How to create personal mental health journal ideas: 16 prompts

I can understand that journaling can help mental health issues. Having practiced journaling myself I can attest to the benefits of journaling for mental health including the ability to calm my nerves, help order my thoughts and give my feelings of frustration/sadness/worry/doubt a place to go rather than stay in my head.

A daily routine of journaling is a really healthy way of helping with a variety of mental health conditions. Mental health journal prompts can help us to get started with getting our thoughts on paper.

A mental health journal prompt is one which helps you to understand your feelings of anxiety, panic or general distress. It is a trigger which helps you initiate a process whereby you start to calm yourself, understand what you are experiencing and find a way to navigate moving forward and out of the unwanted thoughts and feelings.

How to journal for your mental health

Don’t ‘challenge’ yourself if you want to journal for mental health

When thinking of mental health journal ideas, try not to think in terms of them being a challenge to undertake. In terms of the benefits of journaling for mental health I think that this kind of terminology is not helpful.

When you are in a state of anxiety or high distress or turmoil a challenge or the feeling of needing to overcome or do better is probably not the best way to address your mental you. You don’t need yet another ‘challenge’ to overcome. You need something soothing and reassuring.

In this blog post I want to address ways in which you can journal for mental health which are calming to the body, and which don’t put you in a state of panic in ways which don’t help, such as setting a timer, writing for 20 minutes, challenging yourself, pushing yourself and turning what should be a calming, peaceful activity into a mental obstacle course.

As this is quite a long blog post I’ve put a table of contents here so that you can naviage straight to the section that interests you most:

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Benefits of journaling for mental health

Being in a high state of anxiety can jumble your thoughts and make everything seem completely overwhelming. One of the main benefits of journaling for mental health is that you can process your thoughts and emotions in a kind, gentle way.

Let’s look briefly at the benefits. Here are 8 benefits of journaling for mental health. There are many more, but as you go through this list ask yourself what new habits you might like to develop and whether you could tackle difficult emotions that you previously did not know how to deal with.

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8 benefits of journaling for mental health

Order your thoughts

Journaling can help you order your thoughts, and separate the important issues from the less important. In this way you can identify what fears, problems and concerns are really affecting you rather than feeling overwhelmed by everything.

Repetition

By journaling regularly, the repetition of writing, thinking and ordering your thoughts can become not only a stepping stone to recovery but also the means by which you are able to maintain a balanced ordered mind.

Insight into your thoughts

Journaling can give you an inside look into your thought patterns and behaviours which you may currently be oblivious to. This might be negative thoughts that you didn’t even realise you had, and you might also be able to see your mental state from a detached, compassionate perspective.

Separation from your thoughts

Journaling can create a barrier between you and your thoughts which helps you detach from your thoughts, take a step back and observe them from a distance. This will give you space and time to work out what your are thinking and why. When we feel down or depressed it’s so easy to get into a cycle of shame and guilt, in fact we sometimes think that shame and guilt is what we deserve. Journaling is a positive way in which you can create a comfort zone where the guilt and the shame are removed

Positive dialogue with yourself

By journaling regularly you can create a positive dialogue with yourself. Rather than being mired in doubt and indecision you will be able to trust yourself because of the relationship you are developing with yourself. Trusting yourself and developing a positive dialogue with yourself are part of your journey to a healthy mind. Personal development comes from this ability to create a dialogue with yourself and journaling is a natural and easy way into this dialogue. You can use a writing prompt each day, or journal on specific topics around your mental health.

Resolving historical issues

Journaling also allows you to detach and resolve historical issues which may still plague you. Being able to let go of the past with kindness and compassion is a positive step forward in being able to embrace today and the future. Being in touch with your younger self is a beautiful and compassionate exercise to create for yourself.

Clear the mental clutter

Journaling also helps clear the mental clutter. As long as our brains are running smoothly and we are not faced with too many obstacles, our mental health is going to be good. As soon as clutter starts appearing on the horizon, the brain starts to get extremely stressed. Too much mental clutter leads to overwhelm. Faced with too much overwhelm, the brain will just shut down.

Create clarity

And finally journaling helps create clarity where there is currently confusion. When you are able to get to a state of clarity your brain will thank you as it is able to relax. When the brain is relaxed you will be relaxed too.

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Different types of journals and how they can benefit your mental health

Keep different types of journals to address different issues and subjects in your life. You don’t have to restrict yourself to just one journal type either. Use them as a starting point for your journey. You could, for example, create an art journal to journal creatively and artistically, and you could also have a daily journal in which you journal about your daily life. Read through the list below and decide for yourself what you might like to try.

One of the great mental health benefits of journaling is that you are creating your own space around you that is safe and unjudgmental and joyful to you. You don’t really need to create any particular type of journal at all, you just need to create that safe space for yourself where you can examine your internal thoughts, practice self care, address difficult times and your mental health concerns in a positive environment. So consider these different types of journals and ask yourself if this or that type of journal would be a good way for you to be able to create that safe and delightful space for yourself.

List of journal types that can aid journaling for mental health

Daily Log Journal

Check in with yourself on a daily basis and create a new habit by keeping a daily log of your thoughts and emotions. If you want to keep a new habit or are a habit-oriented person then a daily log is a great way to go. You could also keep a daily log for a certain period of time. Creating an easy routine is definitely one of the benefits of journaling for mental health. Anything that you can do that creates consistency coupled with a high feel good factor, which also releases endorphins, such as a daily log, is great self -therapy.

