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How to Journal for Mental Health

  • Oct 31, 2022
  • Mental Health

women journaling for mental health

When you were younger, you may have kept a secret diary which was used to document your thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. It was a private space to write freely without fear of judgement or repercussions from friends or family.

Many people stop keeping diaries after adolescence, however there’s no reason why this activity should cease once you reach adulthood. Establishing a regular habit of keeping a diary (often referred to as ‘journalling’) might seem daunting or laborious at first, but once you find your own rhythm, it can be a great outlet for your thoughts and emotions. In this article, we will explore how you can journal effectively for mental health.

What is journalling?

Journalling is the act of recording your thoughts and feelings. There are no rules when it comes to journalling. Some like to keep it short and sweet, others like to do a deep dive into their innermost thoughts. If you struggle with depression, anxiety or stress, a journal can be a great way to help you process your feelings and improve your mental health.

What are the benefits of journalling for mental health?

When you experience a range of emotions simultaneously, it can sometimes be difficult to carry all these thoughts around in your head. Finding a way to process and offload these thoughts can be a good way to deal with feeling overwhelmed. Writing down your thoughts and emotions is a form of mental detox, allowing you to transfer thoughts out of your head and onto a page. You may find that journalling can help you:

  • prioritise problems and concerns.
  • reduce mental clutter allowing you clarity and focus.
  • help you recognise triggers for negative thoughts and behaviours and understand what causes them.
  • provide an opportunity for positive self-talk. 
  • record your achievements and goals.

How to start journalling for mental health

It might take a while to get into the swing of journalling, but it doesn’t have to be something that takes up a lot of your time. Below are some tips that you may find useful to get you started.

Journalling techniques for mental health

  1. Try to get into the habit of writing every day. There’s no need to write in a journal for hours - perhaps while brewing your morning cup of coffee or during the half hour or so before you go to sleep. It’s important to look forward to your journalling time and recognise that you're doing something positive for your mental health.
  2. Find the right journal for you. Some people may prefer using a smartphone so they can jot down some thoughts while on the move. Or you may find pen and paper a more therapeutic approach, especially if you are stuck in front of a screen all day. The great news is there is no right or wrong way to journal - it’s what works best for you.
  3. If you’re unsure of what to write or how to get started, consider writing down what you did that day and what your plan/goals are for tomorrow. Start with something light or trivial. With time, you may be able to elaborate a bit more each day.
  4. Remember you’re writing for yourself and nobody else. You don’t have to worry about spelling, grammar or structure. It’s your own private space to express how you’re feeling in your own way.
  5. Be honest. It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but allowing yourself to be brutally trueful takes courage, hence why in the early days you may find it easier to keep it light. Exposing your vulnerability, even to yourself, is not easy but it is important for understanding and processing your emotions, along with recognising that you’re not ok.

Help and resources

If you are struggling with your mental health, there are several ways you can seek help. Samaritans are available to talk to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Mental Health Innovations also runs a free, 24/7, confidential text messaging support service. You may also consider making an appointment with your GP and, if you are comfortable doing so, sharing your journal (or parts of it) with them.

We also have a number of useful blogs on our website which you may find helpful, such as Simple Ways to Boost Your Energy and Mood and Anxiety - When Is It An Issue And How To Deal With It.

For urgent mental health help, find your nearest local NHS mental health helpline.


Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.