Journaling can be amazing for our mental health, especially depression and anxiety. However, if you’ve never kept a journal before, you might not know how or where to start.
Here are over 60 journaling prompts for depression (accompanied by a downloadable PDF), followed by tips on how to start a journal practice, the benefits of journaling, and what to include in your journal practice to help your mental health.
62 Journaling Prompts for Depression
How are you feeling on a scale of 1-10?
What are three words you could use right now to describe your current mood?
Is there an obvious reason for you’re feeling this way? E.g. have you been taking your medication, attending therapy and practising self-care? If not, make a note of what and why this might be.
Look back at a difficult time + how you overcame it and write about it.
What did you learn from a difficult past experience? How did you move forward?
What were five things you did during your last depressive episode that made you feel better?
List your five favourite self-care activities.
Write down three ways self-care helps you.
List 10 self-care ideas that you haven’t tried yet.
What motivates you in life?
Describe a recent dream that made you feel good.
Describe a recent dream that made you feel bad.
What are you currently worried about?
What thoughts tend to trigger your depression?
What activities/situations trigger your depression?
List three TV shows that make you feel content/happy/positive.
List three movies that make you feel content/happy/positive.
List three books that make you feel content/happy/positive.
What are five musicians/artists that you enjoy?
What are five songs that make you feel happy?
List three YouTube channels that you enjoy watching in your down time.
What social media self-care steps are you taking? (Are you unfollowing people who make you feel depressed?)
What are five big SMART goals you want to achieve in a year’s time?
What are five big SMART goals you want to achieve in five years’ time?
What does your dream life look like?
What are your 10-year goals?
List five things you’re grateful for.
List three people you can always talk to in an emergency.
What are 10 non-physical qualities that you like about yourself?
List as many of your favourite things about life as possible.
What are your favourite smells? What scents make you smile?
Write about three times in your life where you were memorably happy.
What is your biggest challenge right now? Write actionable steps about how you can overcome it.
Write about three things/events/situations you’re looking forward to.
Write about a negative situation that you overcame and how.
Write about three times you’ve overcome bad situations like a boss.
Write about a time you were a bad-ass.
What have you learned this week in regards to your mental health?
Write a thank you letter to your body.
What are five things you’re proud of?
Why are you proud of the five things you listed above?
What has your depression taught you?
List five things you wouldn’t know without depression.
List five places you want to visit.
List five things you can do today to make yourself feel better.
If money was no object, where would you like to travel?
What’s your dream holiday? Where is it? What would you do there? Who would you go with?
What’s your favourite way to move your body?
What’s your favourite food to nourish your body?
What’s your morning routine? Write about it. Could you fit in more self-care?
What’s your bed time routine? Write about it. Could you fit in more self-care?
What celebrity would you like to meet?
What’s your dream job?
Think about those closest to you; what do you admire in them?
What are five positive habits you’ve introduced into your life?
What are five positive habits that you WANT to introduce to your life. How will you implement them?
What are 10 things you’re really good at?
What are five things other people say about you. How would they describe you to a stranger?
Write about a positive interaction you’ve had with a stranger.
What are three good deeds you can do this week?
What are five things you can do for your body today?
What are five things you can do to help relieve stress?
Do you have a Journal Prompts PDF that I can download?
Why yes, I do!
How do I write a mental health journal?
Keeping a mental health journal is all about practise and turning journaling into a life-long habit.
It’s important to work it into your self-care routine and persist with it, even if your mental health is great at the moment.
Keeping a mental health journal can consist of several components, which I’ll go over in a minute, but ultimately you can write whatever you want.
Your journal doesn’t necessarily have to be a diary of your everyday life – although it obviously can be. It just needs to be somewhere where you can unload all of your thoughts onto paper, vent, appreciate what you do have, and set goals.
All of these practices can ultimately help you feel more positive, motivated, and put together. I know my depression and anxiety in particular really improved when I started keeping a journal and my aim with these journal prompts is to help you do the same.
When your mental health is in a bad spot, motivation can be extremely hard to come by. In fact, a lack of motivation and inability to find joy in activities we previously loved are two massive symptoms of depression, which is why journaling can really improve your mindset.
Obviously, I do want to note that a mental health journal shouldn’t replace professional help. However, it can really complement any therapy you might be getting and your therapist might even recommend you start a journal to help organise and rationalise your thoughts and emotions.
My main tips for starting a mental health journal are:
- Buy a journal(s) that you like the look of
- Set aside a few minutes every single day to journal
- Keep it with you
- Don’t get discouraged – be kind to yourself
- Use journal prompts
- Be open-minded
I’ll go over each journaling tip in more detail later in this post.
What should be included in your mental health journal?
Right, so let’s say you’ve bought a journal and want to use it in order to improve your mental health.
