How To Journal for Mental Health
A daily journal for depression and anxiety is proven to relieve symptoms and decrease stress for several different reasons.
A journal provides you with your own, on-hand therapy session, a safe space for all your stresses and emotions that can support you through any hard time and help you better understand your own challenges.
But maybe you have been put off by terms like ‘expressive writing, or ‘mood journal’.
The good news is, there is really nothing at all to feel intimidated or overwhelmed by.
Journaling is a practice that is available to anyone, and with so many positive aspects, once you get started – you will be glad you did!
So let’s take a closer look.
What is Mental Health Journaling?
A mental health journal is a powerful tool that provides many mental health benefits.
While it may sound like something you need a specific talent for, the good news is that it’s easy to do and anyone can achieve the positive outcomes related to Journaling for depression.
Simply make journal entries that focus on your thoughts and feelings – This could be writing about tough times or even the good things that you are grateful for each day.
By doing this on a regular basis, you will see a genuine shift in how your negative feelings can be reduced.
Research shows that keeping a record of your thoughts on paper, manages stress and reduces anxiety.
5 Benefits of Mental Health Journaling
There are many benefits of journaling for depression.
We all experience negative emotions at one stage or another. This could be due to a traumatic event or maybe negative thought patterns and if left unregulated, can cause a whole range of mental health issues.
Writing down any negative thoughts or difficult emotions is a great tool for stress management, allowing you to make an action plan to identify any triggers and make positive changes in your life.
The following benefits are the 5 best reasons to Journal for depression:
1. Calming Effects
With so many emotions and stresses in our lives each day, it is not uncommon to become anxious, and in extreme cases this can, in some cases, even result in a panic attack.
A simple journal entry that captures your intrusive thoughts on paper, is a great way to clear your mind, giving you an almost instant sense of relief and calm.
The writing sessions themselves are also a very mindful activity, which is a very effective tool to focus the mind and quiet the noise of all our thoughts.
2. Gives Perspective
Whatever difficult time we might be experiencing, it always feels so intense and overwhelming with ourselves at the centre of it.
All the worst case-scenarios start getting played out in our thoughts, and over time can generate feelings of depression and hopelessness.
The first thing you will notice when you write these thoughts down, is that when you read them back, you can start to understand how you arrived at these emotions.
Separating yourself from the raw emotion and looking in on your problems with a clearer mind is one of the best ways to help yourself.
3. Identifies Triggers
Identifying why you might be acting or feeling a certain way is an important part of self-help.
It could be that your depressive symptoms are more prominent when you are stressed at work or maybe haven’t been seeing family members or making the time for your own self-care routines.
Similarly, your mood may be at its best after physical activity or when you take the time to complete your mood journal each day.
For the best results, make journaling part of your daily routine then once you have identified the patterns in your mental health, you can put healthy habits in place to improve your state of mind.
4. Helps to Problem Solve
Mental health problems such as anxiety disorders can make it almost impossible to have positive thought processes at times.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings is a way of ‘calling them out’.
Once they are written down, they take on a more real form, allowing you to read them back and take time to consider how realistic they might be.
Your new viewpoint will mean you take more pragmatic and realistic steps to supporting yourself, maybe with positive self-talk or a series of steps that could achieve your desired outcome.
The same way you might support a friend through their negative experiences and mental health conditions from the outside looking in, you can now do this with your own struggles.
5. Provides an Outlet
Journal writing is a healthy way to express how you are feeling, regardless of the day of the week, the time of day, or how much phone signal you might have.
When your best friend is tucked up in bed or you’re in the middle of a workday, your journal will be on hand to let you vent every single one of the difficult feelings you might be going through.
If you are angry at your boss or partner, why not rant on paper, then burn it, or throw the page away?
Any amount of decompressing is up for grabs and all you need to do is put pen to paper.
How To Get Started
This is probably the best part about Journaling for depression – getting started can be very simple.
A notebook and pen. That’s it!
Like with anything, you can build supplies as you go, or find different Journals that might suit your needs a little more closely (more on that below), but ultimately you can get started straight away.
A5 notebooks are popular for how easily portable they are and black fineliner pens for how reliable and neat they are for your entries.
For more on equipment, check out the articles below, or we have gone into some 7 Top Tips when Journaling for depression and anxiety in the next section.
7 Tips When Journaling for Depression and Anxiety
1. Schedule Your Entries
When you are just getting started with journaling, it can feel like something else you are trying to squeeze into your day.
To make sure you find the time to complete your journal entries regularly, set time aside each day while you get going.
According to healthline.com it can take “an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic.”
So during this time, having a window in your schedule is a good way to help keep your entries consistent.
The end of the day is a good time to journal for mental health, as you can reflect on the day, thinking of any triggers or particular activities that had a positive effect, while it is all still fresh in your mind.
