How To Journal for Your Mental Health

I’ve always kept journals since as long as I can remember.

mental health journaling

When I was really little, my dad worked in notebooks (i.e. laptops) and his company would give him one to bring home. I was mesmerized by it, and he taught me how to open a Word document and type. Soon, I was creating long, electronic diary entries about what I did in school that day and who my best friends were. I still have those documents, written in 20 pt Times New Roman.

As I got older, I kept written journals. The ones I have kept date only as far back as seventh grade, but they’re nice to flip through. Today, I’d consider my blog a bit like journaling. I can look back at old posts and remember exactly what was going on in my life.

As I’ve gone through my mental health journey, I’ve looked for refuge in the form of research. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of articles and books. Almost every single resource has pointed me towards journaling, so over the past few months, I’ve given it a try.

mental health journal

A lot of you have reached out to me over the past couple months asking what helps me to deal with my anxiety. Well, writing out how I feel and setting goals has been monumental for me. I even asked for some Rifle Paper notebooks for Christmas, so I could write more and specifically devote one entire journal just for my mental health.

Today, I’ll share some tips and also an inside look at how I lay out my journal. I feel a bit like Anna Nalick in her song “Breathe” when she says, “And I feel like I’m naked in front of a crowd, ’cause these words are my diary screaming aloud….” but….do it for the blog, right?

And…I really want to help those who are fighting the same battle in any way that I can.

I start out with a monthly view to track my physical health.

mental health journaling

Since dealing with anxiety, I’ve had frequent migraine headaches and stomach aches and I believe them to be linked to my stress levels. I also track my energy levels, how much I sleep, and how I feel emotionally. Oddly enough (and maybe a little TMI) I noticed that I’ve had an anxiety attack on the second day of my cycle every month for the past three months. Maybe that’s more than you needed to know, but I thought I’d include that just to show you how beneficial it can be to track your mood and symptoms!

I adapted this monthly tracker from a random article I found through a search to fit my needs, so feel free to lay it out however it serves you best.

I set weekly goals and intentions

mental healthy journal

I decided I wanted to have a health goal, fitness goal, emotional goal, and relationship goal each week. I also choose a mantra and an inspiring quote. I love to sit down with hot tea on a Sunday night and set my weekly intentions.

I track what I’m doing each day, how I feel, and take any notes necessary

mental healthy journal

Your mood depends a lot on what’s going on in your day. If you notice you feel more stressed, maybe it’s because you have a presentation at work or a big party you’re hosting. If you feel exhausted, maybe it’s because you had a 6 a.m. workout. As people who suffer from anxiety, we like to know cause and effect. Effects with an uncertain cause can only build more anxiety, so I like to make sense of how I’m feeling. Better yet, I can spot a problem if I find an emotion unattached to any real cause.

Notes could be things like “I had a big fight with my sister” or “I felt really exhausted and took a 3 hour nap”….just anything you’d like to record that felt important – whether it be a positive or negative experience.

I record gratitude

They say it’s what keeps your grounded, so why not try it out. I try to write 2 things I’m thankful for each day. Sometimes they are as simple as “a good book” and sometimes they are more monumental, but it helps me to add positivity to each day.

I keep two other journals

mental healthy journal

I have a journal for lists and to-dos to stay organized. (That’s the pink one.) Being organized and having everything I need to do written down is something that really eases my anxiety, so for me, it’s a really positive thing. I also keep a journal for writing and other tid-bits. (That’s the black one.) When I walk around throughout the day or am by myself, the wheels in my head start turning and sometimes I think of a good line for a blog-post, a new idea, or even a whole chapter for my novel, so I like to write those down there.

I also do fun, thought-provoking journal exercises and list-making. 

mental healthy journal

(a blurry picture, but life’s all about the imperfections soooo….)

mental healthy journal

I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I love things that allow me to look back on my life and where I was at certain points. Recently I started the “52 Lists Journal” and the “Start Where You Are Journal”. The Start Where You are Journal is daily and great for the creative type that wants to get their juices flowing. (And really anyone who just feels like they need help starting to grow.) The 52 Lists is weekly, so I do it Sundays whenever I make my goals for the week. Type-A’s will love the list-making aspect! These are relaxing and fun for me, but I thought I’d share them in case you’d seen them on social media and were wondering if they were any good.

