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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Lott

Starting a journal for your mental health

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Journaling is a simple and yet powerful way to help improve your mental health. It can help you to:

  • Process your thoughts and feelings

  • Reduce stress and anxiety

  • Improve your mood

  • Boost your self-esteem

  • Increase your self-awareness

  • Set and achieve goals

  • Track your progress over time

  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms

There’s no right or wrong way to journal. Some people prefer to journal first thing in the morning to get ready for their day, while others prefer to write at night as part of their bedtime routine. Choose a time that works best for you: When do you have a spare five to 10 minutes to yourself to journal? What time of day are you most stressed? Does your daily to-do list feel overwhelming? Do you have trouble sleeping because you can’t quiet your mind?

It shouldn't feel like a pressure or a chore. If you want to write for 5 minutes a day, that’s a good place to start and can help you develop the habit of writing. If you want to write until you’re tired of writing or your hand hurts (if you decide to write long-hand), that’s OK, too. Do what works for you.

One type of journal isn’t necessarily better than another, either. The best journal is the one you’ll use, whether it’s a specific wellness or anxiety journal prefilled with prompts , a nice blank journal offering a clean slate for your thoughts, or an app or website.

Different journaling techniques

A journaling technique I recommend to clients is the “brain dump,” where you simply write down everything you're thinking. It doesn't have to make sense. The only goal is to empty your mind of all the thoughts. This approach can be helpful for people who have racing thoughts, as taking those thoughts from your mind and putting them onto paper can ease some of the brain’s frenetic pace.

Plus, over time, certain patterns or recurring thoughts may emerge in the writing. This can also be a good way to organize your thoughts and see what themes are present, which might cue you to focus on areas you need to give attention to.

Bullet journaling is another method that’s approachable, particularly if you’re new to journaling. You simply make bullet points of your thoughts as they come—no need for connected sentences or paragraphs. You could purchase a dedicated bullet journal, which typically looks more like a planner, or you could just make a list in a basic journal or on an app.

And finally, another easy type of journaling to try is a gratitude journal, which can help shift focus to the positive parts of your life. At the beginning or end of each day, take a few minutes to jot down a few things you’re grateful for—from the great cup of coffee you enjoyed in the morning, that your hair looks fabulous today, to the cuddle your cat gave you after work.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

  • Set a aside some time each day to journal.

  • Don't worry about grammar or spelling.

  • Just write whatever comes to mind.

  • Be honest with yourself.

  • Don't be afraid to express your emotions: don’t edit yourself or your feelings.

  • Read your journal entries over time to track your progress.

  • Use your journal as a tool to help you improve your mental health.

Here are 30 journaling prompts to get you started:

1. What are you grateful for today?

2. What are your goals for the week?

3. What are you struggling with right now?

4. How can you improve your mood today?

5. What is one thing you learned today?

6. What is one thing you are proud of yourself for?

7. What is one thing you are looking forward to?

8. What is one thing you are grateful for about yourself?

9. Share an act of selflessness or kindness you did for someone. How did it feel to do this?

10. What was your favourite story or book as a child? Why did you like it so much?

11. What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

12. What’s your favourite part of your day?

13. List 5 things you’re grateful right now

14. What do you like most about your personality?

15. Whom do you trust the most? Why?

16. What are your strengths in friendships or relationships (e.g., kindness, empathy)?

17. How do you draw strength from loved ones?

18. What boundaries could you set in your relationships to safeguard your own wellbeing?

19. What do you value most in your relationships, with romantic partners, friends or family?

20. What five traits do you value most in potential partners?

21. Write a love letter to yourself.

22. What are three important lessons have you learned from previous relationships?

23. What are three things that are working well in your current relationship?

24. What are three things that could be better in your current relationship?

25. How do you show compassion to others? How can you extend that same compassion to yourself?

26. I get anxious when _____________.

27. When do you feel most happy?

28. What was one moment of joy or beauty you experienced today?

29. Describe a place where you feel most relaxed and peaceful.

30. Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself.

Journaling is a great way to improve your mental health. It is a safe and confidential way to express your thoughts and feelings. It can help you to process your emotions, reduce stress, and improve your mood. If you are struggling with your mental health, journaling can be a great way to get help.

If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to you. You are not alone.


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