Journaling to Relieve Anxiety and Improve Mental Health

Updated August 23, 2022
Young woman writing in her journal and relaxing on the couch at home

Journaling can be a great way to process your feelings, organize your thoughts, and identify your anxiety triggers. For individuals who experience anxiety on a day-to-day basis, journaling can be a helpful addition to other tools that can assist with decreasing these uncomfortable feelings. Journaling is not just beneficial for those who regularly feel anxious. This type of expressive writing can be an also incredibly helpful activity for anyone who is feeling other types of emotions.

So how does journaling help with anxiety? Journaling can help you to understand the cause of your anxiety and can also enhance overall wellbeing. Not only can journaling help you process what you are experiencing, but it can also be used to help you track your stress and anxiety levels over time.

How Keeping a Journal Can Help With Anxiety

Stress and anxiety have physical and mental manifestations that can impact your overall quality of life. Fortunately, writing can help with stress - especially expressive writing such as journaling.

Mental Health Benefits

Keeping a mood journal is believed to offer overall wellness benefits. It can provide a number of mental health benefits, such as helping you to:

  • Better understanding your anxiety triggers

  • Engage in positive self-talk
  • Identify negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety
  • Identify what is triggering your stress and/or anxiety
  • Manage anxiety and reduce your stress levels
  • Prioritize the challenges you are facing
  • Process and organize your thoughts
  • Release your emotions in a private and safe space

More Reasons to Keep a Journal

During confusing, stressful, and scary moments that occur in your everyday life or in world events, journaling can offer a moment of peace where you can take time to process things that cause you to experience stress, or otherwise negatively impact your wellbeing. . Writing in a journal may help you sit with the feelings you are experiencing in a healthy way and eventually release them. Situations in which journaling may be particularly helpful include things like:

How to Start Journaling to Improve Well Being

Journaling to relieve anxiety can be done on paper or on a computer. For some writing on paper offers a greater release, while others prefer digital journaling. If you're not sure which you would prefer, experiment with different options to find out what works best for you.

Cozy woman reflects in her journal

Create a Ritual

You may find that creating a ritual around journaling can help you to get into the right mindset. To begin:

  1. Pick a quiet area and designate a certain spot for journaling.

  2. Close your eyes and direct your focus inward to reflect.
  3. Try to identify your emotions and where you feel them in your body.
  4. Begin writing whatever comes to mind.

You may want to create relaxing rituals around your journaling process like lighting a candle, burning incense, or listening to relaxing music.

Use Prompts

It can feel challenging to know what exactly to begin writing about if you've never journaled before. If you are able to write in a stream-of-consciousness way, that can be a great place to start. If that isn't your style, consider using writing prompts to help you get started. Examples of writing prompts specific to anxiety include:

Woman snoozing on her bed after writing in journal

  • What does my anxiety feel like?
  • Have I felt similar anxiety symptoms before?
  • Why does this feel difficult to work through?
  • What do I have control over in this current situation?
  • If I could pull my anxiety out of my body and have it take a physical form, what would it look like?
  • If my anxiety is a message, what is my body trying to tell me about the situation?
  • What triggered these anxious feelings? How intense do they feel on a scale of zero to 10?
  • What's another way I can look at this situation, or reframe it? What positive or neutral takeaways are there?
  • What are three behaviors I can do to help ground myself?
  • What are some negative beliefs I have about myself? If I viewed these negative beliefs differently or more neutrally, what would that look like?

You may also want to start with a one-word writing prompt or even use a photograph as a writing prompt.

Write Regularly

Journalling is a personal process, so you can journal as often as you'd like. When you're getting started, it's a good idea to schedule around 15 minutes to write in your journal around four times per week. This will help you get in the habit of writing in your journal. From there, you can add or reduce time or frequency as needed.

Seek Help When Needed

Journaling is a great tool, but it can't replace the help of a professional counselor or therapist. If you are having a difficult time engaging in your ordinary day-to-day activities or are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or others, it's a good idea to immediately reach out to a qualified mental health professional for help processing what you're going through.

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Journaling to Relieve Anxiety and Improve Mental Health