Inside: Journaling for mental health is a convenient way to release pent-up emotions and thoughts. Keep reading for why you should consider a journaling practice.
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I’m incredibly open about everything in my life and this includes therapy. I’m a huge advocate for it because I’ve experienced how effective it can be, especially in my communication and relationships.
For example, it’s taught me how to (almost) let go of deeply held resentment for my father. Until I went to therapy, everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – that my father said pissed me off.
I’ve known most of my life that my dad has an extremely low emotional IQ. However, even with this knowledge, I still found it impossible not to roll my eyes at everything that he said.
I didn’t know how to deal with anger that had been festering inside me for years. My therapist and I went through a few different exercises and sent me away with homework: I was to go home and write a letter describing everything that I’ve been wanting to say to my dad since I was young.
So, I did.
And then I threw it away.
Since writing that letter (to be clear, I never sent the letter), I’ve been able to show so much more compassion towards my father and I can now look the other way when he makes one of his inevitably dumb comments.
Is journaling good for mental health?
Look, I’ll be blunt. I don’t think my therapist would tell me to do something that wasn’t good for my mental health. That’s literally the exact opposite of her job. So, yes journaling is good for mental health.
But, if you need more concrete evidence, here are some studies that show why journaling is good for mental health:
- Web-based Positive Affect Journaling (PAJ) may serve as an effective intervention for mitigating mental distress, increasing well-being, and enhancing physical functioning among medical populations. PAJ may be integrated into routine medical care to improve quality of life. [R]
- A growing amount of literature suggests that addressing patients’ psychological needs produces both psychological and physical health benefits. Expressive writing is one such technique that has been used successfully in several controlled studies. [R]
- Patients with mild to moderately severe asthma or rheumatoid arthritis who wrote about stressful life experiences had clinically relevant changes in health status at 4 months compared with those in the control group. [R]
When you’re finished, don’t forget to check out all my posts on self-growth HERE!
How do I start my mental health journaling?
Honestly, there is no formula to journaling for mental health. It doesn’t require a fancy journal or gel pens.
The most important thing that you can do when starting your mental health journaling is to carve out a consistent time each week where you won’t be interrupted. A great way to start is by implementing your mental health journaling session into your daily routine.
For instance, maybe you journal for 15 minutes every Monday, Wednesday,, and Friday after you make your morning cup of tea. Basically, the key is to have a set time each week for journaling, so you’ll be less likely to forget and mentally prepared for whatever comes forth.
What do you write in a mental health journal?
Anything you want! The choice is all yours. However, you many choose to focus on events that have brought up difficult emotions for you, such as sadness, anxiety, anger, shame or guilt.
It may be hard to put words to how you feel, and that’s OK! Sometimes it isn’t clear, but know “something isn’t right.” For times like this, write from a stream of consciousness and don’t worry about punctuation word sentence structure. Just keep right writing whatever comes to mind until you notice a theme emerging.
For help getting started, check out this article by the online mental health company, Choosing Therapy, 63 Journal Prompts for Anxiety & Tips for Getting Started.
7 Reasons Journaling for Mental Health Might Make You Happier
Start living better now. Check out 13 Simple Ways You Can Practice Mindful Living Today!
1. Offers an opportunity for reflection
Self-reflection helps you become a more self-aware person. By reflecting on past events and reliving your actions within those events, you analyze your beliefs, feelings, and emotions. Self-reflection is a major step in self-growth and happiness.
For instance, let’s say you get into a fight with your friend over a dinner date. You remember agreeing to meet her for dinner at 7 PM. You show up promptly on time and wait 30 minutes before you finally message to ask where she’s at. She tells you that she’s running late, and she’ll be there soon. However, “soon” actually means another 30 minutes.
Rather than waiting, you make a passive-aggressive remark and decide to leave when she’s already on her way. You ruminate on this argument for the next two weeks.
To help process your emotions, you decide to write about them. By reflecting back, you realize that when your friend was late, it felt like she was disrespecting your time. In turn, this made you feel unimportant.
Ahhhh, and here it is. The trigger.
However, you had no idea that this was causing you to feel some type of way in the moment, and this is exactly why journaling for mental health can be so productive!
2. It’s convenient
Let’s get real, sometimes you need more help than one hour every 1 – 2 weeks. Having a trusty journal as a sidekick can help you process emotions during inconvenient times and places.
