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How to start journaling for better mental health?

A journal has many uses. Not least of all, a journal for mental health is an excellent way to track your own emotions and improve how you feel on a regular basis.

Diaries and personal records have long been used to document our own thoughts and feelings, even if we never share them with anyone, and for good reason! Putting thoughts into actual words makes our brains to go through certain steps — we rationalize what was floating in our minds and start the process of understanding and defining the challenges we are facing. All of this can help us work through any mental or emotional hurdles we’re facing.

Of course knowing how to start journaling for mental health really helps! For sure, you need an awesome diary app, but you also need a few topics and prompts to get you started. So, without further ado, let’s go!

Track Your Mood

The easiest way to do this to use a bullet journaling mood tracker — and luckily, if you’re already writing a journal for mental health, you’re in the right place! Short simple bullet points can often be enough.

There are many ways you can implement mood tracking to your journal:

  • Are you writing once a day? Write your overall mood for the day — and also mention why this is, or what caused it.
  • If you’re journaling throughout the day or covering key events, mention your specific mood at the time. Did one interaction leave you in a good mood, while another made it worse? These are important details.
  • If you’re writing about specific topics, people or events (which we’ll cover later — that’s why we’re bringing it up now!) then you can also write your immediate emotional response. Does recollecting or discussing these items influence your mood? These are all details to include.

Want to be positive? Show gratitude

If you’re journaling to gain a positive outlook, one of the best journal topics for mental health can include simply listing what you’re thankful for.

This is one of the most common journaling techniques for mental health. By focusing on what we’re thankful for, we’re automatically framing our experiences in a positive light. We are reminding ourselves of the good things that happened.

It’s also one of the best things to do on a daily basis. The most common approach is to list a few (5 is a good number) things that happened each day that you’re thankful for. It can be anything that you appreciated, no matter how big or small. Doing so will help focus on the good things, rather than the bad — which leads to a better mindset overall!

Grateful for a ray of sunshine, morning coffee, fresh fruits and veggies, video call with my friend
, and a bird that sat by my window

A Dedicated Stream of Consciousness

One of the greatest benefits of journaling for mental health is that you create a place to store your thoughts that otherwise have nowhere to go. Many people believe that exploring these thoughts — whether it's the subconscious or just our gut feelings that we often ignore — can help us to uncover more about a given situation.

Apps are great for this, because you can quickly write down thoughts as they occur. Did you have a meeting or interaction that left you with an uneasy feeling? Perhaps something gave you a specific emotional reaction? Don’t dismiss them — write them down!

What’re more, over time, you’ll be able to see which thoughts keep emerging and which quickly fade, which is another good indicator of any important topics that are going unresolved.

Dreams

Our dreams and personal well-being have long been connected, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when we recommend recording your dreams as one of our top journaling techniques for mental health.

We recommend doing this at the very start of the day. After all, dreams are notoriously difficult to remember the longer it’s been since they occurred. You might not have vivid dreams every night — we’re all a little different in our dreaming intensity or frequency — but making it a ritual to record what you remember each morning will help ensure you get as much of it as possible down.

Many people also like to analyze their dreams, especially if there are recurring elements. To do that, of course, you need to create a record of what those dreams were.

Furthermore, once you start recording your dreams alongside your other thoughts and interactions, you can often see connections that you might have otherwise missed. This can help you identify issues to be resolved, or things that are distracting you in your daily life. Identifying these is a key step on the road to a better mentality.

Inspiration and Goals

Speaking of dreams, we also all have our own inspirations and goals. There are things we want to achieve, whether they’re lifelong objectives or just tasks we want to complete by the end of the week, and a little self-motivation can go a long way.

How does your journaling for mental health fit into all of this? Writing your goals down is only step one — step two is ensuring you start journaling your progress. Do you feel you did anything to move yourself forward? If not, why not?

Each day, write the goals that you want to achieve (if you journal in the morning, do it for the day ahead; and if you journal at night, do it for tomorrow) and make a note of what you did the day before (in regard to that day’s goals).

Ticking off completed tasks is mentally and emotionally rewarding — it’ll help drive you forward!

Unspoken Thoughts

We all have thoughts that we know we shouldn’t say out loud, such as how much someone’s behavior aggravates us, how much we regret something, or even how much we admire or are inspired by someone in our life. You don’t need to tell anyone, but writing it down can lead to some very therapeutic journaling!

This might not be something you want to do every day, but it’s worth doing as and when it’s needed. Perhaps someone is leaving your life, or there is something important happening and certain topics are in your mind right now. The key theme here — if you haven’t guessed — is don’t ignore it.

A tangled line of thought straightens out, pointing to the word peace

Writing it down can be very cathartic, especially as you’re the only who will see it. Writing things down pushes us to phrase, rationalize and accept things — it’s one of the core goals and journaling techniques for mental health.

Quick Daily Journaling For Mental Health Prompts

As you can see, journaling for mental health comes in many forms. Everyone’s a little different, so it’s best to find an approach that works for you. Journaling is good because it fits into most lifestyles easily. You can be as active or as inactive as you need.

However, as far as journaling for mental health prompts goes, here’s a rough daily guide to get you inspired:

  • Dreams — do you remember your last dream? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
  • Yesterday’s goals — what did you accomplish?
  • Today’s goals — what do you want to achieve today?
  • General mood — overall, how are you feeling?
  • Today's breakdown — what did you do today that stood out? Write anything that you feel is important and include:

    • What you did, with whom and where you went.
    • What your thoughts are afterwards
    • How it makes you feel
  • Lingering thoughts — are there any specific thoughts or emotions that aren’t leaving your head today? Write about them!

Of course, this is just a guide. It’s important to find techniques that work for you! These are just the best and most easy-to-start topics for mental health diaries. In time, you’ll adapt it to your own needs as you see fit!

This should not be taken as professional medical advice. If you find yourself battling negative feelings for too long, or particularly strong episodes, please seek appropriate medical help soon. We are just trying to help improve the lives of those we can help, with the best intentions in mind.