Journaling has been around for centuries. If you’ve been to historic museum exhibitions, you’ve seen early diaries in which great adventurers note their travels and write of missing their loved ones. While modern technology has offered many tools by which to access mental health services, there’s something quite intimate about putting pen to paper. Further, brain scans of people who wrote their emotions down in a journal shows that they were able to self regulate better than those who did not (learn more here). Writing a journal entry is easily accessible and convenient- no scheduled meeting, no pressure.
Like with many new endeavors, however, journaling can be difficult to start. When I get into a rhythm with my journaling practice, I find prompts quite helpful. If we work together, I’d love for you to try some of these in between sessions and bring some of your key thoughts to our meetings together. Many of these questions ask big ideas in profound ways, and journaling solo can omit that “put on the spot” feeling people sometimes experience in therapy.
Mental Health Journal Prompts
Journal Prompts for Anxiety
- Describe a time when you were able to share your feelings with someone else during a moment of anxiety. How did this help you process your feelings? Did you feel any shifts afterward?
- If you could wave a magic wand and make your anxiety disappear, what would you do differently? Is there any part of you that might miss your anxiety? Does anxiety serve a purpose?
- Write a list of big and small things that are worrying you today. Take a pen and angry scribble over each thought (with intention).
- What am I missing right now because I’m caught up in a different time? What might help me feel more present?
- Describe, in creative detail, physical symptoms of your anxiety. For example, when I feel anxious, I feel like there’s a gnarly monster with suction cup tentacles sitting on my heart. I feel my heart beat slow down and speed up as the monster changes its grip. I try to release him, but sometimes it makes it worse.
Journal Prompts for Healthy Relationships
- What does love mean to you? Trust? Does one feel more important than the other?
- What do you think your closest friends appreciate about you?
- How have you and your partner (or friend, family member) grown in the past few years? Did this growth occur together or individually?
- Think deeply about your common expectations of people in your life. Do you stand by them as you read them to yourself? Do any of your expectations get in your way?
- Do you feel worthy of love? Why or why not?
Journal Prompts for Trauma
- Write a thank you note to your younger self. Show appreciation for their attempts to keep you safe. Then, try to explain how you, as an adult, are capable of protecting them now.
- What color best illustrates your pain? Explain why with words. Then, get a colored pencil of this color and draw your pain.
- When do I feel most powerful? What are three things that I like most about myself?
- Write about your safe space. How did you create it and how do you keep it safe for yourself?
- What negative beliefs do you hold as a result of your trauma? Is there a way to counter these beliefs?
Journal Prompts for Building Confidence
- What does the word ‘brave’ mean to you? Describe a time you’ve been brave.
- Describe a recent mistake you’ve made. What did you learn? What can you actively do this week to prevent making the same mistake?
- What’s a selfless thing you’ve done for someone else? Why did you do it?
- What might you do if you were more confident? Write a list of what you think you’d achieve.
- What does confidence mean to you? Who in your life do you consider to be confident? Why?
Journal Prompts for Depression
- My inner critic is wrong about ______ because _______.
- I felt most alive and engaged when __________. Describe what you were doing and who else was present.
- Do any songs help you when you are feeling particularly sad? Write out your favorite lyrics and why you identify with them?
- If you took a break from your sadness, what would you want that break to look like? It doesn’t need to be a happy break, it can be neutral, angry, or lazy.
- What’s one realistic shift you can make in your morning routine? In your nightly routine?