As someone who has struggled with mental health for a long time, without ever going to therapy, I have found that journaling has been a bit of a saving grace for me.
It’s free, it’s easy when you have the right prompts, and it’s something that you can do again and again.
If you have read any of my blogs or are a member of my free wellness and self-care portal, you’ll know that I love worksheets and journal exercises, and I like to use them as a way to re-train problematic thinking that can lead to anxiety, procrastination, low self-esteem and really anything else that inhibits you from living your best life.
That’s why I have compiled a list of the best journal prompts to help reset your brain, get you out of a negative thinking pattern, and dig a little deeper into your psyche.
If you want a printable version of these prompts plus way more self-care resources, you can sign up to get them below for free!
Here are my top 100 journal prompts for your mental health!
I’ve organized them by category so you can go with what suits your mood!
Gratitude Journal Prompts
What do you appreciate most about your life right now?
What do you appreciate most about your parents?
What do you appreciate most about your friends?
What do you appreciate most about your occupation?
What do you appreciate most about your home?
Write about the worst day you have had? (if you are willing to go there, don’t worry if you don’t feel like writing about it)
Why was it so bad?
How did you feel about yourself that day?
How can you give yourself love for that day?
Can you give yourself forgiveness?
Write about how it makes you feel. And feel free to let yourself express those emotions out loud as well (cry, scream, punch a pillow – whatever you need to help release those emotions)
Digging in to recent emotions
What was the last thing that made you happy?
What was the last thing that made you cry?
What was the last thing that made you feel confident?
What was the last thing that made you angry?
What was the last thing that made you feel lonely?
Self-image and self-love journal prompts
Write about a protagonist character you admire and write 3 ways that they are similar to you
What would your best friend say was your best quality?
What do you think your best quality is?
Write a love letter to you body (even the parts you “don’t like”)
Name 3 cool skills you have
What is one thing that makes you unique?
Related Article: How to create a great goal setting worksheet
Often times, our physical health is very connected to our mental health. These prompts can help you find the connections between your physical feelings and your emotions.
When was the last time you felt exhausted?
When was the last time you felt sick to your stomach?
What situations, activities make you feel shaky or dizzy?
What situation made your heart race (in a good way)?
What situation made your heart race (in a bad way)?
The top 5s (good)
This exercise is just a good way to think about the good things that are in your life! It’s ok if you can only think of 3 or so!
So think about the top 5…
– songs that make you feel good
– activities that make you feel good
– smells that make you feel good
– foods that make you feel good
– foods that make you feel energized
– people you have fun with
– people that make you feel good about yourself
After going through those, write 5 ways you can incorporate more of these things into your life.
The top 5s (not-so-good)
It’s also a good idea to reflect on the things in your life that may not be so good for you.
So write down the top 5…
– foods that make you tired
– behaviours that make you tired
– things that make you anxious
– things that make you sad/depressed
– people that make you feel bad
– comments about you that make you feel bad
Now write 5 ways that you can decrease how often these things appear in your life.
Exercises For Specific Fears and Anxieties
The 5 why’s Journal Exercise
I love this exercise and I always recommend it when you might be unsure of the cause of your emotions. This is one of the exercises from my 10 minute journal exercises to reduce fear.
Write down the anxious thought, fear, on mental hold-back that is causing you pain, uncertainty, or that is just negatively impacting your life.
Then, ask yourself “Why am I having this thought or why do I feel this way?”
Based on your answer above, ask yourself why you feel that way again.
Ask yourself why again 3 more times, each time trying to dig deeper and further into your thoughts and feelings.
Based on those answers, you should hopefully have an idea about the root cause/trauma/reason behind your fearful/negative thought or feeling, which you can then write down,
Now, based on this root cause, ask yourself the following 3 questions:
– Is this how I should feel about this now?
– Can I reframe the way I think about this past event? i.e. stop blaming yourself or others, forgive and accept it for what it was.
– If/when I have this thought again, is there a better way that I can frame it?
Anxious Thought Analysis
Write down all the fears and anxieties you have right now. Don’t hold anything back. Write about how your fears make you feel.
