Does journaling help mental health?
Journal prompts are one of the most effective strategies I’ve used for years. What’s going on in your head can be difficult to express at times. There are moments when you have so much to say that nothing comes out! Then, there are those opportunities you feel like you missed because you should have said something, but you didn’t.
With my clients, I try to make it as easy as possible for you to communicate with me or anyone you’re in relationship with. Writing your thoughts out on paper gives you a few advantages. First, you get to think before you speak. Secondly, you have a chance to edit before you say something you really don’t mean. With those pieces done, you’re able to respond from intellect instead of reacting out of emotion.
What do studies say about journaling?
If you have a mind and a brain, then your mental health is important. I want to encourage you to hold it in a place of priority. Journaling has been shown by studies to be a great strategy to decrease mental stress. I use journal prompts for mental health with myself and my clients on a regular basis. I challenge you as you’re reading this blog post to consider how to become proactive about your mental health. That means, not waiting until life is crumbling around you before you take action. That you make a valiant effort, starting today, to attain and sustain mental peace.
What do you write in your journal for mental health? That’s exactly what I’m going to help you with in this post. I’m going to go through the exercises with you by putting the journal prompts here for you to use and I’m going to give you my answers to the prompts. I have also created a printable, lined, journaling guide you can purchase if you don’t already have a journal. As you go through, I want you to write/talk as if you’re speaking with me. Keep in mind that journal prompts for mental health in no way take the place of a qualified mental health professional. These prompts are designed to help you begin to get your thoughts together, express yourself better, and get you moving in the right direction. Let’s get started!
Describe what a good friend looks like to you.
What a good friend looks like to me is someone who is honest. It means you won’t just tell me what you think I want to hear. You’ll tell me the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. I also need to see a high level of trustworthiness. If you say you’re going to be there or do something, you have to come through. I don’t need anyone in my life, who I call a friend, who is dishonest and untrustworthy. That’s not a friend. That’s not even someone I would want to be in relationship with in any area of my life. You could be a family member, but if I have to worry about whether I can trust you or not, I don’t want you around. It doesn’t mean I’ll disown you. It simply means I probably won’t have much to do with you.
This topic is included in journal prompts for mental health because you want to know what a friend looks like to you. Your friends are the people who are going to be there for you in the good and not so good times. The title of friend is not the same for everyone. It’s important for you to know what you’re looking for, so you know when you’ve found it. Often we see the characteristics in people we don’t want, but we sometimes forget to nail down what we do want. Think about how much easier it would be for you to be successful if you have people around you who look like what you call a friend. You don’t have to settle for just anybody when you know what you want.
Use your journal to write out a list of characteristics you want in a friend. Remember, if you’re looking for these things in someone else, you must be found worthy as well. You can’t ask someone for something you’re unwilling to give. If you’re having trouble making your list, think about the people in your life right now. What are things you like or dislike about them? Do you consider yourself a good friend? What are elements of your own personality that you like and dislike? The type of friend you’re describing may not be someone in your life yet. That’s okay. Now that you know what you’re looking for, you can find it.
Tell me one thing you find difficult to talk about or admit to yourself.
One thing I find difficult to admit to myself is about my thinking around money. I’ve always been pretty comfortable financially, so I didn’t think much about having more. When I did consider it, my mind would go toward rich people and what I thought about them. I’m using past tense here because I don’t think this way anymore. But, my current school of thought is new.
I have met many wealthy people who are also kind. That was not my previous concept of rich people. I hate to admit that I thought all rich people were greedy and evil. I wanted to be rich, but I didn’t want to be what I considered an undesirable person. That way of thinking kept me stuck for a long time, but I’m not stuck anymore!
You want to be able to admit to yourself those things you find difficult to talk about. If you won’t even admit it to yourself, how will you ever resolve it? Get used to talking about uncomfortable things so you don’t have to hold onto anything you don’t want to. Journal prompts for mental health are good for helping you release toxic information from your mind. Keeping things inside that are harmful to you is not a habit you want to continue.
Use this prompt to intentionally prepare yourself to talk about the hard stuff. Start with more recent things that have been difficult for you and then work your way back. Think of those things that might be just a little easier to admit than something else and write that down first. Once you get going, be aware that the flood gates might open up! Don’t stop the flow. Keep writing, but don’t go back and read any of it. Close your journal and allow yourself to settle down. If you realize that you need some help processing what you’re writing, please reach out for help.
Describe your gifts and talents.
I think of gifts and talents as different functions. I have gifts of listening and writing. Not everyone can sit, focus, listen, and interpret with ease. I can. One of my friends who is also a writer asked me to teach her how to write the way I do. I can’t do it because it’s not something I learned. It’s something that I just do. Sure, with both listening and writing, I have to work at them. I have to cultivate them, but neither of them is something I was taught. That’s what makes them gifts in my eyes. God gave them to me to use.
I was talented at sports and music. Pieces of those talents have a gift element to them because there was a great deal of natural ability. However, I had to work a lot harder with my talents than I have with my gifts. My gifts need to be refined and will never go away. While my talents needed to be worked out, coached, and practiced. My gifts seem to illuminate by simply activating them. By activation I mean acknowledging and using them.