And sometimes, I try to practice mindfulness.

mental healthy journal

It’s a relatively new endeavor, but I’m enjoying learning about it. As you may have noticed, I’m a huge self-help book junkie, and when this one was bargain priced at Barnes and Noble, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s a guide, so even though I read it cover to cover in less than a day, I refer back to it when I feel like I need to focus in. Highly recommend!

Will you try journaling for your mental health this year?

X,

Cristina

P.S. I vlogged a little behind the scenes into my day-to-day and journaling process! Check that out here. 

  • I love this so much! I used to love keeping a journal and I think the idea of keeping track of your goals and health, etc. is awesome! I need to think about starting one back up again!

  • I need to start journaling more. I used to do it more often but fell off the wagon.

  • I love love loved this post, Cristina! Love getting to see how you journal, and how you organize everything.
    I have always been super type A organized kinda person and love writing and recording things like this!

    Definitely want to start doing fitness goals, and writing them out like you!

    xx, Jamie
    theblonderlife.com

    • cristina

      Thanks, Jamie! I think you’ll really like journaling and tracking fitness goals. Great excuse to buy a cute, new journal!

  • I love gratitude journaling! I have a whole separate journal for it, and have been doing it daily since the beginning of 2016! It’s changed my outlook on life dramatically and made me so much happier. I wrote a post about my journaling process too, and I felt so bare and like I was really putting myself out there, but I got such positive responses that I’m glad I did it. Also, it’s totes not TMI about the cycle thing. I usually get super emotional around the first couple days of mine!

    • cristina

      I’ll have to check out your post on journaling! It’s probably my favorite thing as of late. Gratitude is so amazing – I totally agree I can see a positive impact in my life since implementing gratitude journaling. Have a happy week! 🙂

  • This is really inspiring. As someone who’s dealt with deep depression and anxiety, I feel like this would be a health way for me to jot down how I’m feeling, as well as the health side of it. Back in high school, Tumblr kind of played a journal role in my life!

    • cristina

      Thank you so much, Summer! And I love Tumblr – that’s definitely my online moodboard!

  • Leigh

    Thank you. I have always bought way too many pretty notebooks from TJ Maxx that always got left unused. I have tried to journal but always felt like I was complaining or acting childish. I was almost always left in a worse state than when I began to write. You give such an easy way to document what is going on in day to day life without making it necessary to write a paragraph on what’s going on. I can not wait to start this. Thank you xx

    • cristina

      I’m so glad you’re excited to start journaling! It’s all for you, so it doesn’t matter if it every sounds a little whiney. Just do it for you and for your health! I’m so glad this helped ya, girl 🙂

  • I use a lot of different journals too! It helps me keep things very organized and clear-minded!

  • I’m not very good at keeping regular journals (I like to think of my blog as mine! Haha), but I enjoyed this post and learning about all of yours. 🙂

    xoxo A
    http://www.southernbelleintraining.com

    • cristina

      Blogging is a great way to record how you’re feeling and where you’re at in life. I love looking at it like that!

  • I’ve started journaling a little bit with my devotions which have been amazing! I love how you broke this down, I love putting pen to paper with everything! Learning about how you handle your mental health has been so helpful Cristina! Great job!
    xoxo
    Ashley

    • cristina

      Thank you so much, Ashley! I used to love journaling with my devotions, and I think that’s what got me started into journaling. I should really get back to that. Let me know your favorite devotionals 🙂

  • Loved this post. I haven’t written in a journal really since middle school. I always prefer to type. But i love hearing how you cope with anxiety. Mine has been really bad lately and I also get migraines and stomach aches related to stress. I am trying to get to the beach with a book this afternoon to decompress a little… <3

    Rachel | The Confused Millennial

  • This is amazing Cristina! So glad you’re sharing all this because I’m sure many people find it so helpful!
    -Anna | http://www.fivefootandfabulous.com

  • Great tips! I love your handwriting. 🙂

    Alix | http://www.apintsizedlifeblog.com

  • These journals are so pretty! I love all these tips.

  • I haven’t written in a journal since about middle school, but I love to read or go to the gym when I need to relax!

  • Great post! x
    I am so motivated to journal now 🙈
    In therapy we were told to keep a ‘happy journal’. You basically write down everything positive that happened in a day 🙂 Really want to start doing that.
    I love your idea to set weekly goals. Will try that as well 🙂