Last Updated on February 6, 2024
It’s the age-old predicament of journaling: wanting to write, but not knowing what to write about. Maybe you do well with journal prompts, but a brain dump (where you write down all your thoughts as they come to you) is a struggle. You wouldn’t be the first person to feel that way!
I made this brain dump trigger list to make the process easier for you. If you need help to get the ball rolling, this list has all the “triggers” or categories of things in your life that spark your memory on what to write about.
Because, actually, you do know what to write about. You’re just having a hard time recalling it! So think of this brain dump trigger list as a helpful guide to reflect on all the ideas that are currently floating around in your head.
What is a brain dump?
Whether you want to call it a brain dump or a mind sweep, this is the process of getting everything out of your mind and onto paper! To-do lists, tough emotions, ideas, thoughts–the whole nine yards.
Doing a brain dump will help you clear your mind and de-stress from all the little things that add up in your mental space. Only thing is, a lot of people feel so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to begin! Which is why I created this brain dump trigger list of allllll the categories you’d want to dump into a journal.
When to do a brain dump
If you ever feel overwhelmed by all the distracting thoughts that dance around in your head, you could definitely use a brain dump. If you feel unfocused, agitated, and unable to focus on bigger tasks, then this exercise is for you.
So many little things demand our attention and nag at us over the course of the day. If you let all of that information sit there without expressing it, it can really take a toll on your mental health.
How to use a brain dump trigger list
If you sit down in front of your journal only to feel stuck because you don’t even know where to start, you should give this brain dump trigger list a try.
This list will help you go category-by-category so you can go through your thoughts one at a time and ensure they all get addressed. It’s easy to miss something that’s been bothering you if you don’t thoroughly reflect on each area of your life.
This brain dump trigger list will help you target everything on your mind, in these areas:
- Mental Health
- Physical Health
- Personal Errands
- Books, Music, TV
- Household chores
- Personal development
And if there’s any category of your life not listed, feel free to add it! I’ll walk you through each category in detail so you don’t overlook the little moving parts that come with them.
Brain Dump Trigger List Categories
Could you use some help with doing a brain dump? Browse through each of these categories to make sure you’re hitting ALL the areas of your life you might need to vent about!
If your life is chaotic and busy, you might let your hobbies fall by the wayside. It happens to the best of us, but making time for leisure is super important for work/life balance!
You’ll want to think about things like…
- The hobbies you currently have
- Hobbies you’ve always wanted to pick up but never got to
- How you feel about the time you have to focus on hobbies (do you wish you had more time to dedicate to them?)
- Items you need to get to perform the hobbies
This can be a GIANT category with tons of information to brain dump! Work is always evolving throughout our lives and there’s a lot to think about. I know work takes up a ton of my mental resources lol!
Work triggers for your brain dump include:
- How you feel about where you’re at in your career
- Satisfaction with your career field
- Conflict with bosses, coworkers, etc.
- The job interview process, if you’re looking for jobs
- If/what you might want to pivot toward
- A stressful day/week/month at work that happened recently
Whether it’s parents, siblings, significant others, or kids…family is a very multi-faceted part of our lives! There’s a lot of opportunity for things to come up in this area of life, so keep the following ideas in mind as you brain dump:
- Stressful events within your family
- Needing to care for family members
- Fun things to do with family
- Activities and date nights with your partner
- Upcoming family gatherings
- Reflecting on your relationship with your family/parents especially
How’s your social life doing? Being busy can mean life getting in the way of fostering our friendships, so make sure to reflect on the status of your social circle by thinking about…
- Who’s in your social circle
- How often do you get to spend time with friends?
- Are you happy with your current friends?
- Do you wish you had more friends?
- Do you have a strong support system or a very close friend you can confide in?
- Any drama or stress going on between your friends?
Whether you’re single, dating, or married, love is just another aspect of life that makes our lives fulfilling. There’s a lot of strong emotions in this area, so it’s no surprise if this topic is on your mind heavily! Brain dump ideas include…
- Your love life in general
- Your relationship status
- Your current partner–are you happy? Areas for improvement?