Why is this a part of journal prompts for mental health? Because you want to have a good grasp on your gifts and talents so you know where your strengths are. So many of us are searching desperately for purpose. I believe your purpose is found in your gifts and talents. We’re all here to help someone. When you use your natural ability, you’re much more effective because you’re much more comfortable. You’re in your element when you use what comes from your soul. Use what’s already in you.
Make a list of the things you’re good at. If you’re not sure what you’re good at, ask someone you love and trust what they think you’re good at. What do people always ask you to do for them? That should give you a clue. Is there anything you do that comes very easily? There are activities you do with so much ease and confidence that you take it for granted. Stop to think of things you do without thinking twice about but other people struggle with. Those are likely some of your gifts and talents.
Describe what a perfect day would be like for you.
A perfect day for me would be to have gotten a good night’s rest. I wake up energized, get freshened up, talk to God in prayer, and read a scripture that speaks to me. I get a good workout in and then I shower just so I can get to the beach! I swim and frolic until lunch. A nice, juicy, medium steak is on the menu. After lunch I read, do some writing, check my accounts to make sure my money is making money, and ask God who He wants me to bless. I teach a class, have dinner, and relax until it’s time for bed. Of course, every day wouldn’t be this laid back, but I want more of these than any other.
If you can’t see yourself having it, you probably never will. You need to be able to dream. If you’re spending most of your time focused on what you don’t want, when do you shift to what you do want? This is your time to think about that. Let these peaceful thoughts remind you that you can have good days in your life. This doesn’t even have to be about a vacation. It doesn’t have to be a once in a lifetime desire. If you will allow yourself to want something this amazing, you will start making decisions that will get you closer to and not farther away from it.
Use your journal prompts for mental health to dream big! Let your mind go. Don’t put any limitations on your perfect day. If you could create your life in a day, what would it look like? What are some of your favorite colors, foods, places to visit? Put those ideas together in your mind and make a day of it! Don’t even think about telling yourself it’ll never happen. Go ahead and dream even if it’s only on paper. But, I can almost guarantee you that once you release this day you’ll want to do everything you can to bring it to fruition.
Replay the best compliment you’ve ever received.
I don’t know if I can recall the best but I can tell you about the most recent. Today, a potential client told me she is reading my book Coaching the Called and she thinks it’s the best coaching book she’s read so far! She said ‘you get straight to the point, and I can understand what you’re saying. You’re a great writer!’ As a creative, that means a lot because we get so many rejections. To have someone compliment a project that I put so much time and effort into is so rewarding, and I will cherish it.
You hear so much negativity both directly and indirectly. You might have a boss, a spouse, a parent, or someone else in your life who spews negativity. If you don’t get it there, just turn on the news or scroll social media. You can’t miss it. So, when you do journal prompts for mental health you want to write about something that recharges you with positive energy. You never know when you might need to replay a compliment in your mind just to cheer yourself up. To remind yourself that everything in your life isn’t all bad.
Remember something someone said to you that stuck with you in a good way. Preferably a compliment or word of encouragement they gave you about something you did or said. Write down everything you can recall about it. What they said, how they said it, how it made you feel when you heard it. Again, you have access to more than enough negativity. You have to be intentional about replaying the conversations that motivate, encourage, and inspire you. If you can’t remember anything, then you’re going to have to ask for it. Simply ask someone you love and trust what they like about you.
Describe the worst thing you’ve ever done.
I’m not sure if it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done but it’s the first thing that came to my mind. I think I cut someone off on the road, they blew their horn at me, and I flipped them off! Now, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you know me, that is totally out of character for me. I had never done that before and haven’t done it since. I felt so bad because I really think I was in the wrong. It was so long ago that the details are blurry but I’m pretty sure I cut them off. But, even if I didn’t, what I did after that was worse, to me, then if I really had cut them off. No one deserves to be disrespected.
If you can admit to yourself the worst thing you feel you’ve ever done, the closer you’ll be to forgiveness. You want to be able to process your faults and still allow yourself to live after them. Shame and guilt will keep you stuck. Being willing to admit your wrongs and forgiving yourself for them, you can break free. I hope this journal prompt is a start to your first step to freedom.
Write down what you did, then read it out loud, and then say “I forgive you.” Some people experience a level of freedom immediately. Some feel nothing at all. The point is not to feel anything. I want you to keep forgiving yourself until you actually do it. You’re going to practice what emotional and mental freedom feels like by doing what it takes to get it. Please remember that your journal does not take the place of a qualified mental health professional, but it’s a good start. If you find that you need more help after you get started with these journal prompts, please reach out.
Describe one thing you feel the world needs less of and why.
The world needs less teachers of hate because that’s the only way it will stop. Children do not come out of the womb hating other people. They are taught to do it. Sure, later in life we may have experiences that shape our thoughts and feelings, but hate is taught. We’re not always going to like one another and everything someone does. However, a disagreement doesn’t have to lead to hate. We can learn to disagree without disrespect and that is what we need more of. Honoring differences can be a beautiful thing. But we most certainly can do with less of encouraging one another to attack the other because of our differences.