2. Use a Time Limit
Setting yourself a timer for your journaling exercise each day, is a good way to focus your mind and ensure you are capturing quality over quantity.
Five to ten minutes is more than enough time to write down any thoughts or feelings you would like to describe, whereas leaving your time open-ended may cause you to drift off topic or feel unsure about how much you should be writing.
Shorter entries will help you maintain the habit of journaling on a long-term basis.
3. Guided Journal
There are many different types of journals available and guided journals can be a real asset.
Each one provides different ways to prompt, motivate, inspire and encourage your journaling journey.
These extras are printed within your journal pages, so as you arrive at a new page you will have plenty of food for thought to boost your creativity as you make your entries.
Guided journals are by no means essential in journaling for depression and anxiety, but you may find it is something that works for you.
They do cost a little more than blank journaling notebooks, so it really comes down to personal choice.
4. Gratitude Journaling
This journaling practice has a proven positive impact on our daily life.
By writing specifically about things you are grateful for in your daily life, will cause you to focus more on the positive than the negative things around you.
It can be very easy to let an argument, or a particular stressor ruin your day, and before you know it, your focus and energy is sitting with that problem, while the good things in life keep slipping by unnoticed.
If you live like this for a long time, it will easily result in symptoms of depression.
Gratitude journaling, if done regularly, will shift your mindset to a wholly more positive place and you will end each day bursting with things to be thankful for.
Check out our post dedicated to gratitude journaling here.
5. Use Journaling Prompts
If you have already attempted some journal entries for depression and anxiety, then you might already be familiar with an intimidating blank page staring back at you.
Or maybe you have been journaling for some time, but your inspiration has dried up.
Journaling prompts are one of the best things to help you get started or give you some fresh motivation for your entries.
Journal prompts will inspire you to look at how you approach your journal in a range of new ways and are sure to get your mind working in a way that it isn’t likely to on its own.
We have provided you with 31 journal prompts for depression and mental health further down this article!
6. Dated Entries
Now this one may seem obvious, but dating your entries is highly recommended to achieve the maximum benefit of journaling for depression.
We have mentioned triggers and patterns in this post and understanding them is a huge asset in better understanding and therefore improving your mental health.
It is easy to get in the swing of journaling each day, only to look back and realize you cannot identify when you were experiencing these emotions and thought processes.
Tracking your progress against past entries will give you a big sense of achievement too, being able to look back and see just how far you have come.
7. Be Honest
This is very important.
If you are only capturing half truths and being false about how you really feel, then ask yourself – are you going to see the benefits we have spoken about?
The more honestly you can write about yourself, the more benefit you will take from the exercise of journaling.
Looking back at entries or tracking progress based on a diluted version of the truth, is really not going to help you in the long run.
30 Journal Prompts for Depression and Mental Health
- What are you best at, and what do you love doing most, and how could you spend more time doing both?
- If you were unapologetically and truly yourself, day in and day out, and if you fully accepted and loved yourself, what would change for you moving forward?
- How does reflecting on the past add benefit to your life? How does it have a negative impact?
- What does love mean to you?
- Who is your best friend and what do they add to your life?
- What was the best day of your life so far?
- Write about the last day you felt like you were on your ‘A-game’. Can you take any steps to engineer another day like that today?
- What would be the worst possible outcome if your greatest fear came true? Looking at your fears head-on can often make them fall away!
- What have you achieved in your life that you are proudest of so far?
- List 5 songs that lift your spirits when you feel down.
- What five attributes do you have as part of your personality that other people benefit from? This could be friends, family, or colleagues.
- Write about one thing that happened today that made you happy?
- What does the term ‘growth mindset’ mean to you? How would it benefit your mental health?
- What do you wish someone could do for you when you feel low? Can you provide any of these things for yourself?
- If you had a friend who felt low and was being negative about themselves, how would you build them back up? Can you do this with yourself too?
- What three things are you most grateful for in everyday life?
- If your life was a book, how would you start a new chapter? What would happen in this chapter to make it positive for the readers?
- How would tomorrow look if it was better than today? What two things could you do to make that happen?
- Are you holding on to any grudges or negative emotions about people from your past that you would benefit from letting go of?
- How would your life change if you let go of these emotions long-term?
- What happens in your life that makes you instantly happy?
- What is the single biggest thing that causes you anger or upset in your own life? Can you limit this in any way?
- What do you love the most about your personality?
- Is there anything about yourself that you would change given the opportunity?
- When have you had to step outside of your comfort zone in a situation? What did you learn about yourself?
- Write down two practical ways that you could start the change you have listed above.
- What gives you a warm feeling? Can you do more of it?
- Do the people closest to you know how much they mean to you?
- What one thing did you do today that made you proud of yourself?
- What is one of your happiest memories?