Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard someone say, “You should journal!” paired with, “It’s good for your mental health!” If you raised your hand, whether actually or mentally, you definitely aren’t the only one, and there’s a good reason for this.
The Benefits of Journaling on Mental Health
If you’ve ever had a diary or a journal growing up, think about the sensations and feelings you felt when you signed the last line with your signature-in-progress. For many of us, we experience a type of euphoria, satisfaction, or contentment. Sometimes we felt angry, justified, or empowered. And even sometimes, we felt tired, pensive, or cathartic. All of these reactions are valid, and their commonness is very telling.
Throughout our day, we walk with jumbling thoughts in our heads that are connected in some ways that we are somewhat aware of, though many of these relationships are fleeting and not examined. What journaling does is provide our brains with a moment to sit down and organize all of the thoughts into effortful words that can show us all of the connections we’re making that can also lead to them being very meaningful. We can tap into something called metacognition where we’re able to think about thinking and have greater awareness of our experiences. Journaling has also been found to be a strong method of personal growth and experience of connection with others when we engage in it (Haertl & Ero-Phillips, 2017).
So, we get it. Journaling isn’t just a flippant response; it holds some ground when we’re talking about how it is beneficial for our mental health. It can be a cathartic, amazing experience for many of us when we’re unclicking our pen and putting the pages away. But let’s be real: getting started is the hardest part because we might sit down at our table and think, “I don’t know what to write about.”
Worry not, friends. We’ve got you.
It goes without saying, but some of us might need a prompt to get our brains going and into that metacognitive space. That doesn’t mean you’re bad at journaling; it means that you have a different process of doing it! Check out the prompts and questions below and see which ones feel right for you.
If your anxiety had a voice, what would it be saying to me and what do you want to tell it?
Write about how you show gratitude to people who you love.
Describe a moment in your life when you felt safe and secure.
What do you think is holding you back in relationships (with friends, family, or romantic partners)?
Your younger self is reading the words on this page. What would you want them to know?
Who in your life do you admire? Why?
What does success look like to you?
What are 3 things you want more of in your life?
Name 10 things that you love about yourself and why.
If you knew you wouldn’t fail at it, what is something you would try?
If you could describe yourself in a single phrase, what would it be?
What is something that was difficult for you to let go of? What did you learn about yourself from letting it go?
How would you want to be remembered?
Set a timer and take 5 minutes to write down everything that comes to your mind. What was that experience like for you? What do you notice?
What is a piece of advice you’ve given to others that you follow for yourself?
What is a piece of advice you’ve given to others that you don’t follow for yourself? Why?
Think about a time when you were really struggling. What is something you want to tell that version of you now?
What are things you wish your parents told you when you were growing up?
Describe what a perfect bedroom looks like for you.
Write about when you did something for the first time. How did you feel?
What is something someone said to you that made you smile?
What is something you wish people knew about you when they first meet you?
What sort of impression do you want to leave on people?
What are 3 things you want less of in your life?
What do you hope to learn about five years from now?
You can write it, draw it, act it out, sing about it, or even bring it to session to talk about it with your therapist. Journaling is a time for you to explore yourself and your thoughts. Use it as self-care, a time for self-compassion, and a time for rest. There are no rules or pass/fail criteria. If you do end up wanting to talk about it with your therapist, Cultured Space is ready with open arms.