Oftentimes, therapy is expensive. if you can’t afford to see a therapist on a regular basis, then journaling for mental health may be an effective way to help treat your anxiety.
If you’re feeling stuck and need help in the form of prompts, then check out these are highly reviewed journals on Amazon!
- Self-Love Workbook for Women: Release Self-Doubt, Build Self-Compassion, and Embrace Who You Are
- No Worries: A Guided Journal to Help You Calm Anxiety, Relieve Stress, and Practice Positive Thinking Each Day
- A Year of Zen: A 52-Week Guided Journal
- Guided Self-Care Journal with Prompts to Boost Mindfulness, Gratitude and Positivity
3. It’s a safe space
If you’re feeling closed off, then starting a journaling routine is a good way to release build up emotionsbefore taking the plunge into full-time therapy. Sometimes people aren’t ready to be vulnerable in the presence of someone else. In this case, journaling is a safe space for you to write without feeling judgment from others.
Of course, you should never feel like your therapist is judging you. However, it may not be easy for you to sit down and within three sessions feel comfortable divulging your deepest darkest secrets. Journaling for mental health is a great way to start processing your emotions at a pace that you’re comfortable with.
4. Helps process Feelings
Emotions the inherit reaction to a specific stimulus. There are five emotions including fear, joy, anger, sadness, and disgust, and we experience them based on their survival value. And as my therapist always says, emotions just want to be seen.
Every time we experience one of these gut reactions, we assign a feeling to it. For instance, let’s say your friend receives a promotion at work and will now make an extra $20k a year. You notice that you start feeling irritated when she tells you that she wants to upgrade her home.
You want to be happy for her – and you are – but only to a certain extent. Moreover, you want to avoid any conversation regarding homebuying, but you don’t necessarily know why.
When you don’t take the time to understand why you’re feeling a certain way, it can be easy to repress your emotions. It’s often an auto-pilot reaction. However, if we don’t make an effort to better understand these feelings, it becomes damaging.
Journaling for mental health is a great way to explore the feelings that are resurfacing so that you can work through them and find peace on the other side.
5. Provides clarity
There are SO MANY TIMES when I feel anxious, but I’m not exactly sure why. If you ever feel discombobulated or unsure of how you feel, then taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
The trick is to keep asking yourself, “Why?”
Don’t stop with, “I I felt mad today after my husband came home and immediately criticized how the house looked.” Ask yourself, “Why did it make me so angry when my husband commented on the floor being dirty this afternoon?”
Why would such a seemingly innocuous comment trigger such a powerful emotion from you? By writing your thoughts and emotions down in a journal, you can start to find clarity in your internal dialogue.
6. Helps you recognize patterns in thoughts, feelings or behavior
After your writing session, read through what you wrote and see if there are any patterns that you notice. If there’s a theme popping up more than a couple of times, then it’s probably a good idea to explore it more.
Oftentimes, we’ll suppress our feelings and push them deep within us. The longer this pattern of ignoring our feelings continues, the more our repressed feelings will compound — and the more difficult they’ll be to cope with. By creating a journaling routine, you’ll begin to recognize toxic patterns and people.
New insights will emerge in your writing that will give you the confidence to make changes in your life. You’ll learn to trust your intuition, as well as your mind, and create a harmonious union with the internal you.
7. Track your progress
Once you’ve gotten into a regular writing routine, you can then look back on prior entries and reflect on your progress. Seeing tangible results will encourage you to keep up your journal therapy and ultimately develop more productive habits!
As a self-growth feign, I love tracking my goals. I create a list of new goals about every six months. These are the things in my life that I most want to change. Looking back on the goals, including the goals I no longer care to achieve, makes me feel a sense of pride for how far I’ve come.
Final Thoughts on 7 Reasons Journaling for Mental Health Might Make You Happier
Journaling is an indispensable tool for practicing self-awareness and personal growth. It helps you understand yourself better, as well as others. The ability to reflect on our own actions and behaviors creates opportunities for improvement. In turn, improving your life will make you happier!
So, what are you waiting for?!
Has journaling for mental health made you happier? Tell me in the comments below!
If you need more journal prompts, be sure to check out my post on 28 Creative Journaling Prompts for Self Discovery (+ FREE PDF)
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.