Keeping a journal is a powerful tool, this is because journaling can offer a safe space to process and explore thoughts and emotions that affect your mood and reflect on impactful life events and experiences. For example, journaling may help by:

Boosting mindfulness
Journaling about your current thoughts and feelings, or visual and other observations, can help you to become more mindful.

Processing emotions
Journaling can make emotions feel manageable. When there are a lot of negative thoughts floating around in your head, getting them out and onto paper will help put things into perspective, making it all feel less daunting.

Identifying triggers
The more you journal about what’s happening in your daily life, the more you’ll be able to become aware of which events, thoughts, or behaviours may be making you feel down.

You may also start to notice certain patterns. Maybe you notice a worsened mood:
at particular times of the day
after talking with certain people
when engaging in certain habits, like saying “yes” to something you don’t want to do or spending a lot of time on social media

Say you’ve felt pretty down recently, with no clear idea as to why. After journaling about the things happening in your life for a week, you notice you’ve been experiencing consistent feelings of self-doubt across a range of situations. Pinpointing the underlying trigger can help you address it, along with any specific situations fuelling it, and brainstorm alternate coping strategies.

Reframing thinking
Repetitive negative thinking, especially revolving around worries, can feed into symptoms of depression and anxiety. Here’s how it might play out:

A friend doesn’t respond to your text for days.
This triggers the thought that maybe they’re mad at you or no longer like you.
Eventually, you find yourself in a low, sad mood, worrying constantly about the loss of that important friendship.

Journaling presents an opportunity to acknowledge and challenge these thoughts and reframe them in a more positive way.
Consistency is key
Journaling consistently tends to make the most difference when it comes to mental health benefits. As a general guideline find a place where you can journal that’s free of distractions and committing to a specific time of day and amount of time for writing. To get started, setting a timer for just 5 to 10 minutes and allowing yourself to journal in a stream-of-consciousness manner about whatever comes to mind. Try to avoid self-editing so you can express yourself freely.

Another good strategy for beginners is to try journaling about your intentions or goals in the morning, and then reflecting on how you followed through in the evening. While reflecting on the day’s events, make it a point to acknowledge small wins to build up your self-esteem.

If you’re having a difficult time with negative thought patterns practice journaling positive affirmations. Such affirmations tend to activate the reward system in your brain, which can help you have a more optimistic outlook about the future.