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How to start a journal for mental health: Tips and advice for beginners

How to start a journal for mental health Tips and advice for beginners

I was sceptical about starting a journal for my mental health. Still, with nothing to lose I gave it a go.

We all know the power of getting our thoughts and feelings out before stress and anxiety take hold. In recent years, especially during the nightmare of COVID, more of us have put pen to paper and taken up journaling! But why?

Click here to read my advice on how to start a journal for mental health


For me, it started in 2017 after a breakdown. I started to see a therapist, this is where I first heard how journaling could help. During one of my sessions, I was given homework, to start a journal for mental health and write my innermost thoughts down on a daily basis.

Leaving the therapist’s office and it began. Opening notes on my phone, my fingers started to type. It was a great introduction to a new coping strategy. However, it didn’t last long. Basic journaling was a part of my life for a year until I convinced myself ‘I’m just too busy’.

Depression and anxiety crept back in. Not to mention my OCD ‘obsessive-compulsive disorder’ hitting me hard. All of my issues were back to team up and ruin everything. There was no way another breakdown would take control! This time I would make an effort to help my mental state and stick with it.

My first plan of action was to slow down and learn about mental wellness. To expose my mind to more positivity in the world. It’s so easy to focus on the negative, and just as easy to forget that life is a gift. Scrapping TV and putting my devices aside, I began to read. I found a thought-provoking read, Alan Watts, The Way Of Zen, left me feeling calm and wanting more from life.

My newfound love for learning was underway. This led to studying mindfulness, mental health awareness, and teaching myself about the many mental health problems 1-4 of us will face.

I started to realise why keeping a journal is so beneficial. It not only helps us organise our thoughts, but this simple tool allows us to go back to basics. The act of writing on a piece of paper is strangely relaxing. We find ourselves being truthful and opening up more.

Remember, be open with your words. Have no fear of being judged. This includes judging yourself.

Bullet journaling is a great starting point. This very simple format is a way to monitor our mood and plan. This helps to free the dreaded ‘Monkey mind’.

I tend to do this throughout the day, labelling my mood from 1 – 10 followed by gratitude.
Example:

  • Mood 7 – I’m feeling stressed but I am okay
  • I am grateful for the fresh breeze and quiet

I felt past events were being suppressed, so I began to write. Delving deep into my emotions with the hope I’d have a better understanding of why I’ve struggled so much. It did feel strange writing in this way.

What if I stumble on a hidden memory? What if someone found my words and judged me?

Still, I carried on unleashing my thoughts from past to present in 2000-word documents. I cannot explain how much this helped!

As we write, we can expose ourselves to triggers. But this allows us to get it out, accept it, and in many ways, let it go.
Everything that’s bottled up is being freed!

My advice to you if you would like to start a journal for mental health

  • You’re never too old to learn
  • Reading, writing, and being inquisitive are all coping strategies
  • Start with jotting down your thoughts, good and bad
  • Do this first thing in the morning and before bed for a winning formula
  • Always end on a positive note

Getting our emotions out through writing can be done anywhere and costs nothing! We don’t need to be the best speller; The grammar police won’t care if the odd comma is out of place. This act is to help you! Grab a pen and paper and see how you get on.

About the contributor

“After one too many blips with my own mental health, I began to find coping strategies, the main one being journaling. I started to write and share my story with hopes to start a conversation. I was overwhelmed with the response. My struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) Anxiety and depression are not uncommon and I wanted others to know they were not alone. My focus is to help break down the stigma in and around the subject of mental ill-health, by writing openly, honestly, and in an approachable non-jargon manner.”

Anthony Bryan is a mental health advocate. He writes about his experiences with mental health at mentalish.co.uk.

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