How to Start Journaling ? Journaling Prompts for Mental Health

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There are times in life when you cannot share your feelings or thoughts with anybody. At such times, feelings can overwhelm your body in almost 2 seconds. When overwhelming feelings hit, you are not really in a space of mind where we could take decisions or think better for ourselves. This is why keeping a journal plays an important role. Some of us had even experienced journaling in our teenage when we wanted to put out our feelings in a diary . Journaling prompts are ideas, pointers, concepts, suggestions or questions to get you started on journaling. You can write along the lines of the prompts to reflect on a particular theme or topic.

What is a Journaling?

Journaling is a practice of writing down your thoughts and feelings in a diary or journal. Such a habit helps record and understand emotions better. Therapists recommend this as an important tool to address anxiety, depression, fear, worries or stress. In fact, they would often ask you to bring your journal in a therapy session. One of the ways to deal with any overwhelming emotion is to find a healthy way to express yourself. This makes journal a helpful tool in managing your mental health.

While journaling is conventionally in a written form, it doesn’t have to be limited to writing. You can always speak out or share your daily life thoughts with a therapist or a loved one in order to get similar results. Similarly, a notebook or diary is just one medium of writing, you can also use a mobile application , google doc, journaling website or a recorder for audio-video journaling.

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Techniques and Types of Journaling

There are various types of Journaling, you can choose your own technique,  whichever fits you better or helps you journal regularly.

1. Visual or Art Journaling:

Art Journaling
Bich Tran / Pexels

Some people do not like to write or believe in traditional writing to express their feelings. For such individuals, drawing, painting or doodling their emotions can be a way of journaling. Start with a blank page and draw whatever you feel like drawing or doodling. Make sure to do this everyday to vent out your stress or negative thoughts.

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2. Gratitude Journaling:

Gratitude Journaling
Carl Attard / Pexels

It is a great way to start your day by counting your blessings. In such a technique of journal, write down 5 things or people you are grateful for in your life. There are a number of benefits of practicing gratitude everyday. You can also create this as one of prompt for whichever journaling you do. Appreciating yourself and those around you will help recognize the positive things in your lives especially during times of despair.

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3. Bullet Journaling:

Journaling Promots
Tamara Velázquez / Canva

If you do not like to write long sentences like me, this technique is for you. Write down a list of things that you felt today or start your day with a short and crisp To-Do list to organise your thoughts and settle your anxiety.

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4. Stream of Consciousness Journaling:

It is the traditional form of journaling or writing a diary where you pour down your thoughts or feeling into a piece of paper as and when they come. Such a technique does not have any structure or rule towards it. You can simply go on writing about how was your day or how you feel right now. This is a good type or journaling as you can come back to it later to understand your thought process going on during a particular point of time. Moreover, this is an excellent form of journaling when you are trying to identify your triggers or working towards resolving a mental health issue.

5. Unsent Letter Journaling:

Sometimes, there are things that you want to say to someone, but fail to do so. One of the benefits of journaling is that you can still write that letter. By expressing  your thoughts and feelings in a letter, you can let go of those feelings and move on with your life. You can also write a letter to yourself if there are things that you need to say to yourself or a letter to diary, telling all about the things that could not tell anybody.

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6. Spiritual Journaling

You can start your day by writing down a prayer, a meditative card, bible verses or any other spiritual statements. Such a technique is helpful for anyone seeking a spiritual growth leading to positive mental health journey.

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Science behind Journaling for Mental Health

Number of studies prove the effectiveness of journaling for positive mental health benefits. One study indicated that regular journaling had a significant improvement on people suffering from PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Another study reveals that positive journaling is a feasible and well-accepted tool that can be implemented on the Web for effectively reducing some aspects of mental distress and improving well-being among people with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms. Moreover, positive journaling is likely to be a more pleasant and uplifting treatment for patients compared with the traditional expressive writing interventions that focus on writing about deeply distressing and traumatic experiences from the past.

Benefits of Journaling

There are various reasons why journalising should be practiced everyday. You can choose to set aside some time everyday in morning before leaving for work or late at night before going to bed.

1. Helps create positive self-talk with oneself.

2. Helps heal from traumas and mental health issues.

3. Develops a healthy positive routine and a refreshing activity for the day.

4. Helps identify root cause of the problem, triggers or negative emotions.

5. Creating a healthy mindset with gratitude and mindfulness.

Journaling for Stress

1. Helps train your mind during fight or flight mode.

2. Helps let go of things you cannot control.

3. Enables to understand stressors and manage calmly.

4. Supports coping mechanism and response to stressful events.

5. Helps prioritize and organize thoughts to avoid overwhelming emotions.

Journaling for Anxiety

1. Improves acceptance of negative emotions and thoughts.

2.Helps face fears and worries with a positive outlook.

