How To Start A Journal | Mental Health

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If you were to ask me what I believe the no.1 way to change your life is, I would say through daily journaling. So

And because you’re here, I’m guessing you want to learn more about journaling and the magical power behind this simple habit. (Just kidding, it isn’t magical but sometimes it will feel like it is…)

So, sit back, grab a cup of tea and get ready to learn all about how to start a journal and it’s wonderful mental health benefits.

Why I started Journaling…

First things first, I want to tell you about my personal experience with journaling and how it ultimately changed my life. Do I still have bad days? Yes, but I can handle them better. Do I still have to work on myself and manage my mental health? Yes but it’s easier now. Do I think I’ll ever stop journaling? No, because it is the kind of habit that needs to be maintained and not treated like a quick fix. 

So, my experience… For years I have really suffered with depression and anxiety, to the point where I felt I couldn’t cope any longer. People who say you need to hit rock bottom to get back up have never truly hit rock bottom. No one should have to face those kinds of thoughts and emotions. (I’m hoping you’re reading this post before you hit rock bottom, if not please check out this list of helpful mental health resources created by Kelly | Anxious Lass)

My counselor at the time suggested I started keeping a journal. At first, I couldn’t see the point, I believed it was a waste of time and was just going to be another thing that didn’t work. Which I guess it could be if you’re not willing to put the effort in. 

After a while, I started to put in the effort, I began to see the benefits of journaling. I started to notice my mood increasing and the gradual shift from a negative mindset to a positive mindset. I started to look at the world differently. Instead of obsessing over everything negative, I noticed all the good things around me. It is honestly such a surreal experience to notice a flower growing through the cracks in the pavement after spending so much time focusing on the crumbling concrete. 

Journaling changed my life. I have a job now, I have met so many amazing people because of my new found confidence and perhaps best of all, I realized my true passion was in helping others get out of that dark place and learn to love their life again (That’s why I started this blog!).

I guess I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to read this and think ‘that won’t work for me’. I don’t want to just tell you how to start journaling without explaining first why you should and how it can change your life. 

What is journaling?

What exactly is journaling and what does it involve? There is no real, straightforward answer to this question because journaling is different for everyone. Everybody journals differently for different reasons. Some people journal for productivity, organization, day to day planning, self-development, and mental health. 

I’m going to focus on the latter two, self-development and mental health journaling. Why? Because these are the two I tend to focus more on myself. If you’re wanting to learn how to journal for planning or organization, this post by Channon Gray might be able to help you. 

The google definition of a journal is as follows…

A daily record of news and events of a personal nature; a diary.

I’m going to change that a bit to suit our needs…

A daily record of your thoughts, emotions and events of a personal nature.

See, when you’re journaling for your mental health and self-improvement, it is important to focus on your thoughts and emotions rather than events. It’s not a diary, we’re not writing about going to Aunt Edith’s birthday. We’re writing about how our overbearing family members made us feel at Aunt Edith’s birthday party.

That’s the difference between a diary and a journal.

Why you should start a journal?

Journaling is important for everyone, not just those of us who struggle with mental illness or want to focus on personal development. Personally, I think everyone would be a hell of a lot nicer if they started journaling.

But that’s a different topic for a different day.

Journaling is important because it allows you to release your emotions and thoughts in a safe, controlled environment. Letting your emotions build up is unhealthy and leads to big breakdowns. Exploring these emotions and getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper lets you explore, challenge and release them. 

I’m pretty sure we’ve all been in that situation where life is getting a bit crazy and you’re feeling stressed. All it takes is one little thing to push you over the edge and next thing you know you’re shouting at your partner or your kids or sat crying in the bath. 

Instead of waiting for everything to boil over, writing your thoughts, emotions and challenges everyday gets them out of your head. This makes it easier to process and deal with any problems that arise. 

Why should you journal for personal growth?

As well as allowing you to process any difficult thoughts or feelings, journaling also helps you grow and develop as an individual. It gives you space to reflect on your actions while putting in place positive steps forward. 

If you find you’re struggling to decide which path to take in life, my method of personal growth journaling will help you explore these options to help you decide what you truly want out of life. You don’t need some long, expensive retreat where you reach enlightenment (that’s a tad time consuming and expensive) you just need a pen and notebook. 

Or my free self-discovery journal….wait till the end to find out more!

Common mis-truths about journaling

It’s not a diary full of hearts drawn over people’s names and lipstick prints, that’s a diary from your teenage years. We’re moving well beyond that now. Let me tell you a bit about my journal. It’s messy, unorganized and ineligible to anyone but me (I’ve never had the neatest writing) but it’s perfect. 

You don’t need to go out and find the most expensive notebook that has paper dusted with gold or a fountain pen with ink like the blood of greek gods. 

A touch too far?

What I’m trying to say is you don’t need to spend a fortune. I’m not going to tell you to buy this journal and that pen. I literally went to my local asda, picked a pink notebook that looked nice and away I went. Nothing fancy.

Paper and pen. That’s all you need.

How to start a journal for your personal growth 

Like I mentioned above, there are so many different ways to start a journal as it is different for everyone. However, I’m going to show you my 3 step journaling process that helps me manage my depression and focus on being the best version of myself. 

