Journaling is a creative and personal approach to dealing with your thoughts and feelings constructively.
Psychologists promote journaling as a vital tool in the recovery and maintenance of mental health. Numerous studies show an increase in mental health after regular journaling.
You may have heard of mindfulness – the act of being present. Journaling is a great mindfulness tool that requires zero meditation!
If you are new to the journaling world, you may feel a bit lost as to where to begin. What do I journal about? What kind of journal should I keep? How do I make journaling a habit?
Don’t worry; this article will guide you through everything you need to start your journaling journey to improve your mental wellbeing.
Why should you journal?
We have seen that journaling improves our mental wellbeing, but that’s not the only advantage.
Journaling is great for creatives as it allows you to create space in your mind to let your ideas flow. In addition, it makes an excellent cure for writer’s block!
Journaling can also be an excellent tool for recovery. For example, if you have experienced something traumatic, journaling allows you to work through your feelings instead of burying them deep down. The end result is a more confident you that understands their feelings and isn’t afraid to tackle complex thoughts.
It is also a great stress reliever. When we are stressed or anxious, we build physical tension in our bodies, often around our shoulders and jaws. When you journal, you may find your body feels more relaxed after you unburden yourself of your thoughts.
If you are excited to try journaling but are unsure how to go about it, here are seven types of journals that will help you improve your mental wellbeing.
7 types of anxiety and mental wellbeing journals
1. Gratitude Journaling
In the high-paced world we live in, it can be challenging to find time to stop and smell the roses.
No matter how bad things feel right now, there is always something to be thankful for.
Gratitude journaling focuses on giving thanks for the good things in our lives instead of worrying about negative thoughts and feelings occupying our minds.
Studies show that people that practise gratitude journaling report higher levels of life satisfaction.
Gratitude journals work by writing 3 – 5 things you are grateful for every day.
You may feel you have nothing to write about or that you are constantly writing the same three things every day.
Remember that the things you write do not have to be big or profound. It can be as simple as I’m thankful for the wonderful cup of tea I drank this morning.
As Dumbledore once said:
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”
2. Stream of consciousness journaling
This type of journaling is perfect for anyone with a lot on their mind they need to get out of their head.
Set a timer for 5 minutes (you can increase this as you see fit) and write your thoughts down exactly as they come to you. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. The important thing is to write your thoughts the way they present themselves in your brain.
The key to this journaling is that you don’t intercept your thoughts. This means if your brain says something you don’t like, don’t edit yourself – write precisely what your mind was thinking. This is great for perfectionists to practice getting out of their own way.
You may find that in the first few days, a lot of your entries are filled with “I don’t know what to write about”, “haha, this is super weird that I’m writing all this random stuff”, and “I really need to go to the toilet…”.
This is perfectly normal. As you get used to the strangeness of writing down your thoughts in real-time, you’ll become more engaged.
You may even find that as you write, you end up understanding something about yourself you never realised before.
3. Unsent letter journaling
Is there someone you really want to say something to but are too scared to tell them? Or maybe you have a loved one that’s no longer with us that you wish you could talk to?
Unsent letters are a great way to say what you want to say without worrying about the response because you’re not going to send them.
You can be as open and honest as you want to be without feeling the need to censor yourself – allowing your true feelings to come out on the page.
Tell someone why they hurt you or how much you miss them, and allow the pain eating you up inside to flow out into the letter.
This type of journaling will allow you to find closure from painful situations so you can start to heal and move on.
4. One word a day journaling
So, you’ve heard journaling is great for mental health, but you don’t have the time to sit and write for ages?
Not to worry, one word a day journaling may be just the thing you need.
This journal is as simple as it sounds. Every night, reflect on your day and choose a word that best reflects the theme of your day. Chaotic? Exciting? Stressful?
Thinking of one word to sum up your day allows you to reflect on your day without spending time writing it down.
You will probably find that once you get into the habit of writing a word a day, the word turns into a sentence or maybe a paragraph as you find you want to express yourself a bit more.
But for now, one word is more than enough to start a journaling habit that improves your mental wellbeing. After all, as Lao Tzu said, “the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.”
5. Photo journal
When you think of journaling, you probably think of page after page of writing. Or maybe an image of someone lying on their stomach writing “dear diary…” comes to mind.
The great thing about journaling is it’s all about expressing yourself, no matter what medium you use.
