to Start Journaling for Mental Health

Journaling can have a positive impact on mental health. It is a therapeutic tool that benefits psychological and physical health, influenced by one another. Journaling reduces blood pressure levels, reduces anxiety and depression, manages stress, problem-solve, and clears your mind.

It can also boost your mood, reduce symptoms associated with past traumas, improve memory, and make you more self-aware.

Who Can Journaling Help?

Multiple studies show that journaling can help various groups with mental health issues. For example, women who experienced the trauma of domestic violence, high-risk teens with depression, college students vulnerable to depression, and students of all other ages who need to stay organized and process their emotions.

It seems it doesn’t take writing much each day to make a positive difference. One Harvard study showed those writing for 15 minutes a day about a negative experience visited the doctor less frequently than those who did not journal. Participants who met the criteria for depression engaged in a six-week writing project. At the end of the project, those who journaled no longer met the criteria for depression.

One report states journaling or writing therapy can benefit numerous mental health disorders and issues, including the following:

What Is the Most Effective Type of Writing?

Much of the research mention expressive writing for mental health benefits. Expressive writing is writing about anything that comes to mind. There are no rules or guidelines, and nothing is off-limits. There are also no style limits. One day you could write a rap and the next a bulleted list. The key is to let your creativity flow.

You can also practice different writing styles to determine which is most effective for you. One week you may follow daily prompts. The following week try free-flow writing, and the next week, answer specific questions.

So, why isn’t everyone writing in a daily journal and experiencing improved mental health? Sometimes the most challenging part is getting started.

Below are tips on how to start journaling for mental health.

Tip 1: W.R.I.T.E.

An acronym, W.R.I.T.E, has been developed to help some people start journaling for mental health. “W” stands for “what.” When journaling, ask yourself questions like “what do you want to write about?” or “What happened today?” The “R” is for “reflect.” Reflection means reviewing your day in your mind to find the things to write about in your journal. It helps to close your eyes and take deep breaths to help you focus.

“I” is for “investigate” or dig deeper into your thoughts and feelings to help you keep writing. “T” is for “time yourself” can help you not give up after the first few lines or minutes. Sometimes the time you spend writing may seem like an eternity, and other times it may fly by. A good rule of thumb when starting a journal for mental health is around twenty minutes. “E” is for “exit smart.” It could also stand for “end on a positive note,” meaning give your entry a healthy ending. You may want to reflect on what you’ve written, write a goal to accomplish, a self-affirmation, or a positive quote that lifts your spirit.

Tip 2: Change Methods of Journaling

Writing is just one way to start journaling for mental health. If you don’t enjoy writing, choose a different way to post a daily entry. If you like to type, use your computer and journal in a word document. If you like talking, record journal entries on your phone or a recorder. Use your phone to create a unique, creative journal entry if you like making videos.

You can also swap out some written entries for a collage or vision board. Don’t be afraid to switch things up to make journaling more enjoyable.

Tip 3: Use Journal Prompts

There will be days when you draw a blank when deciding what to write. That’s okay. It happens to everyone. Use journal prompts to help. Below are a few examples. There are many others online, or you can make your journal entry about creating a list of personal writing prompts.

  • What advice would you give your five-year-old self?
  • What are you thankful for today?
  • If you could have taken a picture of your life today, what would you be doing in it?
  • Name one goal you would like to achieve. What is stopping you from reaching that goal? How can you overcome barriers to achieving the goal?
  • Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself.
  • Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and then focus your attention on your body. Mentally scan your body from head to toe and write about the areas that ache or need attention.
  • What are your favorite songs? Why do you relate to them?
  • What is missing in your life? What can you do to make it possible to get those things?
  • What is the best decision you’ve ever made?
  • Write your prayers for the day.

Tip 4: Don’t Overthink It

Keep your journal writing a simple task. Don’t pressure yourself to create the most profound, insightful post that has ever been made. Instead, write the first things that come to mind. If the first thing is that you can’t think of anything, then note that. Don’t worry about what you say, grammar, or if it makes sense.

Tip 5: Keep it Private

Your journal is for your eyes only. Keeping it private helps you feel more comfortable and honest in your journal for mental health. To keep it private, find a place to store your journal that others won’t see. You want to feel mentally and physically lighter at the end of your journaling session. Leave the negative thoughts and emotions in the journal.

Finally, once you get into the habit of journaling for mental health, you can adapt it to better fit your lifestyle. Choose the journaling time, method, and style unique and personal. It is your life, after all.