- Thoughts around marriage/married life
- How dating is going for you
- Things that disappoint you about dating
Mental health is an ongoing journey that we need to prioritize just as much as our physical health. Your mental health can really fluctuate over the course of your life, especially if you’re going through a season of extra stress. Make sure you check in on your mental health by reflecting on…
- Your self care activities (do you have any right now? how often do you practice them?)
- How you’re managing any diagnosed mental health disorders
- How therapy is going
- Recent triggers that have impacted your mental health
- Where you’re at right now in your mental health journey compared to 1, 5, 10 years ago
Is your anxiety all over the place? Tame it with this guided journal!
Struggling with anxious thoughts? Feel stuck in fight-or-flight? Just want to get better at managing life’s daily stressors? (Hey, you’re not alone!) This journal is for you.
By the end of this journal, you’ll…
Of course, the most commonly journaled about topic is emotions!! Everyone needs a safe space to privately express their emotions and deepest darkest thoughts, and journals are perfect for that. Make sure you’re properly addressing and venting your emotions, like…
- Assessing your overall moods (having lots of mood swings lately? Feeling stable? Any recurring emotions?)
- Something that hurt you recently
- Something you’re struggling to cope with
- How you feel in response to a big event that happened
- Any anxieties or stress about the future
The older you get, the more health problems seem to creep up on us! Health anxiety can be a very real thing, and it’s helpful to address your habits and fears when it comes to taking care of your body. Think about things like…
- Your diet and exercise routine
- Any chronic health problems you may face
- Feelings of health anxiety
- Your experiences with doctors
- Upcoming doctors appointments
- How you physically feel on a day to day basis
Ah, there’s nothing more disruptive than when you’re “in the zone” of whatever you’re working on, only to be interrupted by all the little errands you need to get done! It’s always something, so take some time to think about all the short-term and long-term errands you need to tackle in the next few months, like…
- Car maintenance (that oil change that’s long overdue, tire rotation, etc.)
- Doctors appointments
- Getting gas
- Grocery shopping
- Getting the mail
- Making phone calls
Books, Music, TV
I know I always have a mental-list going of all the books, movies, and TV shows I want to watch when I get the time. Having an organized written list of these things will help you remember them for future reference! Record things like…
- TBR (to be read) list of all the books you want to read
- Movies & TV shows you want to catch up on
- Music artists you want to catch up on
- Concerts you want to go to
Do you ever get fascinated by the places people travel to and wish you could go yourself? Write these destinations down! I know sometimes I have all these grand ideas for foreign countries I want to visit, but then I forget about all the gorgeous states in the US I want to visit too! Jot down…
- Countries to visit
- States to visit
- Restaurants you want to try in different cities
- Activities you want to do in different cities
- Things to see specific to a certain region (like the northern lights!)
Spending, saving, bills, investments…personal finance is a whole endeavor. Make sure you’re making the financial choices that align with your goals by brain dumping all things money, like…
- Financial worries
- Job worries
- Budget plans
- Things you want to save for
- To-do’s like seeing a financial advisor
- Upcoming expenses
- Spending in certain areas you want to cut back on
Keeping up a house is a never-ending chore in and of itself! It can be tough to keep up with it all, but organizing your thoughts can help you plan out how you’ll tackle all your household duties. Remind yourself by making notes of…
- Household maintenance that might be overdue (replacing a lightbulb, fixing a door hinge, etc.)
- Individual cleaning tasks in each room
- Cleaning supplies you’re running low on
- Home decor you want to buy
Never overlook your personal development! Prioritizing your personal development can really fuel your soul and make your life fulfilling. Always striving to be the best version of yourself is super rewarding. Reflect on things like…
- Self care
- Self love (here’s some journal prompts for self love!)
- Habits and goals
- Personal fulfillment
And there you have it, a huuuge brain dump trigger list of any and everything you could possibly have on your mind! If I missed anything, don’t hesitate to add it to your own brain dump trigger list! After going through these categories, you’ll probably feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders with how clear your mind is.