How to Start A Journal to Better Your Mental Health

How to Start A Journal to Better Your Mental Health

I am willing to bet that many of you reading this right now might be questioning the whole ‘journal writing’ thing. I know, I know.

The flashbacks are flooding in!

I assume this topic brings back some memories for many of you. Perhaps, to a younger self who was once required to keep a journal for school. Or to times where your parents wanted you to keep track of major events, as a time capsule of sorts, to later look back on.

Don’t worry. I am not forcing you to write THAT kind of journal. I am suggesting that you give my version a shot because of the many wonderful benefits it has to offer.

The great news is that journaling is not just for pre-teens, its for adults too! Let me tell you why.

So, for the answer to your first question.

Why Journal? What are the Benefits?

Journalling has so many incredible benefits that can specifically help YOU keep on top of your mental health maintenance. Personally, going to therapy showed me the true benefits of writing down my thoughts and feelings daily. By doing it the right way, and asking myself the right questions, I was able to overcome my anxiety and depression. Keeping a journal, and working through worksheets, were fundamental in my mental health journey and still act as an amazing self check in tool.

Basically, I just want you to know that it did wonders for me and that it can also do amazing things for YOU. Yes, I am directing that at you ‘non-believers’ out there!

Anyways, to the point!

So, how can it specifically benefit you?

  • Relieves Stress & Anxiety
  • Inspires Creativity
  • Enhances your sense of well-being
  • Helps to assist goal setting and achievement
  • Allows for self-reflection and more self awareness
  • Boosts your memory!
  • Reduces symptoms of depression
  • Strengthens emotional functions
  • Boosts mood!

I know! After reading that list you are probably thinking, “sign me up”!

Trust me when I say that it can seem overwhelming when trying to find a place to start with writing. As long as you have a pen, paper, and a comfy spot to sit, I am going to help you with the rest!

My 3 Journaling Tips to get YOU Started

Tip #1 – Use the WRITE acronym

Let me break it down for you!

W – What do you want to write about? Try and think about all of the things going on in your life. That could also include your current thoughts and feelings, any goals you are hoping to accomplish, or anything you feel is weighing you down at the moment. Try to focus in and put it all on paper.

R – Review and reflect on it. This stage is incredibly important! Take a moment to be still and calm in your thoughts and intentions. If you need to do some meditation or practice mindfulness, go for it! Focus on your breathing. This is the time that you want to start some of your sentences with “I” so that you can do some self discovery. Try statements like “I feel…” or “I think…”. It is important for you to state every statement in the present so that you can set your true intention. For example, “Today I want to…” or “In this moment I feel..”.

I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings! Write down everything that comes to mind and explore what it means to YOU. This is a great opportunity for you to self explore, therefore, leading you to new solutions and insights you might not have been able to discover before. It is important to note that if you ever get stuck, to take a moment to re-focus and get some fresh air, then come back to it.

T – Time yourself! No one expects you to write for hours upon end. Set a goal such as 5-10 mins a day and set a timer or alarm to go off once your time is up. Sometimes we do our best writing when we just dump everything out. It does not give us the chance to second guess our thoughts, or doubt the way we may be feeling – we simply write authentically and in the moment.

E – Exit smartly. Read over what you have written and try and reflect on it. Have a takeaway at the end of your writing or try and sum up your reflection in one or two sentences. For example, it could start with “As I read this, I notice”, or “I am aware of”. This allows us to further put our situation in to perspective. In this section, it is also helpful to include any action steps you would like to include moving forward!

Tip #2 – Brain Dump

Brain dumping is a fairly new concept I have learnt, that I wanted to share with all of you. Let me start, by asking you all a question.

“Raise your hand if you have ever been so stressed that you had an emotional breakdown, even though you had no idea what was wrong?”

Just so you know, I am raising my hand for this one as well.

Sometimes when we are stressed or anxious we have so many thoughts, feelings, tasks, and worries, running through our mind that we become incredibly overwhelmed and can’t focus or calm down.

Brain dumping gives you the opportunity to get all of the thoughts out of your head, and on to paper, so that you can focus on one idea at a time.

It is great to use this method when you are feeling super busy, when you are getting frustrated with work, are feeling “off” or unbalanced, have a hectic schedule, or when you are simply trying to plan ahead.

The Method? It is as easy as three steps.

  1. Get out a piece of paper and pen
  2. Write everything down. Yes! Every single thought that comes to your mind
  3. Time yourself and upon completion, try categorizing all of your thoughts and feelings

The main focus of this activity is to get you out of your head and in to the present moment. As human beings we are so busy. We deal with so much and it is incredibly important for us to decompress, self evaluate, and let go of all the baggage weighing us down. By categorizing our thoughts and feelings in to different sub categories such as work related, school related, or relationship/personal, we are then able to find the major areas we need to target. Brain dumping can help slow us down and has been proven to lower our stress.

If you are a writer, it is great for your creativity if you are stuck on that next blog post or chapter in your book.

I highly recommend you give it a shot!

Tip #3 – Cultivate Gratitude and Set your Intentions

Try to keep a page or two of your journal set aside specifically for what you are grateful for and your intentions of the week, day, or year.

Sometimes life can throw us curve-balls. It can get hard, weigh us down, and throw us in the ringer. By journaling, we are including all of our thoughts which can sometimes include the negatives. This is not a bad thing. However, we do not want to live in all of those moments all the time. If you are having a rough day, it is important to have a section that you can look back on to get yourself in to the right head-space again.

For example, you could include 2-3 different daily gratitude statements each day you sit down to write. Such as “I am grateful to see the beautiful nature that surrounds me everyday”, or “I am grateful for my loving and supportive family”. This helps to set our attitude for the day and gives us a new perspective on things.

