2020 since it started. It has been a long, hard, heartbreaking, confusing year for many. In the wake of all of this difficulty, it can feel odd when you have a moment of peace or joy that breaks through. It might feel strange to be happy or silly when the world around us is chaotic. It might feel strange to be distressed about the world around us when good things happen to us personally. This year has been full of unprecedented or unfamiliar feelings. Remember, though that you’re allowed to feel your feelings. Whatever you’re feeling about this year is valid.  

If you’re feeling weird about 2020 not being a terrible year for you personally, you’re not alone. If you’re looking forward to putting this year behind you, you’re not alone. It is possible for multiple things to be true at the same time. 2020 has been a hard year. 2020 also had some great moments for many of us, personally and as a culture. It can be hard to sort out all the feelings we have about what’s going on in the world right now. Emotions come and go quickly, the news changes every 15 seconds, and through it all, we keep going. That’s where a journaling practice can come in handy. 

Journaling allows you to take time to put your feelings into words, say things privately that you don’t feel comfortable saying out loud, sort through your thoughts and find patterns and meaning from what you’ve written. Journaling can be transformative, and a great way to process your thoughts. It can be intimidating to sit in front of a blank piece of paper or a blank screen and just write your deepest thoughts and feelings, though, so journal prompts are helpful. 

Lots of folks see the start of a new year as a time to start fresh and try new things. If you’re not feeling up to forming any new habits or starting new routines, that is perfectly fine. You are not obligated to attempt any sort of self-improvement. Also keep in mind that just because it will be a new year doesn’t mean things have changed in the present. We can be full of optimism about life returning to normal when the vaccine becomes widely available while also recognizing that the reality of that is still months away. In a year where we’ve had such a hard time finding good news, though, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Here are some journal prompts to help you process your thoughts about the end of the year: 

  • How do you feel at the start of a new year?
  • 2020 was a year of…
  • 2021 will be a year of…
  • Describe your 2020 in five words. Why did you choose those five words? 
  • What is giving you hope in 2021? 
  • What is making you worry in 2021? 
  • Is it important to wait for the new year to make a change, or can you do it anytime? 
  • How do you like to reflect at the start of a new year?
  • What does your ideal life look like?
  • What brings you the most happiness?
  • How can you bring more of that happiness into your life on a regular basis? 
  • If money was no object, what would your life be like? What would you do for work? What would you experience? What would you buy? What would you give away? 
  • What steps can bring you closer to your ideal life? What steps can you take this year? How can you start to live that life right now?
  • Picture yourself in December 2021. How are you different? How are you the same? What have you accomplished in the last 12 months? 
  • Who or what matters most to you? 
  • How can you make time for who or what matters most to you? Are there things you can let go of to make more room for what matters to you?  
  • How would you sum up your 2020 experience? 
  • Is there anything you need to forgive yourself for? Write about it.
  • Is there anything you want to forgive someone else for? Write them a letter.
  • What does success mean to you?
  • What does success mean to the people you care about? Are your definitions the same or different? 
  • In what ways did you feel creative this year? 
  • What is your favorite way to express yourself? 
  • Write a letter to that little voice in your head that isn’t so nice (aka your inner critic).
  • What are ways you focus on the present moment? 
  • What are some activities you like to do that help you focus on the present moment? 
  • How is your heart today? 
  • Is there anything you need to stop judging yourself for? 
  • Write a letter to your younger self. What did you need to hear then that you can tell yourself now? 
  • Write about a time when you felt lonely last year. 
  • Write about a time when you felt connected last year. 
  • What are the ways you show yourself love on a regular basis?
  • Write a letter to your past self about what you learned in 2020. 
  • Write a letter to your future self about what you learned in 2020. 
  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your life? 
  • Did you try any new hobbies this year? 
  • What was something that helped you cope during lock down? 
  • What has the pandemic taught you about being alone? 
  • What has the pandemic taught you about the society we live in? 
  • What has the pandemic brought up for you in your social circles? 
  • Has the pandemic changed the way you relate to the people in your life? 
  • Is there anything you want to remember about life during the pandemic?
  • Who were the 5 most influential people in your life this year?
  • What do you want to leave behind in 2020? 
  • What do you want to take with you in 2021? 

Whether you decide to answer these in a journal or if you just prefer to read them over and think about your answers, take some time to reflect on a few of the prompts that jump out to you. See where they take you. Remember to be gentle with yourself and not judge what comes up for you while you reflect. Another place to safely reflect is in a therapy office with a therapist who can provide insight specific to you and your situation. If you’re interested in talking to someone about your year, our clinicians can help.

Brice N. Sanner, LMFT