40+ Journal Prompts to Capture Memories and Discover Yourself

September 25, 2021  - by 
a woman writes in a journal.

Have you ever pulled out an old puzzle only to realize at the very end that you’re missing pieces? The same thing happens to memories over time. Bits and pieces start to fade as time passes. Journaling helps preserve those little details so you’ll always remember them.

Along the way, many people discover a sense of self and see improvements in their daily lives. Studies have found numerous benefits to journaling, including the following:

  • Better sleep
  • Relieved tension
  • Improved mental health
  • Increased awareness
  • Heightened immune system

How does it work? Writing out your thoughts and feelings gives you the opportunity to work through them. The process can stimulate your immune system and lighten your mental load.

Getting started can feel a little awkward, and forming a new habit takes practice. Try using these journal prompts to get you going. FamilySearch Memories also offers a free and easy platform to write your journal and preserve it alongside your favorite pictures.

a man begins writing from a journal prompt.

Quick and Easy Journal Prompts

If you’re just getting started, these quick and light-hearted prompts might be the perfect place to try your hand at journaling. Or if you’ve had a long day, light topics can be just the thing to get your mind off things as you write.

  • What was the best thing that happened today?
  • What are your favorite and least favorite flavors of ice cream?
  • What are you excited about in the next week?
  • Create a list of your favorite foods, hobbies, movies, songs, and so on.
  • Name a place you hope to visit one day. What would you like to do there?
  • If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
  • Who’s your favorite character from a TV show?
  • What would your ideal pet be?
  • What’s your favorite season of the year?
  • If you could choose a fictional world to live in, which would it be?
a girl writes in a journal.

Journal Prompts to Capture Your Early Memories

Nostalgia is a powerful force with many benefits. It can alleviate stress and anxiety and help you feel happier. Capture some of those early memories to strengthen your ties to your past.

Don’t shy away from difficult memories either. Working through those emotions can help you accept them and move on.

  • Describe your childhood home. Do you miss anything about it? What did your room look like? Did you move around?
  • What were your favorite meals as a child? Have you made any of them recently?
  • What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Include specific memories.
  • Who was your best friend as a child? What did you do together? Are you still in touch today?
  • What schools did you go to? What was your favorite subject? Did you have a favorite teacher?
  • What do you remember about your hometown? Do you still live there? If not, have you ever visited?
  • Who did you look up to as a child?
  • What’s your most embarrassing memory?
  • What was your favorite book as a child?
a girl writes with her mother.

Journal Prompts to Capture Your Family

Exploring family memories and history opens avenues to discovering who you are. Finding family and cultural roots fosters a sense of belonging, which brings with it increased self-worth and resilience. Writing about your family is one of the many ways you can strengthen those ties.

If you’re interested in further exploring your family roots, try learning about your family tree.

  • Describe your parents. What did they look like? What did you do together? How do you feel about them?
  • Do you remember your grandparents? What type of relationship did you have with them?
  • What did your parents do for work?
  • If you have siblings, what memories do you share?
  • Describe your current family relationships. Who do you feel closest to?
  • What are your favorite family memories?
  • Did you ever have family reunions? Describe them.
  • Describe challenges you’ve faced with your family. How did your family navigate those challenges?
  • How does your family show love to one another?
  • If you could say anything to your family, what would it be?
  • What are your family’s cultural roots?

Personal Journal Prompts

a woman journals on a hike.

Journaling provides an outlet to work through your thoughts and feelings. Try writing about what’s going on in your life right now and your feelings. You may find the experience to be a needed release.

  • What do you hope to accomplish this year? In the next five years?
  • When do you feel the happiest? The saddest?
  • Has anything bothered you lately?
  • What’s your current profession? Are you satisfied in your job? If not, what would you like to change?
  • What’s on your bucket list? How can you achieve those dreams?
  • What are your fears? Why do they scare you?
  • What is your favorite place in the world?
  • How do you make important decisions?
  • What is something you would like to learn to do? What’s holding you back?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Share any regrets you have and what you would do differently.
  • What motivates you?

