new year journal prompts

Journal Prompts for the New Year

The end of 2020 is finally here! It was a long, hard year, wasn’t it? Naturally, most of us are eager to put 2020 behind us and start fresh.

But even though it’s been a painful year, it’s useful to reflect on the past – to grieve our losses, notice what we overcame and learned, and acknowledge the positives.

When we move on too quickly, we may miss the complexity of how these experiences have impacted us and the ways we’ve changed. And when we deny our experiences or feelings, we can’t use them to intentionally move closer to our goals.

To help you reflect on the past year and use these experiences to improve your life, I’ve written some new year’s journal prompts. Let’s start by acknowledging what was positive about 2020.

Acknowledging the positive aspects of 2020

2020 wasn’t all bad! Sometimes we have to look harder for the positives, but they are there – sometimes hidden among the struggles, sometimes in the simple pleasures that we take for granted, and sometimes they are the people who helped or guided us.

  • I accomplished __________.
  • I feel good about __________.
  • I took care of myself by __________.
  • I’m grateful for __________.
  • A book/movie/tv show I enjoyed was _____________.
  • A happy memory was __________.
  • Something positive that I wouldn’t have normally done  __________.
  • Something funny that I want to remember is _____________.
  • I was challenged by__________.
  • I learned __________.
  • I felt passionately about _____________.

We certainly don’t want to ignore the challenges and painful aspects of 2020, either. By considering both the positives and negatives, we can keep a balanced perspective.

Reflecting on the hardships of 2020

It’s been a particularly difficult year. There were collective stressors that affected us all – a pandemic (including serious illness and death, unemployment and financial devastation, restriction on our everyday activities, canceled plans and celebrations, soaring mental health problems), a particularly heated U.S. election, racial tensions and violence, natural disasters, and more.

And, of course, we all have our personal struggles, many of which were exacerbated by these events. So, take some time to acknowledge what you’ve lost, your anger and pain, your struggles. When we do this, we help ourselves move forward and avoid getting stuck in our pain.

  • 2020 was hard for me because _____________.
  • In 2020, I missed doing these things _____________.
  • I missed spending time with these people _____________.
  • I was stressed or anxious about _____________.
  • I’m grieving the loss of _____________.
  • I struggled with _____________.
  • I feel sad about _____________.
  • I feel angry about _____________.
  • I feel anxious about _____________.

Noticing what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown

When we face great challenges, we usually learn a lot. You may already be aware of some valuable lessons from 2020 and probably others will be revealed in time. Answering these questions may help you recognize the ways you’ve grown and what you’ve learned from 2020.

  • As a result of these struggles, I learned _____________.
  • I can cope with stress and uncertainty by ______________.
  • Some things I learned about myself are ______________.
  • Some things I learned about others are ______________.
  • I didn’t know I could ______________.
  • I learned that I like ______________.
  • I learned that I don’t like ______________.
  • For the first time, I _____________.
  • As a result of last year’s struggles and learning, going forward I will ______________.

And now on to planning for a healthy and fulfilling 2021!

Journal prompts for the new year

The next set of questions will hopefully get you thinking about how you want to spend your time and resources, how you might improve your life, and ways to grow into a healthier and happier version of yourself.

  • This year I want to focus on __________.
  • In 2021, I’m looking forward to __________.
  • A habit or activity that I started last year and want to continue is __________.
  • A habit I want to change is __________.
  • I want to strengthen my relationship with ___________.
  • I will connect with others by _______________.
  • I will work on accepting others as they are by __________.
  • I will help others or give back to my community by _____________.
  • I will grow in or strengthen my faith/spirituality by _____________.
  • I will take care of myself by __________.
  • I will show myself compassion by __________.
  • I will save money for ______________.
  • I will splurge on ____________.
  • This year I want to add more __________ to my life.
  • Every day I plan to __________.
  • My career goals for the coming year are ___________.
  • To be physically healthier, I will _____________.
  • To be mentally healthier, I will _____________.
  • I will ask for support, help, or accountability from _____________.

I hope these journal prompts and questions help you thoughtfully reflect on 2020, feel your feelings, acknowledge your successes and growth, and set a course for a fulfilling year ahead.

Read more

How to Stay Motivated Through the Ups and Downs of Change

How to Make Changes that Last

© 2020 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.

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The Self-Love Digital Journal

The Self-Love Guided Journal

I created the Self-Love Guided Journal to help you rediscover who you are, accept yourself – imperfections and all, and learn to treat yourself with kindness. It includes reflective questions, journal prompts, inspirational quotes, and a healing meditation to help you develop positive thoughts and feelings about yourself. Find out more by clicking HERE.

This site is for informational purposes only. It provides general information and is not intended to nor should it be used to diagnose or treat any psychological, relationship, or medical issues or advise you on your particular issues, questions, or decisions. You are solely responsible for how you use the information provided on this website and the consequences of your actions. This page may contain affiliate links which means I receive a small commission on items purchased.


Sharon Martin, DSW, LCSW is a psychotherapist and author specializing in codependency recovery. For the past 25 years, she’s been helping people-pleasers, perfectionists, and adult children overcome self-doubt and shame, embrace their imperfections, and set boundaries. Dr. Martin writes the popular blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today and is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and The Better Boundaries Workbook.

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