Ask yourself if you are amplifying your fears with the following cognitive distortions:
Catastrophizing – irrationally assuming the worst-case scenario
Overgeneralizing – assuming that since something bad happened once, it will happen again under similar circumstances
Magical thinking – assuming that a specific, unlikely, and unrelated negative consequence will result – even with no evidence to support it
If you believe you are distorting reality, ask yourself what the most likely outcome of your feared event is
How likely is your fear to happen?
Take a moment and write down the likelihood of your fear. If it is most likely not going to happen, the fear is probably more of an irrational fear (and I’ll give you some prompts to deal with irrational fears shortly).
First, take a look at the fears that could actually happen.
Brainstorm some ways that you could lessen the impact if they happened. Think about what you could do even if the worst-case scenario happened. Chances are, there is a solution that will work.
Now write down a list of your strengths to handle the situation.
We often forget that we are very capable of handling tough situations.
Now, to deal with your more irrational thoughts and the thoughts from above that might still be worrying you, you can implement a Thought Safe Room.
The Thought Safe Room will help you determine thoughts that are not helpful and turn them into thoughts that are helpful.
Thoughts like negative self-talk, what-if scenarios, catastrophic thinking are NOT allowed in your safe room. The thoughts might knock on your door and you can acknowledge them, but don’t let them in!
Thoughts like positive self-talk, aspirations, confident thoughts in your abilities (i.e. “I can handle this”), gratitude are always allowed in your safe room!
For other thoughts, like constructive criticism, fear about things that could actually harm you or affect your life, you can greet them at the door of your safe room and choose to allow them in sometimes if you feel like they will improve your life and you won’t get anxious about them.
Some final questions about these fears:
In what ways are you missing out on life by being afraid?
How would your life be better if you didn’t have these fears?
Thought on Trial Journal Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to analyze an anxious thought from a logical perspective, as if it were on trial. The idea is to find evidence that supports or rejects your thought.
Write down the anxious thought
Is there evidence that supports this thought?
Make sure that this evidence is not based on random information you find from misinformed people on the internet or based off of what you think the situation is –these things are not actual representations of the truth.
Now ask yourself, is this based on facts or feelings?
Is there someone you could ask that could clarify the situation or give you insight?
How would a friend see this situation?
Based on what you wrote above, what is a more rational way to think about this thought?
Related Article: 10 Minute Journaling Exercise For Overcoming Fear
Writing Letters to Help With Healing
Writing letters that you can’t actually send is a great way to get out some emotions! Here are some people you can write letters to:
Your past self (you can forgive you past self for things you regret and talk about how far you have come since then)
Your future self
Someone who has hurt you (and express your anger about that)
Someone who has hurt you (and express forgiveness)
Someone who inspires you
Your inner child
Journal Prompts for Digging Deep and Getting Unstuck
Write a list of regrets + forgive yourself for each one
Write a list of improvements you could make to your life
Write a list of fears – are they rational?
How do your fears and anxieties hold you back?
Are there small steps you could take to lessen how much they hold you back?
When have you felt loved?
When have you not felt loved?
List 3 small ways you can you love yourself the way you want to be loved?
Do you express love in the way you would like to be loved? If not, why?
Is there anything you need to say to people in your life that would make you feel better?
What do you feel like you are holding back from the world?
Analyzing your behaviours
Do you ever behave badly towards people?
If so, why?
And how can you change that?
And how could that help you?
Are there any behaviours you do that increase your anxiety?
How could you modify those to decrease your anxiety?
Journal Prompts to foster Optimism
Write about your…
What can you do to bring yourself closer to those things?
What are some small things that you typically do throughout the day that make you happier?
Are there any fun things you would like to add into your life that you haven’t yet?
Is there anything you would really like to accomplish in life (i.e. your passion), but haven’t started or are too scared to start?
If you are too scared to start, why? (This answer can be used with any of the fear worksheets so that you can start to overcome this fear and go after what you really want)
How do you think these things can improve your current happiness level?
Is there anything else that could improve your current happiness level?
And although these things are fun to talk and dream about, write 3 ways that you can enjoy your life more right now.
So I hope that these journal prompts give you some extra help with your mental health and some inspiration for finding a deeper understanding of yourself.
And again, you can download a printable version of all of these journal prompts plus more by signing up below!
Sagesse ("Say Jess")
Owner of Mindaya