Journaling for Mental Health (And 30 Powerful Prompts)
From reducing stress to managing depression, here are the powerful benefits of journaling for mental health – and the best tips and prompts.
If you haven’t kept a diary since you were a teenager – you’re missing out.
Journaling is an incredibly powerful tool that helps you manage stress, anxiety and depression well into your adult years.
It’s a research-backed method that lets you release your negative thoughts onto the page and process your emotions.
The benefits of journaling for mental health just might surprise you. From reducing overwhelm at work to helping you sleep better at night, journaling is a powerful tool that psychologists have been prescribing for decades.
Here are some benefits of journaling for mental health:
coping with depression
conquering fears and worries
identifying negative thoughts and triggers
learning from experiences
helping you sleep better
improving your mood
helping you solve problems
It all sounds incredible, but how can you actually start journaling – and keep the habit going?
How to start a journal
I’ve been journaling for years. And sometimes it feels ridiculous to keep writing when it feels like I have nothing eloquent to say. But whenever I skip journaling for a week or two – I really see a difference. Journaling has a huge impact on my stress levels and mental clarity.
But starting – and keeping the habit going – isn’t always easy.
Here are the tips that have really worked for me.
How to start journaling for mental health
Start small and keep your expectations realistic. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with one-line-a-day journaling. When that becomes a solid part of your routine, work up to longer writing sessions.
Schedule your journaling into your day. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike – and don’t wait until you’re in the mood. Make writing part of your day like brushing your teeth or drinking your morning coffee.
Experiment with different journaling techniques. If writing steam of consciousness feels awkward and impossible to you, then try an art journal. Or keep a gratitude journal and write down 3 small things you’re grateful for each day.
Journaling for mental health prompts
Prompts are a powerful tool to facilitate your journaling when you’re not in the mood to write – or don’t really know what to write about.
Here are my 30 favorite life-changing journaling prompts for inspiration:
1. How was your day? What were the highlights – and what didn’t go well?
2. What are you grateful for today? List 3 things that bring you happiness and describe them in detail – no matter how big or small.
3. What is your biggest goal for today? Does it feel achievable or impossible?
4. Write in detail about the happiest moments in your life. Describe them with all your senses.
5. Write about your biggest tasks, challenges and worries for tomorrow.
6. Write about the worst case scenario for something you’re worried about. Journaling about the worst case scenario will help you realize that many of your anxieties are exaggerated and irrational.
7. Write a to-do list for 5 minutes before bed. Writing down a list of specific loose ends has been proven to help you sleep better.
8. Take 15 minutes to write a list of everything you like about yourself.
9. Take 15 minutes to write a list of everything you enjoy about your job – no matter how small.
10. Jot down a list of pros and cons for a dilemma or difficult decision that you’re facing.
11. Get you stress out. Take a few minutes when you’re angry to write about what’s bothering you. Use your journal to let it all out.
12. Write a list of positive, daily affirmations.
13. Write a compassionate letter to yourself. Fill it with reassuring words that you’d say to a best friend who needs encouragement.
14. Take 15 minutes to write about the things you’re looking forward to – whether that’s a Netflix binge tonight or a weekend getaway.
15. Take 15 minutes to write about your regrets. What would you do differently today?
16. Write about a few people you admire. What can you learn from them, and how did they get to where they’re at?
17. Make a bucket list of everything you’d like to do in your lifetime.
18. Write out an imagined dialogue for a conversation that you’re too nervous to have. Write out a dialogue about a topic you’re afraid to bring up.
19. Write a letter to a person that you’d like to forgive.
20. Take 15 minutes to write about the things you appreciate in a family member or partner.
21. Make a list of the favorite compliments you’ve received in your life.
22. Make a list of any distractions that are keeping you from achieving your goals.
23. Make a list of moments when you feel your happiest and most authentic self.
24. Describe what you’re feeling, and what’s causing your current emotions.
25. Make a list of simple things you can do to make yourself feel better. Reach for this list whenever you’re feeling anxious or depressed.
26. Write about how you’ve changed in the past year.
27. Write a letter to your teenage self. Include any advice you’d give.
28. Write about the last time you couldn’t sleep. What thoughts and worries kept you up?
29. Write about the last time you had a great conversation with your partner.
30. Describe how you procrastinate. How do you distract yourself, and what feelings are you trying to avoid?