Hopefully this list of journal prompts helps you get started on the path to recording your personal story. Journaling is a fantastic way to explore your past, your family, and your sense of self. This list just scratches the surface, so continue finding new topics to write about.

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  1. This blog post says:
    FamilySearch Memories also offers a free and easy platform
    to write your journal and preserve it alongside your favorite

    I agree in part. It’s a great place to preserve inspiring or uplifting things we want to share now and preserve for the future. However, it’s not for events we’d prefer to keep private until later. Everything added to FamilySearch Memories is immediately made publicly available with no login necessary.

    Here’s a link to a publicly available story I created without realizing it:

    Anyone anywhere on earth can read it without logging into FamilySearch. All they need is the link.

    For those who want to preserve stories or events containing something a bit more private, I’d suggest using another tool. I love it that this blog post suggests several ways of doing this. One of them is something I’ve done for over 20 years.

    I first became familiar with creating computer .TXT files in the late 1980s. By the late 1990s I was creating them regularly. Although they don’t offer spell checking, I’ve found they’re long lasting and quite easy to preserve and copy from one storage medium to another as technology changes.

    I’ve kept a paper journal since 1976 but for some years since then I’ve created more computer .TXT files than I’ve written journal entries on paper. Sometimes, as I’ve shared important events with others via email or social media, I simply copy the message to a .TXT file and save that as my journal story.

    I’m grateful for all the suggested ways of creating a journal. Paper journals and .TXT files are the type I rely on most.

    1. Ron –

      As a long-time computer user, I expect you are acquainted with the ability of products like MS Word to save a copy for yourself in a rich format such as .docx, where you can include hyperlinks, images, have rudimentary spell and grammar checking, etc. and also be able to subsequently re-save as a PDF or or .txt file for wider distribution. I mention this for the benefit of anyone who might read your note and not be familiar with the opportunity to keep a more versatile version of one’s notes for personal reference and then easily re-save a sanitized and universally readable copy for sharing.

      Probably like you, I still have and refer to .txt files created in DOS, before Windows or Mac ever existed. Not fancy, but not lost to the sands of time or the ether!

      1. Bruce,

        What a great comment. Thanks for pointing out those things for others who may not have considered doing this. Yes, of course, copies of the same info in multiple formats are a great way to preserve as well as providing spell checking and grammar checking what was written.

        I’ve often used the same tricks (copying, editing, then re-saving) in order to preserve a “sanitized and universally readable copy” on FamilySearch Memories as well as other platforms. In fact, I’ve had to do that often when transferring files between platforms.

        Plain text files written on a Mac or older UNIX machines always had to be re-edited. The old UNIX System 5 Release 4 OS I first used did not automatically add a LF/CR at the end of each line as did MS DOS. I wrote my first 2 family history books using a UNIX Minicomputer. I later scanned the pages as images into PDF files which I shared with FamilySearch.

        Although PDFs created from scanned (image) pages aren’t as versatile as text, I fortunately had kept the original UNIX text files which I easily converted to DOS .TXT files, then Word Perfect, and still later MS Word -97 files. The old text files have proven quite versatile over the past 3 decades.

        Since I intentionally did not copyright anything I’ve written, I now only need to share a link on the websites I own. That way, relatives and other visitors may download a free copy of my book in PDF format from the FamilySearch website.

        Thanks for pointing that out. I wish more people were familiar with the very useful methods and tools you mentioned (i.e.: MS Word, .docx and PDF file conversion, the use of hyperlinks, incorporation of images, etc.).

        By the way, I would add email to the list. Sometimes text from one platform and file format can easily be shared with someone using a different platform or file format by simply copying the text and pasting it into an email. I’ve shared MS Word files that way from my Windows machine to Mac users if the file wasn’t too large. For large files, I’ve found PDF is usually best.

  2. i am currently about 85,000 words into My Personal History Notes, and I am just getting warmed up. Anything that can be found elsewhere I am leaving out. Thanks for the points above, some of which I had not considered including