Journalling for your mental health

Putting pen to paper is great for working through your thoughts and feelings in a very personal way.

A woman has a notebook filled with writing open on a table. She holds a mug of tea in one hand. Photo: Alina Vilchenko

As the end of the semester nears, I feel like I’m drowning in schoolwork. There never seems to be enough time in a day to eat, sleep, study, and work, and it can make my thoughts run wild. But that doesn’t mean I should stop taking care of myself to make time for other things. I am the one who writes the essays. I am the one who clocks in and out of work to help pay for my education. I am the one who does laundry at midnight because it's the only time I have to do it. So if I don’t take care of my mental and physical health, nothing will get done. That’s why I started journalling.

I have been journalling since the start of 2023, and while it took me a while to find my groove, I now love it. There are no limits to what you can write about. And the best part is that NO ONE will read it. It’s oddly freeing that the only person who will ever know what you jot down in your notebook is yourself.

But I also understand the growing pains of implementing journalling into your routine. Where do you start? What do you write about? How do you express your thoughts and feelings? Don’t worry. Here are some tips and tricks as well as 10 writing prompts to help get you started on your journalling journey.


Treat yourself

Pick up some new stationery to fuel your hobby. It doesn’t have to be expensive—your local dollar store likely has a great selection of notebooks and pens. Buying stationery that's designated for your journalling can make the routine of writing feel more like a ritual. You deserve to spoil yourself, even if it is just a new pen.


Be kind to yourself

You don't have to write a New York Times Best Seller. If you miss a period or use too many commas, that's OK! Don’t worry about grammar mistakes or spelling the same word differently every time. It’s your journal, so write however YOU want. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Just put your pen to paper and see where your hand takes you.


It’s OK to get emotional

Seeing your thoughts and feelings on paper can be emotionally overwhelming. Even if you're writing about something happy, sitting with your thoughts for a long time can make you hyper-aware of your feelings. It’s weird at first. Sometimes, it's a little scary. But it's normal. Just make sure to give yourself time and space to feel those feelings.


Write as if no one's watching (because no one is!)

Journalling is a space to express whatever is crowding your mind. These words are for you. They're the arms and legs of the bodiless thoughts that can make your head feel 10 pounds heavier. So let them free! You’ll be surprised at how relieving it is.


Journalling prompts:

Take as little or as much creative freedom as you want with these. They're mere starting points wherever your mind (and hand) takes you.

  1. What do you wish you could say to your younger self?
  2. What song best represents you and why?
  3. If you could be any animal/insect/plant what would you be and why?
  4. What scent comes to mind when you think about a childhood memory?
  5. When are you the hardest on yourself?
  6. What five goals do you want to achieve in your life? Why?
  7. What scares you the most?
  8. List five things you're grateful for.
  9. What is one thing you can’t imagine living without?
  10. Look in a mirror and describe who you see.