While you can fill your journal with anything you want, from art, to poetry, to random thoughts, I personally like to have a bit of structure and there are certain practices that can really help improve your mindset when turned into a daily habits.
You might even want to buy a few separate journals that have different purposes.
Practising gratitude is amazing for your mental health.
It’s something that I didn’t actually truly believe in until I started doing it myself.
Keeping a gratitude journal means listing down every morning and/or night a few things that you’re grateful for.
These things can be as small or broad as you like. For example, one day you might be grateful for having a roof over your head, the next you might be grateful for the cup of coffee you’re sipping on.
Our perspectives and situations change. Recognising and appreciating the positive aspects of our lives helps alleviate the weight of the not-so good, like depression.
I personally found that the positive affects of practising gratitude were very quick; taking those few minutes out of each morning to start my day off on the right foot were super-rewarding. After only a couple of weeks, I started to feel uplifted and even looked forward to practising gratitude in my journal.
A fantastic journal to start practising gratitude is the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change. It encourages you to sit down for around five minutes a day (hence the name) to write down what you’re grateful for.
It’s an amazing habit to get into and having a pretty journal – like the Five Minute Journal – complete with prompts can do wonders for your mental health.
For me, setting goals is a crucial part of climbing out of a depressive episode.
After laying in bed for days or weeks, feeling numb, devoid of positivity, and without a crumb of motivation to even wash my hair, goal setting is one of the best things I can do for my mental health.
Just sitting up in bed, picking up my journal and jotting down some small goals for the next week gives me such a boost, which is why I look at goal setting as an act of self-care.
I use my journal for big goals and small goals; long-term goals and little goals throughout the day.
I usually set around three goals each day, whether they be blog-related, home-related, finance-related, or self-care-related.
Pro tip: Set destination-based goals instead of journey-based goals.
What do I mean by this?
It’s the difference between writing, ‘Work on a blog post’ and ‘Write first draft of your blog post.’
The first goal is kind of vague and leaves room for you to simply write a couple of paragraphs; the second has a clear destination and final goal in mind – you’re finishing that first draft of a blog post.
It’s a small difference but it helps make me more productive, especially if I’ve been particularly depressed and unmotivated to work. It gives me a clear direction to heard in so that I don’t procrastinate.
A mood tracker
Tracking your mood can be really useful for your mental health when journaling. It helps you evaluate your mood from day-to-day and analyse what might be influencing your state of mind, which could prepare you for future depressive episodes.
Unfortunately, most journals don’t have one, but it’s very easy to do yourself.
There are a few ways you can track your mental health over time with your journal.
- A smiley/frowny face scale – Draw a face that accurately depicts how you’re feeling that day
- A colour scale – Mark the page with a certain colour; make sure to make a key of which colour correlates with which type of mood
- A number – How are you feeling on a scale of 1 – 10?
- A descriptor – Simply write a word or two for how you’re feeling mentally that day
While a mood tracker is a great way to look back at your fluctuations in mental health at a glance, a shadow journal, where you explore your not-so-amazing traits and where they came from, can be really cathartic.
Having a journal with space to simply dump all your thoughts, feelings, emotions, aspirations and worries can be especially helpful for depression and anxiety. Just getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper can feel therapeutic.
If you struggle with this, feel free to refer back to check out my journal prompts for shadow work.
Medication tracker/therapy appointments
Make sure that you keep up-to-date with any medication you might have to take for your depression, as well as therapy appointments and other important dates on the calendar.
Consider using a medication tracker where you tick off each day once you’ve taken your meds, and writing in your therapy appointments in advance so that you’re fully prepared.
Making time for self-care can be difficult, which is annoying since self-care is so damn important for our mental health.
Make sure you’re setting time aside for any self-care activities and jotting down self-care ideas as often as possible, if not everyday.
Victories and little wins
Celebrating our victories and little wins can be really helpful when it comes to feeling more positive.
Some days, our victories might be big. For example, you get an offer accepted on a house. Some days, the victory might be small – you managed to get out of bed and wash your hair.
No matter how small the victory, it’s never insignificant or unworthy of recognition. You deserve to pat yourself on the back and appreciate how awesome you are!
I invite you to note down three or more little wins or big victories every single day and see how much it improves your mindset.
Having a routine is crucial for my mental health.
It gives me direction, motivates me to actually get out of bed in the morning, keeps me on-track with my goals, and ultimately prevents me from spiralling into a hole of depression.
If you don’t have a set routine – or even if you do – try to set it out every single day in your journal. Even if it seems monotonous.
Forming healthy habits can be revolutionary for our mental health.
These habits might include daily exercise, meditation, drinking enough water, and eating regular, nutritious meals.
Is journaling good for depression?
Journaling is actually amazing for depression and I’m gutted that I didn’t catch onto this until later life.