Here, we’re going to use journal prompts to understand and identify what you want less of in the world so you can be a part of the solution to that problem. I believe that we are each the answer to another’s problem. If we don’t identify the problem we cannot become the answer. This is not to say you have all the answers to any problem. It’s only to say that you can have a part to play in solving or at least reducing it.
You may have more than one thing you think the world could do with less of. Make that list. Then focus on the one that’s most important to you. What are you passionate about? Which one makes you the most angry? You’re not responsible for solving all the world’s problems or even completely resolving any one of them all by yourself. You just want something you can focus on that moves you a little closer to your purpose in this life.
What makes you feel at peace and why?
My place of peace is anywhere near water and I’m not really sure why that is. And what makes me feel at peace is the fact that I know God is for me. This world is full of the darkness of injustice, racism, hate, and plenty of other forms of negativity. What gives me peace is knowing I don’t have to live my life thinking this is all there is.
My peace is in Christ and knowing that I can have a wonderful life now and later. I see so many people who feel they have nothing to live for, so they give up. Because I know where to find peace, I can make sure I never get to the place where I need to give up. My rest is found in my savior, and I can go there in my heart, mind, and spirit any time I need or want to.
You must have peace in some area of your life. Know and understand where it is so you can go there any time you can. Your place of peace is a retreat for your mind. Your surroundings may not be peaceful. I always recommend having peace in at least one of the two major areas of your life. For most of us those two areas are work and home. Which area is most peaceful for you? If your answer is neither, you have a huge problem because you cannot function well for very long without peace.
I use journal prompts for mental health to calm my mind. Write down all the places, people, and things that bring you peace. Also, write down all the people, places, and things that threaten your peace. In this way, you know what you do want as well as what you don’t. Of course, you want to focus more on the activities you need in your life so you have more times of peace than not. Implement whatever you come up with on as regular a basis as possible so you operate from a place of peace as your norm.
What season of the year do you enjoy most and why?
I really enjoy December because of my birthday and Christmas. I would say the holiday season, but Thanksgiving is not all that important to me because I don’t like Thanksgiving food. I think more about that time of year because my granny’s birthday usually lands right around it. Her birthday was more important than the actually Thanksgiving holiday, for me. But, December is my month!
You want to know what season of the year you enjoy the most because it might help you enjoy the other seasons a bit more as well. Another reason is because there are many who struggle with seasonal mental health issues. Knowing that about yourself could be helpful with your strategy when it comes to your journal prompts for mental health. Being aware of whether there are seasons of the year where you’re more cheerful or peaceful than others can help you figure out what you can do during the other parts of the year to feel better during those times as well.
If you’re not sure that you have a favorite season, go through each quarter or each month of the year. Think back over your life and especially this last year to see where you registered emotionally. Were there different times, months, quarters where you were more down or more up regarding your mood? Is there are a time of the year where your favorite movies are always showing? Do you love it when we fall back or spring forward? Be intentional about checking in with yourself on when you are most at peace. If you know this information you create your favorite season all year round!
Describe your strengths.
Your strengths may be the same or different from your gifts and talents. I look at my strengths in a slightly different manner. Being a follower of Christ is a strength in my book because it can be easy to go another way. Remaining loyal to my core belief system is a strength. I also consider discipline a strength of mine. Now, I’m not necessarily disciplined in every single area of my life. However, when I set my mind to start something and stick with it, I have enough self-control to remain focused.
Knowing your strengths is a start to improving your self-esteem. Being aware of what you’re proficient in can give you some clues on how and where you fit in the world. I believe everyone needs to be wanted. When you know what your strengths are you can go where your skills are desired. You can focus less on what you don’t have and more on what you do. Cultivate what you’re strong in until you master it. Mastered skills are also sellable skills!
When you do your journal prompts for mental health you get to brag on yourself. Challenge yourself to be honest about the areas you feel strong in without hesitation. Write down all the activities, events, projects, and assignments you’ve done that you thoroughly enjoyed. Recall any area you’ve ever been complimented in. Do not allow negative thoughts to come into play. You do not get to say “I’m good at this but…” No buts! You’re amazingly awesome at something and I want to know what it is!
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Final Thoughts On Journal Prompts for Mental Health
Your mental health is of utmost importance, and I want you to see it that way. It is just as important, if not more so, as your physical health. You cannot get away from yourself no matter where you go. The most intimate, beautiful, and horrifying thoughts all come from the same place. If you want to conquer your life, you have to take care of your soul, body, and spirit. Your soul consists of your mind, will, emotions, imagination, and intellect. Take care of it to your best ability!
Journal prompts are great tools to help you process your thoughts and feelings. However, they are not a replacement for speaking with a mental health professional. Because you want to be proactive about your mental health, use the 10 journal prompts for mental health included in this blog to help you get started. I’ve also created a full downloadable, lined, E-book of journaling prompts. If you need additional resources, check out Psychology Today. If you’re in crisis you can dial or text 988 at any time, nationwide. Be proactive about your mental health, be well, and God bless!