Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health

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Journaling can be a beneficial practice for an array of reasons, such as helping you process difficult experiences and deal with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. As you learn more about the benefits of journaling for mental health, you can find the approach that works best for you.

What Are the Benefits of Journaling for Your Mental Health?

Many mental health practitioners encourage their clients to keep journals. For example, at Conscious Health, journaling is an essential component of our guided ketamine therapy.

Journaling can take many forms, but in a mental health context it often involves the following approaches:

  • Maintaining a daily log of your activities and feelings, which will likely include recording both positive/pleasant and negative/difficult experiences
  • Responding to daily prompts, which can require you to consider your feelings and opinions about an array of different topics 
  • Keeping a gratitude journal, which highlights people, events, and circumstances that you’re thankful for 


The potential benefits of journaling for mental health include:

  • Journaling requires you to consider your thoughts and experiences from a slightly different perspective. This may help you note aspects or patterns that you weren’t aware of when these events or emotions were occurring.
  • Journaling allows you to express a variety of emotions in a safe environment. Knowing that you won’t be judged or stigmatized can free you to let out feelings that you might usually try to keep bottled up.
  • Gratitude journals force you to look for positive moments, even during the most difficult days. Incorporating this habit into your everyday life can help you develop a more positive outlook on life.


Journaling for mental health hasn’t been studied as thoroughly as many other interventions have – but the limited research that exists suggests that the practice offers measurable benefits.

In March 2022, the journal Family Medicine and Community Health published a review of prior studies that investigated the effectiveness of journaling for mental health. 

This review, which analyzed 20 peer-reviewed, randomized trials and 31 outcomes, yielded the following insights: 

  • Study participants who journaled showed a “statistically significant” 5% reduction in mental health scores compared with control groups.
  • The best average score reductions occurred among participants who had anxiety (an average 9% score reduction) and PTSD (an average score reduction of 6%).
  • Within the PTSD group, the effectiveness of journaling declined as the age of the participants increased. 
  • Among participants who had depression, those who journaled for more than 30 days scored 10.4% better than did those who journaled for fewer than 30 days.
  • Among all who journaled, female participants achieved better average improvements in symptom scores than male participants did.
  • In three of the four studies that involved gratitude journaling, participants showed “significant improvements in symptomology.”
  • Among 27 outcomes that employed an expressive writing intervention, 19 (or 70%) led to considerable symptom reduction. 
  • Overall, 68% of the outcomes included in this review demonstrated significant positive differences between journaling groups and control groups.


The authors of this study also noted that what therapists do with patients’ journals can impact the benefits of the activity. Therapists who read their patients’ journals, they concluded, may be undermining their effectiveness.

“Much of the efficacy of journaling comes from the ability of one to write openly and honestly, without the fear of judgement, safe in the knowledge that the journal will not be read by others,” they wrote. 

“While some involved in those studies were only collecting journals to ensure compliance, some were in fact analyzed for content,” the researchers added. “Both practices in our opinion are counterproductive to optimal journaling practices.”

Guide on How to Journal for Your Mental Health

As we noted earlier in this post, journaling can take a variety of forms. There’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal – though if you are doing so as directed by a therapist or counselor, they may set certain parameters to ensure you get maximum benefit from the experience. 

For many people, the most difficult part of journaling is getting started. This is why responding to specific prompts can be such an effective technique. Prompts can give a focus and structure to your journaling, so that instead of trying to decide what to write about, you can devote your full attention to responding to the day’s topic.

Journal Prompts for Mental Health

If you’re new to journaling, or if you’ve been feeling a bit undermotivated to write lately, here are some mental health-focused prompts that can be helpful:

  1. Describe your best memory from your childhood or adolescence. Be as detailed as possible. What sights, sounds, or other sensory experiences do you recall from that day? Looking back, what is it about this event that makes it so special to you now?
  2. What are you most grateful about today?
  3. Write about time that you faced a challenge or experienced a setback. How did you overcome the challenge or respond to the setback? Would you do anything differently if you were in the same situation today? If so, what?
  4. What are five things that you wish other people knew about you?
  5. Write a letter to 15-year-old you. What advice, warnings, or words of encouragement would you offer to your younger self?
  6. Imagine that it’s 20 years in the future. Write a letter to present-day you. Describe the accomplishments you’ve made and the challenges you’ve faced during these two decades. What advice, warnings, or words of encouragement would future you give to present-day you?
  7. What is your greatest strength? Are you using this strength to maximum effect? If not, why not?
  8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? How would this change improve your life? What’s stopping you from making this change today?
  9. What is the best gift you have either given or received? 
  10. If money were no object, how would you live your life?

Explore Conscious Health and Our Mental Health Options

Untreated mental health concerns can have a disruptive impact on virtually every part of your life. But when you get the care you need, you can build a foundation for a much healthier and more hopeful future.

Conscious Health provides a dynamic array of innovative, evidence-based services to help adults who have been living with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. 

At our outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles, you can receive the customized services that will help you make lasting changes and experience elevated living. Every step of the way, you will be guided and supported by a small team of experienced and understanding professionals.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.

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