What if we told you that there was a way to ease your mind, unravel your thoughts, heal your spirit, and improve your health without having to say a single word? Yes, it's true and very possible. No gimmicks or magic tricks necessary. All you need is a pen, paper, and an open mind.
While some call it a diary and others call it a journal, capturing your thoughts and documenting your experiences have several benefits to improve your overall life.
We’ve curated a list of journaling ideas, organized by topic, for you to choose from. Explore the topics by reviewing the "Journal Prompts" drop down menu above!
Countless studies have proven that by journaling, you're able to give yourself some much-deserved TLC and understand yourself by revealing your most private thoughts, feelings, and fears4. According to Positive Psychology, journaling has been found to1:
- Manage anxiety
- Reduce stress
- Cope with depression
- Boost your mood/affect
- Enhance your sense of well-being
- Reduce symptoms of depression before an important event (like an exam)
- Reduce intrusion and avoidance symptoms post-trauma
- Improve your working memory
- In particular, journaling can be especially helpful for those with PTSD or a history of trauma.
Journaling and Stress
Journaling serves as a valuable tool for reducing stress by allowing you to examine your thoughts, shift your perspective, address internal struggles, examine your thoughts, and identify your stressors6.
Journaling can also help you manage your stress by1:
- Decreasing symptoms of various health conditions
- Improving your cognitive functioning
- Strengthening your immune system
- Examining your thoughts and shifting your perspective
- Reducing rumination and promoting action
- and planning your options and considering multiple outcomes of a situation
Journaling and Anxiety
Journaling is key in helping us identify our negative thoughts and self-talk to uncover the root of our anxiety5. By journaling frequently, you can positively address your anxiety through1:
- Calming and clearing your mind
- Releasing pent-up feelings and everyday stress
- Letting go of negative thoughts
- Exploring your experiences with anxiety
- Writing about your struggles and your successes
- Enhancing your self-awareness and teaching you about your triggers
Journaling and Depression
If you are experiencing feelings of depression, it is best to seek the help and guidance of a trusted professional. Journaling should not serve as a substitute for speaking with a professional, but it may act as a tool for managing mild depression.
Journaling may help ease symptoms of mild depression by allowing you to release deeply rooted feelings of negativity and offers space for positive thinking free of judgement1.
Tips for Constructive and Enjoyable Journaling
Researchers Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm offer the following tips to ensure that not only is your journaling constructive and helpful, but also an experience that you grow to enjoy3.
- Look at your writing time as personal relaxation time. It's a time when you can de-stress and wind down. Write in a place that's relaxing and soothing, maybe with a cup of tea.
- Look forward to your journaling time. And know that you're doing something good for your mind and body.
- Write in a private and personalized space that is free from distractions;
- Write at least three or four times, and aim for writing consecutively (i.e., at least once each day)
- Give yourself some time to reflect and balance yourself after writing;
- If you’re writing to overcome trauma, don’t feel obligated to write about a specific traumatic event—journal about what feels right in the moment;
- Structure the writing however it feels right to you;
- Keep your journal private; it’s for your eyes only—not your spouse, not your family, not your friends, not even your therapist (although you can discuss your experience with your therapist, of course).
Another helpful guide for effective journaling can be found on the Center for Journal Therapy website. When you journal, remember the simple acronym: WRITE2.
W hat topic?
T ime yourself
E xit smart
W – What do you want to write about? What’s going on? How do you feel? What are you thinking about? What do you want? Name it.
R – Review or reflect on it. Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths. Focus. You can start with “I feel…” or “I want…” or “I think…” or “Today….” or “Right now…” or “In this moment…”
I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings. Start writing and keep writing. Follow the pen/keyboard. If you get stuck or run out of juice, close your eyes and re-center yourself. Re-read what you’ve already written and continue writing.
T – Time yourself. Write for 5-15 minutes. Write the start time and the projected end time at the top of the page. If you have an alarm/timer on your PDA or cell phone, set it.
E – Exit smart by re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it in a sentence or two: “As I read this, I notice—” or “I’m aware of—” or “I feel—”. Note any action steps to take.