How to Journal to Improve Your Mental Health

By Diana Sanchez, Staff Writer 
Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash

If you are trying to get healthy, by now you’ve probably realized that going to the gym and watching what you eat alone won’t help you meet your goals if you’re not willing to work on your mental health, too. The good news is improving your mental health can be remarkably simple - with the right tools.

Journaling has been so helpful to me in transforming my mindset and helping me to meet my short and long-term goals. I am a strong advocate when it comes to building daily habits that improve your mental health. Incorporating meditating (check out our how to meditate article) and journaling has been profoundly life-changing for not only myself but others, as well - and it can be for you, too. 

How can you journal for mental health?

Journaling for your mental health is very simple. I’ll walk you through what you need and what you need to do. Make sure to set aside 10-15 minutes in the morning and in the evening for journaling. 

1. Get a journal and a pen.

I told you this would be simple! There are a number of custom journals for this purpose, but you really only need a basic journal for this (which is much cheaper). Whatever journal you decide to purchase will help you work on your mental health, so don’t get too hung up on buying the “perfect” one.

2. Build a journaling habit by doing it daily.

Research has shown that it can take anywhere between 18-254 days to build a habit (if you’ve heard about it only taking 21 days, that was never scientifically proven). The best way to see results from journaling for mental health is to do it daily, preferably twice a day. Journaling is the best way to start your morning - even better than coffee, I promise!

3. Set a daily goal.

Do you remember being in school and getting vague directions on an assignment one day? How well did you complete the assignment? Did you know what you were doing? Did you have any idea where to start? Just like then, you very much still need a sense of direction today if you’d like to accomplish something. Writing down your goal every morning, whether it is a long-term or a short-term goal, will be a firm reminder of what you are working towards and help you stay on track throughout the day. It will give you a sense of purpose that will greatly affect your mindset.

4. Write affirmations about yourself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “You become what you think about all day long.” And he was right. Start off every morning by writing at least 3 positive affirmations about yourself. What is an affirmation, you ask? 

Have you ever tried to catch all of the negative things you say to yourself all day long? I have - and I was shocked. I always considered myself a positive person, but the sheer number of times I found myself thinking, “I can’t do that,” or “What if I mess up?” just to give a few examples, blew my mind. These are negative affirmations. Every time you have a negative thought about yourself you are affirming it, or making it true. Repetitive thoughts shape you, whether they are good or bad. The point of writing positive affirmations about yourself is to help fill your mind with positive thoughts about yourself instead.

Some examples of positive affirmations would be:

  • I am intelligent and capable of ____________________.
  • I am a good person and I deserve to be happy.
  • I can _________________ if I set my mind to it.

These are general examples. I would suggest you pay attention to the negative things you think to yourself frequently and find positive affirmations that can help you overcome those negative thoughts.

5. Write down at least 3 things you are grateful for.

No matter what you are going through, or have been through, there is always something to be grateful for. Choosing to focus on that and allowing yourself to be grateful can make a huge difference in shifting your perspective in a positive direction. Try to think of three different things every day - overtime you will notice that the act of being grateful for what you do have instead of dwelling on what you don’t, can greatly increase your overall happiness. (Check out our blog about being grateful!)

6. End the day by journaling, too.

Make journaling a part of your winding down routine in the evenings. Jot down 3 of your favorite moments of the day or 3 accomplishments - or both! Take the time to write down any concerns or feelings you are working through, too. Ending the day this way will help you better process the events of the day and remind you of everything that you have to feel grateful for. 

Save your journals over time so that you can look back later to see how far you have come and how much progress you have made. I’m looking forward to reading my journals years from now because my favorite moments of the day are riddled with fun moments I spend with my son - moments I may not even remember one day. It’ll be fun to look back and relive those moments when he is grown and is no longer the little pre-schooler I am raising now.

Did you give journaling a try? Please let me know your thoughts. I love hearing from you!

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