Journaling for Mental Health

If you hear the term “journaling” and your mind instantly pictures a teen girl scribbling in her diary, you may not realize that the same outlet for getting thoughts and feelings onto paper can be incredibly beneficial for adult mental wellness, as well. Here’s what you need to know about journaling for mental health. 

What is Journaling for Mental Health

The concept of journaling is not complicated — it’s simply writing down thoughts and feelings as a way to see them more clearly, and begin to understand them better. By putting things down on paper, it helps you step back from the thoughts running around your brain so you can begin to make better sense of them, any patterns, and their cause. 

What You Need

You don’t need any special supplies — you just need a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper. You can even use the back of a receipt or a sticky note, if you need to! That being said, having tools that feel good to use can help the process be more enjoyable. Here are things to consider:

  • Writing Tools. When you pick up a favorite pen, does it make you smile? You may enjoy using gel pens, colored pencils, or a mechanical pencil. Many people who spend all day on a computer aren’t used to writing by hand anymore, so play around and find an instrument that feels good in your hand.
  • Notebooks. While you can write on any old scrap of paper, there are many notebooks out there of various sizes and thicknesses, with paper that may be ruled or unlined. Find something that feels good to look at and hold. Check your local gift or stationary shops to find the right fit and support a local business.
  • Go Digital. There’s no reason you can’t journal using your computer or an app on your phone, if you prefer typing over writing by hand. The goal and process is still the same! 

How to Journal

Staring at a blank page can be intimidating, and if you aren’t sure what to write, start by simply jotting down words you are feeling instead of complete sentences. You’ll still be able to make connections from those words to the bigger picture. 

If you feel stuck, try one of these journaling prompts for mental heath, focusing on self-reflection and self-discovery. Pick one and start writing without thinking too hard or long — you may be surprised by the answer you write!

Tips for journaling:

  • Do it every day, even if just for a few minutes, so it becomes a habit.
  • Keep your journal handy so you can write things down as needed throughout the day, not just at your “usual” time. This is helpful if your thoughts and feelings tend to pass quickly!
  • Don’t edit. You aren’t turning this in for a grade, so write freeform and let the words flow rather than self-editing or trying to structure a perfect sentence.
  • Go back and read previous entries. Soon you may notice patterns like more anxious feelings on certain days that will allow you to go back and pinpoint causes, arming you with more info to help better manage these feelings. 

Benefits of Journaling

Finding healthy ways to manage our thoughts and feelings is such an important part of mental wellness. Journaling may help in the following ways:

  • Manage stress
  • Manage anxiety
  • Identify causes of stress & anxiety
  • Help see patterns and triggers from day to day
  • Notice negative thoughts in an effort to combat them
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