How are you feeling today?

The first step in my daily journaling routine is to tap into my feelings. I always write the question down and take a moment to think about what I’ve felt that day. Was I stressed, emotional, sad, happy, excited or numb? 

From here I also answer a couple of other questions related to my feelings. Why did I feel like this? Did anything cause this feeling? How did I deal with this feeling? 

For example:

How am I feeling today? 

Today I had the feeling that something wasn’t right. I felt pretty distracted all day and struggled to concentrate at work. I think this was because of the argument with my sister yesterday. She made me feel worthless and pathetic. After work I spent the night reading and listening to my favourite music to ground myself.  (This is purely an example, I don’t even have a sister)

Writing down and understanding your feelings allows you to let them go instead of carrying the low emotion into the following day. This part can take a bit of time getting into. A lot of the time our subconscious blocks us from recognising what causes our feelings as it knows these triggers may hurt us. With practice, it gets easier and more beneficial. 

I am grateful for…

Gratitude. The big G.


Remember I said understanding your emotions was hard? Gratitude is probably even harder, especially if you suffer from depression or anxiety. 

So, what is gratitude and how does it work? Gratitude is finding small parts of everyday life that you are thankful for. These could be objects, people, places or anything really. Anything that you look at and think, I’m glad that exists. 

How does gratitude work? When you’re in a low place, your mind tends to overlook any positive part of your life and in turn, obsess over the negative aspects. Practicing daily gratitude helps you draw focus on the positive parts of your life. With practice, this will encourage your mind to focus on the good parts of life rather than the negative. 

To practice gratitude, I make a list of three things I am grateful for every day. 

I am grateful for my family. 

I am grateful for my eyes and the ability to see. 

I am grateful for disney+ (I know I’m not the only one)

Many people swear by saying their gratitude phrases out loud but I’ve always found it more helpful to write them down. Then, if you’re ever having a really low day, you can look back through your journal and re-read about all these wonderful parts of life. 

Practicing gratitude every day isn’t easy. Your mind will probably convince you that you have nothing to be grateful for but it’s wrong. Three, small things. That’s all you have to find. After a couple of days it will become easier, a couple of weeks and you’ll be a pro. Give it a month and you’ll be like me, raving about the power of gratitude on the internet. 

Now, the final step…

What have I achieved today?

When I was in the pits of depression, I struggled to even get out of bed. Brushing my teeth felt like a 5 mile walk and getting dressed was both physically and mentally exhausting. I never felt like I achieved anything, even on the days when I got out of bed and showered. 

Let me tell you something. Everyday, even on the bad days you have achieved something. Even on the days where it feels like there is a crushing weight on your chest and everyone is annoyed with you, you’ve achieved something. You got up. You showed up. That’s something to be proud of. 

That’s why it is important to recognise your achievements, to notice the progress you are making, no matter how small. 

Aim to think of one thing you have achieved today. One thing that you are proud of yourself for doing. If I was to write in my journal right now, as I write this post, I would be proud of myself for getting dressed and actually putting on jeans for once instead of living in joggers.

Quarantine life am I right?!

You see, it could be something tiny, or you might have achieved something major. Recognising your achievements encourages you to do more and more. It makes you want to set higher goals, to push and chase your dreams. This is growth.

Are you ready to start a journal for our personal growth and mental health? Let me know! Comment below if you’re starting a journal or you already do journal. Maybe you have some tips that might help everyone on their journaling journey. 

You made it to the end!

If you’re still reading, you’re either really bored or you really do want to start a journal. Personally, I hope it’s the latter. Well, I have the perfect thing for you, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete beginner. 

My 30-day free self-discovery journal.

What’s included?

The 30-day free self-discovery journal includes 30 printable pages of journal prompts to encourage self-improvement and mental exploration. 

It takes 30 days to start a habit and my free self-discovery journal is designed to get you in the routine of journaling and exploring your emotions every day. If you’ve ever tried journaling before and given up, then the 30-day journal is perfect for you. It is designed to easily fit into your evening routine and only take 5 minutes out of your evening. The daily prompts encourage you to write every day without it feeling like a chore. 

Did I also mention it’s FREE?

Sign up below and you will also have access to the Self Love Circle exclusive Facebook Group where we encourage personal-development and discuss mental health management tips. As well as all this, you will be the first to receive access to new content and offers made exclusively for members. 

Sign me up!

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How To Start A Journal For Your Mental Health | Journaling 101
How To Start A Journal For Your Mental Health | Journaling 101
How To Start A Journal For Your Mental Health | Journaling 101

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2 thoughts on “How To Start A Journal | Mental Health

  1. Nick ·

    I’ve been through cycles of keeping a journal, but I’ve never really been mindful about it. I think one major issue is I’ve just written down, “How am I feeling today”, but neglected other points as you’ve mentioned.
    I’m guessing I’m going to have to try again. 🙂

  2. Angie Emde ·

    I’m in agreement I’ve found journaling great for healing and personal growth, a place to express thoughts and emotions. Thank you for sharing.