Journaling: What it is, Why it helps, and How to start

Journaling is a powerful mental health tool that you may want to consider trying (or may already be doing!). Journaling refers to the act of using pen and paper to put words to what you think and feel. Its positive benefits—such as helping with stress, anxiety, and depression—lie in the cathartic or therapeutic process of allowing self-expression in a safe, private space. 

Often just those things that cause stress, anxiety, and depression do so because they remain unnamed and taboo within us, left to grow and wreak havoc on our mental health. Consider the stress you may feel due to an upcoming exam, the anxiety at meeting new people, or even the depression you may feel for no good reason—you just feel “stuck” and sad. The simple act of naming these feelings and exploring them while journaling can reduce their underlying threat and power, leading to a sense of release. 

Journaling also paves the way for personal insight and growth. You may use your journal to keep track of your thoughts and feelings—how they change over time in positive or negative ways. Being aware of these patterns can lead to the ability to change them. For example, if something makes you particularly anxious (such as meeting new people), you may find that, the more you journal, the more you understand what is causing the anxiety and what may help you be less anxious. You may realize, for instance, that before you meet new people you experience negative thoughts about yourself, and you may work to release or replace these with more positive thoughts in the future. 

Because journaling may seem daunting and cause stress in and of itself for beginners, here are some tips to begin journaling: 

  • Follow no rules—Your journal does not have to be a certain way, and it does not have to follow any particular format. Do not try to journal, just write whatever comes to mind, whatever feels right. Give yourself the space that you need to do this. 
  • Consider starting points—What have you been feeling lately? Is something upsetting you? Is something going well? Would you like something to change? Simple prompts like these are excellent starting points to begin journaling. 
  • Be consistent—It may take time and exploration to see what works for you and to experience the positive effects of journaling. Don’t let the stress you may feel at starting to journal (which could be a good starting point!) prevent you from continuing to journal! 

Self-exploration and expression are powerful means by which we understand and transform ourselves into who we would like to be. Journaling is especially useful in this regard and is often enjoyed for its therapeutic effects. 

Have you ever tried journaling? Are you interested in journaling? If you journal already, do you have any journaling tips—what works for you? What positive effects do you think you could experience from journaling? Comment below!

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: We look forward to talking to you!

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