For example, commit to a regular journaling practice of one month. After that time you can assess if you want or need to continue with this method.

You can also use a daily log as a quick way of assessing your thoughts. Use it to create short entries in five minutes of your day and then you are finished. You don’t need to burden yourself with creating a journal for hours every day.

Deep Dive Journal

This is a deeper form of writing that focuses on the feelings and problems you are experiencing. The idea is to write in detail what you are feeling, where you have issues, why do you feel that way, what you think the cause could be, some solutions for those problems, and so forth.

It is important to explore all aspects of your emotions and evaluate different perspectives of the situation in a safe environment. This self-awareness will help you grow positively.

Morning Pages

The concept of morning pages is quite simple: 3 pages of longhand stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.

The idea is to get out anything you are thinking about first thing in the morning, this will clear your mind so you are ready to be more centred and focused for the day. This helps in starting your day right.

Three pages might seem daunting, I know it would be for me as well. If you struggle with three pages, maybe start with one page first and then work your way up as you build the habit.

Gratitude Journal

One of the benefits of a gratitude journal when you are journaling for mental health is that it focuses your mind on parts of your life where you can be grateful.

A gratitude journal may only contain small things for which you are grateful, but building up a practice of writing them down each day and noticing that you have more to give thanks for than you realise is a great practice to establish.

One Sentence Journal

If you are short of time, or have difficulty writing an extensive amount, the one sentence journal could be for you.

If you could write one sentence that reflected how you feel, or what is on your mind, or what is distracting you from enjoying your day what would it be? These small, individual sentences highlight one of the benefits of journaling for mental health which is that it doesn’t have to be difficult!

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Tips for mental health journal ideas

Journaling for mental health is not over complicated. If writing one sentence a day, releases the pressure or anxiety in your brain, then do it!enefits of journaling for mental health

Journaling for mental health can positively alter your thinking patterns and promote a healthier mind.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when journaling for your mental health:

  • Try to express your thoughts and emotions – even if you struggle at first just keep going. Sometimes we just don’t know how to express ourselves. Remember you can put whatever you want in a journal. So if you are struggling to express your thoughts and emotions, try drawing, creating a collage or some other form of expression which would be useful to you. Finding quote which resonate can be a great way ‘in’ to your brain. Print them out, put them in your journal and then write about that quote.
  • Write judgment-free and avoid censoring – Remember that you are journaling for yourself, not for an audience.
  • Write in a stream of consciousness. This follows on from the point above. Just get writing. Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar or spelling.
  • Try and view your thoughts as not yourself. We are not our thoughts, so try and separate yourself from your thoughts and evaluate from an external view
  • Accept both negative and positive emotions. You could colour code them in your journal. Don’t avoid writing negative emotions if you are experiencing them.
  • Document symptoms you experience (consider both physical and emotional symptoms such as anger, anxiety, or numbness)
  • I have read some people recommend tracking your mood (with a scale of 1-5 or descriptions such as happy and sad). If this works for you then great, but I would also recommend that as you use a mood tracker, you don’t just rely on that to dictate your feelings. Also ask yourself how you want to feel and explore the possibility that there is a more productive way to feel.
  • One of the therapeutic benefits of journaling for mental health is realising that you are in control of yourself and sometime tracking your mood could make you feel either obliged to feel that emotion or resigned to feel that emotion. But you can choose happiness, or joyr, or peace, even in the midst of a hard time in your life.
  • Use your journaling journey as a mean of processing thoughts and emotions. So read and reflect on your entry after you finished writing

Journaling Prompts for Mental Health

Like any other activity, journaling takes practice. Not to get it ‘right’ because there is no ‘right’. But to get used to creating this dialogue with yourself. Try to make journaling a part of your regular routine to build that habit and to be able to see for yourself the many benefits of journaling for mental health.

If you are having difficulty deciding what to write in a journal diary, here are some mental health journal entry ideas:

  1. Reflect on activities you have been doing the past day or two
  2. Important events in your life (a tough time you have come through, or positive things like great life experiences)
  3. What you’re worried about or bothered by that are giving you anxious thoughts
  4. What made you feel good or you enjoyed doing or good things have happened to you that you want to remember
  5. Describe something you are proud of: It could just be having a good day, or it could be a promotion, or being a parent or exercising
  6. A letter to your past-self. Use the blank page of the day to create a love letter to yourself. Be compassionate
  7. Important decisions you have made. A difficult situation or a hard decision is not necessarily bad for our mental health because it brings resilience. You may feel uncomfortable, but sometimes the discomfort of growth is actually a good place to be.
  8. Future goals or achievements you wish to accomplish. Goal setting is an art and a science, so if you first don’t succeed, keep trying. Goals are never achieved first time round or even tenth time round, but they can be a really helpful tool for positive mental health so do persevere.

Finally, here are 10 daily journal prompts to get you started when you feel stuck

  1. Right now I feel strong emotions of…
  2. Today made me smile…
  3. I feel anxious…
  4. To change the outcome, I can…
  5. Worrying prevented me from…
  6. A friend supported me by…
  7. I am afraid of…
  8. A more likely outcome for my fear is…
  9. I am grateful for…
  10. I can let go of things I cannot control by…

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. If you would like to read more, other blog posts you might like are:

The benefits of journaling for mental health
Easy wellness journal ideas
How to be kind to yourself: Journal prompts for anxiety

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