Intentions are also important because they allow us to focus in on what we want to accomplish or get out of the day. Try to include these everyday in your writing. It could be as simple as “My intention is to feel abundant and productive in my daily en devours” or “I intend to see the goodness around me”. Intentions allow us to consciously decide where we want to focus our energy, leading us to a more fulfilling and positive outlook on life.

Give it a try!

Are you still with me?? You have almost made it to the end! Keep reading…

I have one last resource & goodie to help you get started with journaling!

*Drum Roll please*

Free Mental Health Therapy Journal

This week, I created a Therapy journal to make it even easier for you to get started on the journey of bettering your mental health! I created this with YOU in mind. It includes 8 pages of A4 printable sheets. These include a cover page, daily journal, CBT thought log, rational thought replacement, and the list goes on!

The best news? Its as easy as three steps! Simply subscribe to get your downloadable copy, print, and put in a binder! And that’s it – you are done!

Even better – Did I mention it is FREE?

Wondering where to get this amazing resource?? Simply subscribe through the form below and it will be immediately delivered to your inbox! By subscribing, you will also have access to our exclusive community and be the first to know about new content and exciting offers.

Sign me up!

Join the Mail List | Subscribe to get your FREE Mental Health Therapy Journal

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36 thoughts on “How to Start A Journal to Better Your Mental Health”

  • Great advice, I have used journaling throughout my life and can attest to how it helps clear your mind and process things. It can help you plan and encourages inner dialogue, which is sorely lacking in society these days. Self-reflection is a powerful tool and help you focus your intentions.

  • Thanks for the reminder! I subscribed and will print that out! I am a pretty big journaler when it comes to writing down what happened, and I have a prayer journal where I write or many of the things you listed. I also keep a journal for each of my kids writing to them in it a few times a year about where they are in life and what I love about them. Thanks for the tips!!

  • This is such a good idea! I must admit I’ve never really journalled, but I can completely see the benefits and I might just give it a go. I tend to do all this brain dump stuff but by talking to someone (usually my husband) and just telling them everything I’m feeling – but I feel like having a journal is a way of being more self-sufficient with these things, which can be incredibly useful! 🙂

  • I’ve always heard that journaling is beneficial for your thoughts and emotions, and I even bought a journal to start writing. But my problem is being disciplined and consistent.

  • I LOVE this! I am so on and off with writing in my journal. I love the idea of setting a timer & doing the gratitude statements. Can’t wait to try those out!

    • So glad to hear that you loved it Alyssa! It is definitely something you have to get in the routine of. I personally try to schedule in a set time every day (normally around 9am) and then set a timer for ten minutes. It is quick, but holds me accountable and is that scheduled in “me time” that I sometimes really need. So happy to hear that you are giving it a shot – Let me know how it goes!

  • Oh wow! I needed this! This is fantastic, thank you. I have these beautiful recycled books made from old books and I have been wanting to journal for so long now but just never got to it! I think your wonderful post has inspired me to do that. Love the brain dump section… I sure can do with doing that. Great post and great blog. new here.

    • Thank you so much for the kind comment Carolyn! Those recycled books sound amazing – there are always so many unique ways to journal. Personally, the brain dump does WONDERS. You will have to let me know how it goes! So glad my post was able to inspire you – Sierra xx

  • Thanks so much for this Sierra. I’ll be honest and say that I have been sceptical about journaling, but you’ve convinced me to give it a try. Sometimes I have so much going on in my head, it really stresses me out! I’ll be trying this! 😊

  • These ideas are great! From a communication perspective, I think the brain dump is one of the most useful tools in the journaling arsenal. Even more helpful is the categorization process …even taking it one step deeper with concept mapping. It’s in the relationship between ideas and topics that the breakthroughs occur. Thanks for these tools – looking forward to more!

  • Your advice on how to use journaling to address mental help is targeted and helpful. I love that you suggest an acronym, even included a time constraint to make journaling more manageable.

  • I have never heard of the “write” method before, but you bet I will be using it. I think journaling is so important and not enough people take it seriously. I love the printable you created as well!

  • Hi Sierra, thanks for bringing this free source of personal development. You may overthink, and by writing is down, you can read your internal dialogue. Please keep up these types of blog posts

  • I couldn’t agree with this more and the importance of journaling. I keep a skin journal for my acne and it’s been immensely helpful! Awesome tips!

  • Journaling has been a key tool in my mental health and management of anxiety. It was hard to do at first, as simple as it is – but once you commit and tip-toe in, it becomes just as important as brushing your teeth for self-care.

  • I love this! Mental health is so important and journaling is a great way to help support our mental health! Thanks so much for sharing – Danielle

  • I love this! Really well thought out with some excellent ideas. I’m especially a fan of brain dump. I’ve done it quite a few times and it can be really helpful. Thank you for sharing!

  • I suffer from anxiety since I was 12yo. Recently moved to another country and had a terrible episode again, which led me to alopecia ariata. Losing my hair was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. My therapist recommended me starting a journal and I didn’t think it would be helpful but it’s been amazing so far. Linking my mental health with my cycles, my sleeping patterns, eating patterns, it helps understand everything so much. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Great post. I keep a journal too, both an app and a physical one. I tend to write when I’m feeling sad, or even sometimes when happy, just to clear my mind, and I do a lot of self-reflection and goal setting in it. I don’t write as often as I perhaps should, but I couldn’t imagine my life without one.

  • Wow! This has so much info! I love the free guide. Mental health is so important. As a former elementary teacher, I really tried to teach a lot of social emotional learning. Keep at it girl! ❤️

  • I really like the idea of timing your sessions to motivate you to spend even a small fraction of time writing. I have been having trouble with starting my journal, but this will definitely be added to my routine!

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