How To Start A Journal For Mental Health

Written by: Murad Huseynov



Time to read 11 min

A mental health journal can be a fantastic resource for understanding your mental health and doing something positive about it. So let’s learn how to start your own journal for mental health and look at the benefits it can provide. 

mental health journal with photos

Key Takeaways

  • A mental health journal is a safe space for you to document your mental health.
  • By writing entries consistently, you can express and understand your emotions clearly.
  • Using a mental health journal can help with things like stress, anxiety and depression.
  • You can use your mental health journal to track your progress, learn about emotional patterns and learn how to improve your mental wellbeing.

Murad Huseynov

Murad is the founder of Mosaic Journal, based in London, United Kingdom. He is an expert on photo gifting, photo printing and photo journaling.

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How To Start A Mental Health Journal: Step-By-Step Guide

Creating a mental health journal is a tremendous resource that allows you to understand yourself better and promote mental wellness. By spending time writing in your mental health journal, you’ll learn about patterns in your thinking, find a new outlet for your emotions and harness a tool to help you gain perspective. So, let’s learn how to start a mental health journal: 

writing in journal on wooden desk

Getting A Journal

The first thing you’ll need to acquire is a journal that works for you. There are lots of different journals for you to consider, so think about which option best suits your preferences. Here are a few things to consider when getting a journal:

  • Journal type: Take a look at the different types of physical journals available and see what you like the look of. Or, consider going with a digital journal to make use of digital tools.
  • Design: The design of the journal you choose is another important factor, so consider the right aesthetics and size of your preferred journal. Choosing a smaller one might make it easier to carry with you, but a larger one offers more space for long-form content.
  • Purpose: The overall purpose of your journal will help you decide on which one is right for you. If it’s going to be used to document your mental health journey then a standard journal works well. If you’ll also use it for daily tasks and scheduling, then a multi-purpose journal with a calendar might suit you better. 

Setting Aside Dedicated Time: Write When You Can Or Need To

Finding the time to make use of your mental health journal can be challenging, especially if you have quite a busy lifestyle. So make sure you set aside a portion of your time for your writing. There are a few ways to tackle this, such as:

  • Consistent schedules: For many people, sticking to a predetermined schedule for your writing works well. By scheduling a set time for your writing, you’ll quickly pick up the habit and make it a part of your daily routine.
  • Flexible schedules: Alternatively, a more flexible scheduling approach can be useful. Writing entries when you feel the urge to can help capture impactful emotions more readily. It also works better for hectic lifestyles as you can jot down notes as and when you can.
  • Short notes: The process of writing out a long-form thought can be disconcerting, so consider shorter notes instead if this is a problem for you. Even a few small sentences can encapsulate your feelings and make an impact in your life.

Getting Creative With Formatting

A mental health journal is an incredibly personal thing, so how you use it depends entirely on you. This extends into the formatting and overall structure of your journal - you can use it in a way that works best for you. There are a few different formats to try out, so consider testing the following to see if you like them:

  • Lists: Listing out your emotions, things you’re proud of or challenges you’re experiencing is a simple and effective way to format your output in the journal. Even simple things like to-do lists can help guide your writing and help you feel accomplished.
  • Drawings: If you’re more artistically-inclined, then drawings can be an excellent way to approach your journal. From sketches and doodles to more expressive art, drawings are the perfect outlet that blends liberating thought with creativity.
  • Prompts: Another option is to use prompts to help guide your writing process. There are plenty of great journal prompts readily available for you to utilize.

Making Your Journal A Judgment-Free Zone

One of the most important things to remember about your mental health journal is that it should act as a safe space for you. You aren’t using it to be overly critical of your emotions or behaviors, but as an outlet and a way of understanding yourself. So try to focus on the following principles when using your mental health journal:

  • Allow unfiltered thoughts: Give yourself room to include unfiltered thoughts and vent on the page. This will stop you overthinking and provide you with a more honest representation of your mental state.
  • Keep it private: If you want to ensure free expression through your writing, then keep your journal private. This will remove any fear of judgment and give you the freedom to truly write what you feel.
  • No critiquing: When it comes to reading through your mental health journal, try not to critique yourself. Instead, focus on a compassion approach and take note of any growth or change you notice.

The Benefits Of Journaling For Mental Health

Journaling with mental health in mind is an admirable pursuit with a number of benefits. It’s a way for you to acknowledge the current state of your mental health and create an outlet for you to grow. It can help with a plethora of mental health issues including anxiety, depression and stress. So, let’s go over some of the main benefits that a mental health journal brings:

  • Processing emotions: Journaling about mental health is a great way to process your emotions privately. You can use your journal as a safe space to vent frustrations, express joy or work through other traumatic emotions.
  • Improved self-awareness: Taking the time to journal regularly will give you insight into who you are. From identifying triggers and patterns in your behavior to identifying faults in your emotional state, journals are a way to learn about how you handle your emotions.
  • Lowering stress and anxiety: By writing about your mental state, you undertake a cathartic process. You can organize your thoughts clearly, gain a deeper perspective and develop solutions for your problems. All of this leads to lower levels of stress and anxiety in your life.
  • Goal setting: You can set yourself clear, attainable goals in your journal so that it acts as a map for your progress. You can use what you write as a powerful motivator to reach certain milestones or goals while also documenting your personal growth.
  • Solving problems: If you’re dealing with a challenge, then writing it out in your journal can help you view things differently. A fresh perspective can help you glean insights and come up with solutions for your problems.
  • Improved mood: By tackling your emotions head-on and journaling about your feelings, you’ll gradually improve your mood. From venting your frustrations to breaking down your negative feedback loops, you’ll end up feeling better after a writing session.
bald man writing in journal

