Journaling can help you express and better understand your thoughts and feelings. A journal can offer a non-judgmental, creative outlet and space for your emotions. Try journaling to relieve stress and boost mental health.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health concern, please seek help. Licensed mental health professionals are available to help you at MyTherapist.

Journaling is personal. How you choose to journal is up to you—there is no right or wrong way to do it, but there are some helpful ideas for journaling and getting started.

Helpful Types of Journaling for Mental Health Include:

1. Gratitude Journaling:

  • According to research, gratitude—the positive feeling of thankfulness and appreciation—is linked to feelings of happiness and contentment.
  • By purposefully noticing and writing down what you’re thankful for, you can strengthen awareness of what is going right, which can boost mood and feelings of fulfillment and reduce stress.

2. Stream of Consciousness Journaling:

  • Stream of consciousness journaling usually involves writing without hesitation or filter. You write what comes to mind.
  • Stream of consciousness writing can help you get everything out and better understand yourself.

3. Unsent Letter Journaling:

  • Unsent letter journaling typically means writing a letter to someone—or to yourself—that you won’t send. It serves as a means for expressing your thoughts and feelings to the recipient.
  • Unsent letter journaling can help you express gratitude, anger, hurt, sorrow, regret, and other feelings that may arise from relationships.
  • Unsent letter journaling can help you identify feelings and potentially let them go.

4. Mood Journaling:

  • Mood journaling can help you identify your feelings, moods, and what triggers positive and negative feelings.
  • By tracking and understanding your emotions, you may be able to better manage them.
  • Awareness of circumstances can help us see cause-and-effect relationships regarding mood and then brainstorm solutions for how to maximize positive causes.

5. Thought Tracking Journaling:

  • Through thought tracking journaling, you can monitor your thoughts and identify and address patterns of faulty and distorted thinking that leads to negative feelings.
  • When you feel stressed or worried, or depressed, you can try writing down thoughts that are triggering the feelings. It can then be helpful to reframe the thoughts by looking for positive alternatives. For example, you can ask yourself questions like: “Is there an alternate outcome for this worrisome thought?” “Is there any action I can take, or is this out of my control?” “Am I worrying about ‘what-ifs’ instead of focusing on the moment?” “Am I catastrophizing—imagining worst possible outcomes—and blowing this out of proportion?”

Tips for Getting Started:

1. Try to think of journaling as a relaxing activity instead of an obligation.

2. Try getting into a writing routine. For example, write at a certain time of the day and on certain days of the week, even if you write for a short time. Setting a timer and writing for a set amount of time can be helpful.

3. Write or even draw what feels right to you. Try not to feel guilty or embarrassed about what you right. Set aside worries about spelling, grammar, or handwriting.

4. Both paper and digital journals can be effective. The act of noticing and reflecting on thoughts and feelings can be powerful no matter what method you use.

5. Let go of perfection and be flexible and forgiving with yourself. Your journal does not have to be formal. If you forget to journal or get out of the routine, you can always start again.

Writing regularly in a journal can help you manage your mental health and enhance your emotional well-being. Journaling can offer you a release for your thoughts and feelings. It can help you be aware of cause and effects on your moods and give you insight into the way you feel and think. Expressing yourself in writing can be a big mood booster.