3.Helps identify triggers of anxiety.

4. Helps create a backup plan for difficult situations.

5. Reminds of strengths that helped overcome challenges before.

Journaling for Depression

1. Identify patterns that lead to depression and curb early on.

2. Establish awareness on symptoms of depression.

3. Helps improve outlook on life by practicing gratitude and appreciation.

4. Clarifies values and priorities for self.

5. Helps in taking control of your feelings and emotions.

Journaling for PTSD

1. Helps face your trauma and write down ways to resolve them.

2. Provides a safe place to pour out your feelings.

3. Writing down past achievements can help counter current emotions.

4. Helps improve physical symptoms of muscle tension and inflammation.

5. Helps reduce psychological symptoms of irritability, nightmares, insomnia etc.

Journaling for ADHD

1. Provides space to organize various tasks and de-clutter brain.

2. Improves time management by listing down tasks and prioritize to-do lists.

3. Enables self reflection and recognize areas of improvement.

4. Helps creating short and long term goals while tracking their progress.

5. Brings in element of creativity.

Journaling Prompts for Mental Health

1. Write down three things you are most grateful for today.

2. What would make today/tomorrow great for you?

3. Affirmation for Today…

4. Write 3 highlights of today.

5. What did I learn this week.

6. Name 3 things you fear and why.

7. Write down your 3 greatest strengths or achievements.

8. Think about the time that you felt anxious and overwhelmed about the situation. How did you cope?

9. What are your goals for this week?

10. Write a letter to someone who hurt you forgiving him/her. (You can also write to yourself for something you’re guilty about)

11. Write about how you feel today.

12. Write about one thing that you cannot control today.

How to start Journaling for Mental Health

Journaling is different for every person. You can choose your own path on how to start off and use this as an effective tool to improve your mental health. Here are some of the ways to kick off and integrate this as part of your daily rituals.

1. Get a Journal

The first step towards this habit is to get a journal. This could be a workbook, a blank diary or a blank notebook. You could also choose the digital ways of journaling with a google doc or  journaling websites or mobile applications such as Journey, Penzu, Evernote, Dabble Me etc.

2. Be Consistent

Like any mental health activity, consistency is essential here. You could choose to do it once or twice everyday. Even if you feel very tired, take out the shortest time or reward yourself with a snack or a music after finishing this activity. As they say, it takes around 66 days to form a habit.

3. Make it Easy

Start off with what comes easy to you. This will ensure that you take up journaling everyday and do not give up. Remember, there are no rules to journaling. Nothing is wrong or right in writing down your feelings and thoughts. You do not need to judge your journaling.

4. Set aside a Definite Time

A lot a set time everyday either in morning right before going to work or at night right before going to sleep. You can also decide on a time duration by setting a stopwatch. Start off with 5 minutes and see if you like to put more time in pouring out the contents of your day.

5. Be Creative

Journaling gives you space to write anything in any form. You could choose to draw, paint, doodle, write in bullets, poems, letters or feelings. All forms of expression can help you counter your negative feelings and emotions.

6. No Rules of Spelling or Grammar

While writing, do not worry about spellings or grammar errors. The idea of journaling is not to write perfect sentences with perfect grammar, it is to help your mind clear out stress, anxiety or depressive symptoms.

7. Identify Your Triggers

Writing down about your mood and feelings everyday can help you identify the causes behind your mental health issues. Write down how you feel everyday and go back and read over what cause negative emotions and positive emotions. This is where you learn from how you coped up a certain situation in the past.

8. Track Progress

Add personal goals as part of your journal with a specified timeline. The next step is to note down the various actions that you take in order to move towards your desired goals. When you record your activities, it helps you track your progress and understand areas of self improvement.

Journaling has a huge list of benefits from curing mental illness , stress management, working towards personal goals to dealing with anxiety. One thing to note here is that Journaling may help or act as tool towards improving your mental health, but it is not a replacement of medications or treatments suggested by a therapist. While learning how to journal is easy, integrating this activity as part of your daily routine will take time as well as patience.

Related Read:

Daily Positive Affirmations For Anxiety Relief

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