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How to Journal for Mental Health

Brad Brenner, Ph.D.

Journaling involves keeping a record of your personal feelings, thoughts, and insights. Some people write or draw their thoughts in a physical notebook, while others use journaling apps on their smartphone or computer.

While most of us stopped using a diary after reaching adulthood, the concept and its benefits still apply. Journaling can help you express yourself more clearly, communicate better with others, and get to know yourself on a deeper level. And if you’re struggling with loneliness, stress, or a mental health condition, journaling can even improve your mental health. Here’s how.

Journaling for Mental Health

Journaling for Mental Health

Whether you’re journaling to cope with different mental health symptoms or as part of therapy, here are some tips on getting started:

  • Write each day. Carve out time in your schedule to write each day. You might write about your mental health problems, relationships, academic or professional life, or whatever is on your mind.
  • Keep a pen and paper around. This way, you have the freedom to write down your thoughts whenever you feel like it.
  • Don’t confine yourself. Instead, write or draw whatever feels right at the moment. Your journal is your safe space to explore your feelings.
  • Journal for yourself. Remember: you don’t need to share your journal with your friends or family members.

From adolescence to adulthood, journaling for mental health is beneficial at every stage of life. Journaling for mental health can help you find a sense of order when the world around you feels chaotic. Above all else, journaling can help you get to know yourself by exploring your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

Managing Your Mental Health

Although journaling can help you find different ways to cope with overwhelming emotions and foster positive mental health, it’s not a substitute for mental health care. If you’re living with a mental illness or mental health symptoms that affect your daily life, it’s essential to seek help and discuss your treatment options with a licensed professional. Some common types of mental health disorders include:

If you’re experiencing any of these mental disorders—or if you’re struggling to cope with difficult symptoms—you’re not alone. According to behavioral health statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five adults in the United States experiences a diagnosable mental illness annually. Although taking the first step might feel intimidating, mental health care is key to positive mental health.

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How To Maintain Good Mental Health

Mental illnesses can affect your thinking, mood, feelings, and behavior. They can be occasional or long-lasting and may affect your ability to function each day. Some tips to overcome poor mental health include:

  • Schedule an appointment with a therapist. If you’re experiencing mental health symptoms that interfere with your daily life, the first step is to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Mental health services can help you learn different ways to cope, navigate your emotions, and work toward mental wellness.
  • Schedule annual check-ups. In some cases, mental health symptoms can resemble medical conditions, and some mental health disorders can lead to physical health problems. To rule out any underlying conditions, visit your clinician for annual check-ups. Additionally, if you’re experiencing poor mental health, your clinician can provide a referral to a licensed mental health provider.
  • Seek social support. Opening up to trusted friends and family members about your mental health problems can help you work toward mental wellness and gain a valuable source of support, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Join a support group. Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that support groups can benefit individuals with mental health disorders, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and drug use and substance use problems. Support groups help combat stigma and loneliness while helping individuals with mental illnesses connect to other people in similar situations. If you’re unsure how to find a support group, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a wide range of resources, including NAMI Basics and NAMI Family. Your local mental health association may also provide in-person support groups.
  • Make positive lifestyle changes. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are integral to maintaining good mental health.
  • Call a hotline. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) for immediate support. If you’re struggling to cope with substance abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has a confidential hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Finding the Right Therapist

When it comes to therapy, working with the right person is essential. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, forming an honest, trusting relationship with your therapist can lead to long-term positive mental health outcomes.

More and more therapists are offering online mental health services—providing access to treatment from the comfort of your own home. Instead of commuting to the office, you can schedule a phone or video appointment with your mental health provider whenever your schedule allows.

To find the right therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you to a licensed counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist you feel comfortable with, regardless of your personal preferences and requirements.

One of the experienced mental health professionals on the WithTherapy platform will help you explore your mental health concerns, discuss your treatment options, and define what good mental health means to you.

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