Therapists have said it time and time again: Journaling can be great for your mental health. It can help you purge your thoughts, iron out issues you may be having or simply vent before you go have a difficult convo with a loved one. Helpful as journaling can be, when you’re first trying to get into the habit, you might need a little push to get started. So, with the help of Joelle Prevost, L.C.S.W. and author of The Conversation Guide: How to Skillfully Communicate, Set Boundaries, and Be Understood, we’ve compiled this list of ten helpful journal prompts for mental health that can help you get started and get past that writer’s block.
10 Journal Prompts for Mental Health That May Help You Cope
1. How I felt today when X event happened.
Oftentimes, people think journaling is something you do when you want to air out your grievances. But it’s also wise to practice writing when things are going well. There’s as much value in expressing joy and happiness in your journal as there is in expressing anger, disappointment or heartbreak. “We often aren't aware of our emotions, which can make it hard to express them,” says Prevost. “Reflect back on emotions of the day. This can help with your own personal emotional awareness, as well as your ability to express your emotions to other people.”
2. Describe a goal.
It’s one thing to think of your dreams in an abstract way. It’s another to really think about the nuts and bolts of executing that dream. Flesh out each the benchmarks you need to accomplish to reach your bigger milestones. It’s especially helpful for the ambitious goals—the ones that seem to be far out of reach—to lay down step-by-step how you’re going to get there so that the road to the end doesn’t seem so daunting.
3. Who or what motivates you the most?
We all get caught up in our mundane routines, and it can put a hamper on your drive. So when you find yourself struggling, put pen to paper and try to remember what motivates you. This prompt helps you keep stock of why you do the things you do. That way, even on those tougher days, you can get back on that horse by keeping an eye on the bigger picture.
4. List three things you did well today.
Again, your journal doesn’t have to be a place where you dwell on the sad stuff and only critique yourself. Sometimes, it’s nice to give yourself props for that presentation you slayed at work or the fact that you were able to do 40 flights on the Stairmaster this morning. “It can be easy to focus on the things you want to get better at or change. This is a reminder to give yourself credit for the things you’re doing well,” Prevost urges. Keep in mind that these things don’t have to be monumental either. Small tasks—documenting a walk around the block, the fact that you cooked that day or that you finally got around to deleting all irrelevant work emails—can qualify as accomplishments for the day as well.
5. Write a letter to a person who has negatively impacted you.
6. Write an open letter to someone you love.
In the same vein, it’s also important to journal about the people who bring us good energy. List all the ways they’ve had a positive impact on your life making sure to fully describe every characteristic about them that makes you happy. What have you learned from them? What are some qualities about them that you wish you had? What’s your favorite memory you’ve shared? The list goes on.
7. What are some risks you want to take? What are the things holding you back?
The great Albus Dumbledore once said, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself,” and we couldn’t agree more. We all can be our own worst enemies when it comes to pursuing things out of our comfort zone, but just living with the fear of failure swirling in your brain and ruminating on the worst possible scenario doesn’t bring you any closer to trying something new. This prompt helps you spell out the fears that are keeping you from taking the risks you want to take and evaluate whether the prospect of failure outweighs the benefit of trying. You may end up deciding not to move forward, but at least you recognize the fear.
8. List three things you learned this week.
Most of us like to believe we have it all figured out (guilty as charged), but no one is above learning something new. It can be anything from a major epiphany to a whimsical Snapple fact. “Learning is a part of growing. This prompt can keep your mind open to accepting new information and be on the lookout to learn new things and grow,” Prevost states.
9. Remember a time you felt connected to someone.
When you’re going through a tough time, it can be easy to isolate yourself and feel lonely. (Throw in this rollercoaster of a pandemic and the stakes are ten times higher). But it’s good to remember that you’re not alone. Write about a time you felt connected to someone—at work, at brunch with friends or even when you and a stranger were complaining about the quality of produce at your local grocery store. Keep in mind that no matter how bleak things may seem, you’re still part of a community. “Remember that you are not alone,” urges Prevost. “This can help with a sense of belonging and happiness.”
10. Write a love letter to yourself.
Believe it or not, you’re doing amazing, and you deserve every ounce of credit for getting through each day. Talk about all the progress you see yourself making and all the challenges you’ve handled well. You can even write about the moments you realize you could’ve done better. But ultimately, try to stay positive. You got this.