Tips For Successful Daily Journaling

If you want to make the most out of your mental health journal, it helps to approach it the right way. The process of journaling can feel like a chore, but over time you’ll see some real benefits. Successful daily journaling is a commitment but if you make it an enjoyable process then you’ll be more likely to stick with it. So, let’s go over a few tips to help you get the most out of your daily journaling: 

man writing in journal with coffee next to him

Forget About Rules: It's Your Personal Space

Your mental health journal is your own personal space, so don’t feel that you have to create entries in any particular way. As it’s ultimately an extension of yourself, include whatever you’d like to. You can write short or long-form entries, poems, sketches or anything else that comes through you organically. 

Drop Judgments: Embrace Self-Compassion

Try to drop any sense of judgment or critiquing when interacting with your journal. It should act as a safe place for you to vent frustrations or outline your emotional state. So be kind to yourself and approach your entries with compassion. If you’ve been dealing with a personal struggle, be kind to yourself about your journey. 

Experiment To Find What Fits You: No One-Size-Fits-All

There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about how to handle the contents of your mental health journal. So don’t be afraid to try out different things to see what works best for you. You might enjoy using a structured style where you consistently write entries in a formulaic way. Or, you might benefit from using prompts to help kick off an entry. Experimenting is key here, as everyone is different and what works for someone else might not work for you. 

Set A Time Limit If Needed: Make It Manageable

The process of journaling can often feel daunting, particularly if you’re struggling with your mental health. To combat this, try to make the process as manageable as possible for yourself. Set a time limit if needed, something achievable like five minutes of writing. You should also aim for consistency over quantity when writing entries to create a more clear timeline of your life. 

Know Your Purpose: Why Are You Journaling?

To help you stay motivated with your journal entries, consider the purpose of your writing. Is it for emotional release, self-discovery or a way to track your own growth? Whatever your reasons are, you should focus on these to guide your writing. It’s also worth noting that you can change your purpose over time to better suit your needs. 

How To Use Your Mental Health Journal For Self-Improvement

Your mental health journal can be an incredible tool to help strengthen your journey for self-improvement. Although the journal is often used as a platform for catharsis, it can do much more than that. So, let’s learn how you can use your mental health journal for self-improvement

Dealing With Thoughts and Feelings

Use your mental health journal as a healthy way to handle your thoughts and feelings. You can do this by giving yourself the freedom to express yourself without filtering your thoughts or holding back. By keeping your emotions raw on the page, you’ll be able to learn a lot about your emotional patterns and how you think. 

Goal Setting

Another useful way to work towards self-improvement with your journal is by setting clear goals. You can include entries that focus on what you want to achieve, such as handling your emotions better or adopting a more positive mindset. By writing down your goals, you cement them and create a realistic target to aim for. 

Reflecting on Personal Growth

Finally, try using your journal entries for reflection as a way for personal growth. Go back to past entries, read over them and compare how you felt then to how you feel now. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on past goals and achievements. Celebrate the victories and acknowledge the defeats in a compassionate way. By revisiting these older entries, you can adjust your intentions and goals to plan ahead. 

Ways To Build A Consistent Habit Of Journaling?

Making a habit of utilizing your mental health journal can be challenging at first, but with time you’ll be able to cement the habit. If you worry that you won’t be able to stick with consistent journaling, then try adopting the following tips:

  • Start small: Don’t feel compelled to write pages of content every time you sit down to write in your journal. Even a few lines or bullet points can feel rewarding and provide you with a useful release.
  • Keep a routine: One of the best ways to consistently journal is to schedule a set time for writing. From an early morning session to writing just before bed, find a time that works for you and stick to it.
  • Find somewhere to write: Finding the right place to express yourself in your journal can help tremendously with consistency. Choose somewhere accessible, safe and quiet for you to focus on your entries.
  • Use prompts: If you find yourself struggling to find something to write about, then prompts can be a useful addition to your arsenal.
  • Make it enjoyable: Try your best to make the process as enjoyable as possible. Get comfortable before writing, choose a journal you like to use and keep the writing process stress-free.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Start A Journal For Mental Health

How To Start A Journal For Mental Health

Starting a mental health journal is a worthwhile pursuit that doesn’t take much to get started. All you’ll need is a journal (either physical or digital) and a general purpose to your writing. Think about what you’d like to get out of your journaling experience, such as a better handle on your emotions or a way to track your progress, then stick to a writing schedule.

What Are The Benefits Of Journaling For Mental Health

There are plenty of benefits associated with journaling for mental health. One of the biggest benefits is that it provides you with a safe space to express yourself. You’ll glean lots of insights around your character and emotional state by writing, particularly if you have a specific goal in mind. It’s also a great tool for lowering stress levels, helping you deal with anxiety and can even help battle depression.

How To Use Your Mental Health Journal For Self-Improvement

You can use your mental health journal as a way to improve yourself. To do this, you’ll need to start by setting yourself a clear goal such as understanding your emotions. Then, find a way of writing in your journal that suits you. From sketching to writing poetry, you can be as expressive as you’d like. Once you’ve written a few entries, reflect on them and try to learn about what your emotional state was like when writing them. Compare those feelings to how you feel in the moment and consider what has changed. Most importantly, make sure you act out of kindness and compassion for yourself throughout the whole process.

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