It helps you unpack and rationalise any dark thoughts you might be having, as well as set goals to boost motivation, track your moods, and stick to a schedule, which all help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
The science definitely backs this up too.
Studies show that journaling therapy is particularly effective for treating depression in women and can reduce the symptoms of depression in high-risk adolescents when used as a tool alongside Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Other studies show that journaling can reduce intrusive thoughts and that people who have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder noticed a difference in just three days.
What are the benefits of journaling?
As you can probably tell, the benefits of journaling are huge, especially if you suffer from depression.
The benefits include:
- Boosting motivation
- Stress management
- Better time management
- A sense of gratitude
- Forming healthy habits
- Manage anxiety
- Alleviate intrusive, depressive thoughts
- Keep track of appointments and medication
- Help you feel more ‘put together’
- Encourages goal setting
- Identify problems so that you can solve them
- Encourages self-awareness
- Helps you prioritise
- Teaches positive self-talk
You’ve not got much to lose by at least giving it a go…
At least that was my thought process behind starting – and I’m so grateful to myself for finally doing so.
How should you start a consistent journal practice?
Journaling is great for depression.
However, I can already hear you: How am I supposed to get into journaling when I can’t even motivate myself to clean your room?
I get it, ’cause I’ve been there.
I can’t even tell you the amount of times I tried to start journaling and failed. However, in the last couple of years, I’ve got pretty damn good at it, even if I do say so myself!
Here’s what I did.
Buy a journal(s) that you like the look of
If you buy a journal you don’t particularly like the look of, it’s unlikely that you’re going to feel the urge to pick it up and write in it.
For the longest time, I was buying plain journals with blank pages and while that may be great for someone else (maybe you love the sound of that!), it wasn’t for me. I need pretty covers, prompts and stickers.
The journal that I currently use and have been using for a long time comes with a gorgeous rose-goal cover that’s embossed with the zodiac signs and it’s full of prompts, space to write, and stickers to make it all look cute.
(If this sounds like a journal that you would like, you can find it here.)
If not, don’t worry. There are plenty of journals, blank and otherwise, on Amazon that might be more your speed!
Set aside a few minutes every single day to journal
Forming a habit takes time… Maybe not the three weeks that everyone claims, but time nonetheless.
It also takes consistency. Consistency is KEY in forming a journaling habit.
Try to make journaling part of your day, schedule it in.
For example, perhaps the first thing you do every morning is get up, make a cup of tea, and sit down to journal. Or, perhaps it’s the last thing you do each day before you go to sleep.
Pick a time that works best for you and stick to it.
Keep it with you
I keep my journal next to my bed so that I can journal first thing in the morning, or last thing at night if I feel I need to.
I find that if I keep my journal in a random drawer or place I’m unlikely to look at it, I’m less likely to remember to practise.
Consider keeping your journal in a school or work bag, on your breakfast table, or by your bed, like me, so that you can’t miss it.
Don’t get discouraged – be kind to yourself
If you do forget to journal one day, don’t beat yourself up, just carry on as normal and continue journaling.
When we forget to journal once, we think we’ve failed and we completely quit. However, it’s getting back on the wagon and trying to remain as consistent as possible that helps form the habit.
Be kind to yourself and see it as an opportunity to be self-aware.
Did you deliberately skip journaling on that particular day?
Was it a particularly stressful day and you just couldn’t face writing your emotions down on paper?
Why might that be?
Learn from it and continue your journal practice.
Use journal prompts
I can’t stress this enough: if you struggle with processing and writing down your emotions, practising gratitude, setting goals or tracking your mood, use journal prompts.
In this blog post, I’ve already included 60+ journaling prompts for depression to get your started.
Prompts literally do what they say on the tin – they prompt you to journal. They give you the questions that you have to answer.
They’re a real time-saver, whether you’re new to journaling or have been at it for years!
At first, journaling can seem a bit woo-woo and corny. You might even feel silly.
However, the science is there – it massively helps depression and improves your mental health in general.
There’s no reason not to.
Be open-minded and honest when using the journaling prompts for depression because that’s the best way to get to the heart of the problem. That’s how you’re going to get the most out of this practice and feel the results.
How to start a bullet journal
Bullet journals are blank journals aimed at people who want to create their own journal pages.
All you’ll see on the page of bullet journals are tiny guide-dots designed to help you draw and design.
Basically, bullet journaling means you design your own journal to suit your needs, which is massively helpful to a lot of creatively-minded people who want to journal for their mental health, but don’t want to follow a preset structure.
If you want to get into bullet journaling but have no idea how to fill them in or where to even start, Whitney from Life By Whitney has a popular course on how you can do exactly that: Journal You.
The course is taught to you by 10 teaches, includes 40 videos, and 100 printables on how to bullet journal.
It covers everything from supplies, to creating layouts (with examples), to managing to-do lists and goal setting.