For those shutterbugs who don’t enjoy writing, a photo journal may be right for you.
Every day, add a photo to your journal that reminds you of something significant from the day. Maybe it’s a piece of work you finished, perhaps it’s hanging with friends, or perhaps it’s a picture of your cuddled up in bed with a good book and some hot chocolate.
You don’t have to print the photos; you can create this journal on your phone in your notes app or on a diary app. You could even create an Instagram account to use as your photo diary – it’s up to you whether you choose to keep it private or public.
If you need more inspiration, check out the photo journal project 100 happy days.
6. Collage journal
Collage journaling is a fun way to get inspired to write.
Studies show that visual journals are successful in reducing anxiety symptoms.
Find pictures and articles from magazines that attract you and cut them out. Then, every day, use one of these cut-outs as a prompt to write a diary entry.
It can be as colourful and creative or basic as you want it to be.
This is perfect for those easily inspired by art and who want to find a way to express their feelings.
Pinterest is an excellent place to start if you need some inspiration for creating your collage journal – you may even find pictures to add to your journal!
7. Mood Journaling
Throughout the day, we may experience many different moods. Mood journaling is a tool designed to help keep track of your mood and potential triggers.
When you feel a strong emotion, write down a short description of how you are feeling along with the time, place, and situation you are in.
It is essential to do this while you are in the moment to get an accurate picture of your true feelings.
This is a technique used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) by psychologists to help people identify emotional triggers and begin working towards addressing the reasons why.
As it’s crucial to journal throughout the day, it may be best to do this on your phone as you are likely to always have it with you.
Tips for getting started
So, you’ve chosen the journal you want to try, now what?
First thing is first, you have to decide whether you work better in analogue or digital. Put simply, are you a pen and paper person, or do you prefer to use technology like your phone or laptop?
There are some great diary apps available such as Day One, where you can use multiple media to journal your day.
Alternatively, you can use a notebook and pen. Any notebook will do, but most people would recommend using a dotted journal such as our delightful Dot Journal.
Some people are unsure whether they would prefer to write freestyle or have a journal with dedicated sections for their thoughts.
If you prefer guidance during your journaling, there are plenty of options out there. In collaboration with MIND charity, Our Checkin Journal is the perfect companion for gratitude and mood journaling.
How to journal to aid your mental health
To get the most out of your journaling, there are a few key points you need to keep in mind.
1. Be 100% honest with yourself
Your journaling will only be effective if you are entirely open about how you feel. It can be daunting, especially if you aren’t used to sharing your true feelings, but it is the only way you will see a change in your mental wellbeing.
Remember that no one else will see your journal, so there is no reason to be scared to be yourself.
When you suffer from anxiety, it can be terrifying to do this, but persevere.
You will find that the most significant breakthroughs come through the discomfort of vulnerability, so find the braveness within to allow yourself that space.
2. Consistency is key
Any journaling will benefit your mental health, but the most effective journaling comes when you journal daily.
You don’t have to write a lot but taking the time to reflect on your day, even if you only write one word, will allow you to be present with your emotions.
3. Focus on more than just the negative emotions
Yes, you may feel like you are in a dark place with nothing good to write about, but this isn’t always the most productive use of your journaling time.
While you should definitely write about your negative emotions, don’t let that be the only thing you say.
Focus on understanding the negative thoughts. Question why you feel this way. Are there any positives you can take away? Any small actions you can put in place to improve the situation?
It’s always best to end a journal post on a positive note to inspire you to make positive changes and feel good about your journaling session.
Journaling prompts to try
If you are struggling to start your journal entry, here are seven prompts to help you on your way:
- How do I feel today?
- What am I grateful for today?
- When I feel anxious, what things help me cope?
- If I could write a letter to anyone, what would I tell them?
- Recall a time you faced your fear and succeeded.
- Did anything cause me stress or anxiety today?
- What things are you excited to try this year?
The big takeaway
As you can see, journaling is a broad topic with lots of options.
There is no excuse not to journal; there is a journal option for you, whether you have little time or don’t like writing.
You may find you try one type of journal and don’t like it, but just keep trying different types – eventually, you will find your match.
And don’t feel tied to just one type of journal; after all, variety is the spice of life, and it’s good to mix up journal styles.
If you are ready to start your journaling journey, why not check out our inspiring collection of wellness journals and let us know how journaling is helping you improve your life.