A young person in a tie dye sweatshirt sits on her bed journaling for mental health.

20 Journaling Prompts for Mental Health

July 13, 2023

7 min.

You can use these 20 mental health-focused journaling prompts to help take care of your mental health.

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

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Table of Contents

Journaling prompts for mental health

Journaling is a common self-care practice for mental health because it provides a safe space for emotional expression, promotes self-reflection, and allows people to track their growth. While it’s not a substitute for mental health treatment, journaling is often used as a tool in therapy and can be helpful for managing mental health symptoms, like worries. Here are 20 journaling prompts for mental health: 

  1. Reflect on a recent accomplishment or milestone and how it has positively impacted your sense of self-worth.
  2. Describe a challenging situation you encountered recently and explore the lessons you learned from it.
  3. Write about a hobby or activity that brings you joy and why it is important to your overall well-being.
  4. Explore three things that make you unique and celebrate those qualities.
  5. Describe a self-care ritual or practice that helps you recharge and nurture your mental health.
  6. Write a letter to your future self, expressing your hopes, dreams, and intentions.
  7. Reflect on a time when you overcame self-doubt or fear and how it transformed your outlook.
  8. Describe a person or support system that has had a significant positive impact on your mental health.
  9. Write a list of 10 things that always make you smile, no matter the circumstances.
  10. Reflect on a time when you faced a setback and how you bounced back from it.
  11. Describe the qualities or strengths that you admire in yourself and how they contribute to your well-being.
  12. Explore your dreams and aspirations, both big and small, and the steps you can take to work towards them.
  13. Write a letter to a loved one who has passed away or is no longer in your life, expressing how that person contributed to your life in a positive way.
  14. Describe a situation that brings you anxiety or stress and brainstorm coping strategies to manage it.
  15. Reflect on a moment of gratitude for the people, experiences, or blessings in your life right now.
  16. Write about a time when you took care of yourself during a challenging period and the positive impact it had on your well-being.
  17. Explore a limiting belief you hold about yourself and challenge it with evidence and alternative perspectives.
  18. Describe a place in nature that brings you peace and tranquility. How does it make you feel and why?
  19. Reflect on a significant life lesson you have learned and how it has influenced your personal growth.
  20. Write a love letter to yourself, celebrating your strengths, resilience, and worthiness of self-compassion.

Journaling is a personal practice, and these prompts are meant to serve as a starting point. Feel free to adapt or modify any mental health journaling prompt to best suit your individual needs on your mental health journey.

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How journaling can help mental health

Journaling offers a range of mental health benefits. Firstly, journaling allows people to freely express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns without judgment or inhibition. By putting an emotion into words on paper, people can experience a sense of release and relief, gaining clarity and a deeper understanding of their inner experiences. This process of emotional expression can help promote a sense of calm for people facing a variety of mental health challenges, including anxiety, trauma, depression, and more. 

Many people journal as a way to promote self-reflection and self-awareness. Regularly writing about thoughts, experiences, and emotions allows people to gain insights into their patterns, behaviors, and triggers, enhancing self-awareness and understanding. This increased self-awareness provides a solid foundation for personal growth, decision-making, and positive change. For instance, if someone is struggling with grief and loss, they can explore their feelings through writing and process memories of their loved one as a means of healing. 

Journaling can also serve as a tool for problem-solving and perspective-shifting. By writing about challenges or conflicts, people can explore different angles, consider alternative solutions, and gain new insights—often from a more objective place. This process enables people to shift their mindset, challenge limiting beliefs, and develop a more adaptive and positive perspective, empowering them to navigate challenges with greater resilience and resourcefulness. If someone is in a fight with their partner, for instance, writing about the argument can provide clarity and facilitate reflection.

Many people find that journaling promotes gratitude and positivity in their lives. By regularly recording things they are grateful for, positive experiences, or moments of joy, people shift their focus toward the positive aspects of their lives. Some people, for instance, keep a specific gratitude journal (more on this below) in order to write about what they are grateful for and find that nurturing this kind of positivity has a significant impact on overall mental well-being. 

Although journaling offers many mental health benefits, it is not a substitute for professional help from a mental health provider. Whether or not you have already been diagnosed with a mental health condition, therapy is essential for managing your mental health.

A young person holding a journal in a field of trees practices mental health journaling.

Types of mental health journaling

There are various types of journaling practices that can support mental health. Here are some different kinds of journaling practices you can explore:

Prompt-based journaling

Guided journaling using prompts like those above can be helpful for individuals who prefer a structured approach. Prompts can inspire you to explore particular aspects of your life or a specific emotion you’re dealing with. 

Expressive journaling

This form of journaling, also known as expressive writing, involves letting your thoughts flow freely onto the paper without editing or filtering. Write continuously for a specific period of time, such as 15 to 20 minutes, on a given topic without worrying about grammar or punctuation. The goal of expressive writing is not to produce polished or coherent writing but to let thoughts and emotions surface and be expressed. Expressive writing can help you access subconscious thoughts and emotions, promoting self-expression and insight, which can be particularly helpful for people processing trauma.

Gratitude journaling

As mentioned, in this practice of journaling, you focus on cultivating gratitude by writing about things you are thankful for. Regularly jotting down moments of gratitude, positive experiences, or acts of kindness can shift your focus toward the positive aspects of life and enhance your overall well-being.

Art journaling

If you enjoy expressing yourself visually, art journaling can be a powerful practice. Combine writing with artistic elements like drawings, collages, or colors to capture your emotions and experiences. Art journaling provides a creative outlet and can deepen your self-expression and exploration.

Bullet journaling

Bullet journaling involves using bullet points, symbols, and short entries to track your moods, habits, goals, and tasks. It can serve as a comprehensive tool for organizing your thoughts, setting intentions, and tracking progress on mental health-related goals.

How to get started journaling for mental health

Getting started with journaling for mental health is a simple and personal process. Here are some steps to help you begin:

Choose the right tools

Select a journal or notebook that you feel drawn to. It could be a blank journal, a guided journal with prompts, or even a digital journaling platform. Use pens, pencils, or any writing tools that you find comfortable and enjoyable to use.

Set aside dedicated time

Find a quiet and uninterrupted space where you can devote time to journaling. Establish a routine that works for you, whether it’s in the morning, before bed, or during a specific part of your day. Like any habit, the more you practice journaling, the more beneficial it becomes. Aim to journal regularly, even if it’s for just a few minutes each day. Make it a part of your self-care routine and prioritize this time for yourself.

Start with a simple prompt or free-writing

If you’re unsure how to begin, start with a prompt that resonates with you, like one of the prompts above. Alternatively, you can engage in free writing by simply putting pen to paper and letting your thoughts flow without any specific prompt. 

Write freely and honestly

When journaling, let go of any self-judgment or criticism. Allow yourself to write openly and honestly about your thoughts, emotions, and experiences. There are no right or wrong answers in journaling—it is a personal exploration and a chance for you to delve into your thoughts and experiences. Use your journal as a space to deepen your understanding of yourself.

Focus on the process, not the outcome

Remember that journaling is about the journey rather than the final product. Embrace the act of writing as a form of self-care and self-expression. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or structure. Let the words flow naturally.

Journaling at Charlie Health

Charlie Health is committed to creating an unparalleled, multi-pronged approach to care for people and families, incorporating journaling and other mindfulness techniques into every client’s treatment. If you think that you might benefit from an individualized mental health treatment plan, reach out to learn more today

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