51 Therapeutic Journaling Prompts For Mental Health

Therapeutic writing prompts can be a great way to cope with anxiety and stress.

They can provide an outlet to vent about problems or challenges, and they can also provide a welcome distraction.

Some people use journaling as a grounding skill, while others can use it to lift their spirits and remind them of positive things. 

Use the following journaling prompts for mental health to unburden your mind and get your creative energy flowing.

(Sidebar: You might like our bestselling book. The Mindfulness Journal is your daily guidebook for applying mindfulness to your work, your relationships, or even the most mundane tasks of your day.)

How to Journal for Mental Health

Journaling might not be the first idea that comes to mind when you want to feel better emotionally.

However, studies confirm that journaling is associated with a decrease in mental distress, including depression and anxiety, and an increase in emotional well-being.

It’s a practice well worth pursuing and developing as a regular habit. Set aside a specific time of day for writing in your journal, and try to write daily.

Don’t be afraid to spill your heart and your thoughts when you journal. Releasing these pent-up emotions via writing is the only way to get the full benefits of therapeutic journaling.

You might consider a locked journal since you’ll write about private information.

So how do you incorporate journaling into your mental health toolkit? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Use a journal as part of therapy. If you are seeing a therapist, journal what you discuss in sessions, the actions you take as a result, and your emotional journey toward growth and healing.
  • Journal for increased self-awareness. If you lack clarity about yourself, who you are, and what you should be doing with your life, journaling can help you discern the answers as you explore insights and options.
  • Journal to understand your emotions. Many people have profound and strong emotions but have trouble labeling them and understanding what triggers them. Use journaling to explore your emotions and learn how to manage them.
  • Try journaling about relationship themes. Our close relationships can be a significant source of stress and difficulty in life when we aren’t self-aware or emotionally healthy. Look for themes or recurring dramas in your relationships, and journal about them. Use this information to learn healthier ways of interacting with others.

51 Therapeutic Journaling Prompts for Mental Health

The following prompts are divided into three categories: prompts for therapy (and distraction), prompts for sadness, and prompts for anxiety.

Use them in a way that helps you most. 

You can tackle one prompt a day, so you’ll have enough for a month. Or you can take one prompt in a particular category and use it for an entire week — or only when you’re feeling particularly anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed.

As you write for each prompt, your mind will suggest mental health journaling ideas on related topics to write about.

That’s the genius of your messy, connected mind. 

Use it and keep writing, or save the idea/s for another time.

Journaling Prompts for Therapy and Distraction

Journaling prompts for therapy can lay the groundwork for deep self-exploration. Get to know yourself better while distracting yourself from the things getting you down.

1. If you could see a live performance from any singer, alive or dead, who would you choose? Where would the performance take place?

2. If you had to be quarantined in one place for a month, what would you want that place to look like? Who would be quarantined with you? What entertainment resources would you want?

3. You just won the lottery. What is the first thing you’re going to do?

4. If you could have any animal, real or mythological, as a pet, which would you choose?

5. Pick one of your favorite fairy tales or classic stories. Rewrite a scene from the perspective of a side character. What are some details that the main characters might not have noticed?

6. If you were famous, what would you like to be known for? How would you help make the world a better place?

7. If you could travel to any fictional world, where would you go? What characters would you want to meet? Would you choose to alter their story?

8. Pick a color. Try to describe that color without mentioning its name. What emotions are tied to the color? What memories do you have of it? What sets it apart from others?

9. If you could invent an ice cream flavor, what would it taste like? What would you name it?

10. If you could travel to any point in the past, where would you go? Who would you meet? How would you avoid making dramatic changes?

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Journaling Prompts for When You Are Having A Bad Day

Journaling prompts can help clear the fog and renew your motivation to get things done when it’s a bad day. Just getting the words out is an accomplishment in itself. And what you write can lead to new insights and discoveries.

11. If you could change a part of your environment (your house, furniture, yard, etc), what would you change? How much time would it take? Is there a way you can make a small change for the better?

woman feeling happy writing on journal therapeutic journaling prompts

12. What is one thing you’ve been putting off? Write about how you would feel if you got it done? How could you reward yourself after?

13. Make a list of your friends, family, coworkers, pets, etc. Write down the things you like about each person. What makes them special? Do the same for yourself.

14. Write about one of your fondest memories. Put extra attention into how you felt in that moment. What are some things you could do to keep making positive memories?

15. Make a list of your achievements. What makes you proud? What are some little things that you have done in the past few days that have helped make your life easier?

16. What is your favorite movie? Write about one of the struggles the characters faced. How did they overcome it?

17. Pick a fictional character that you admire. Make a list of their positive qualities. Then, make a list of their flaws. What makes them human? What do you have in common?

18. Make a list of songs that you like to listen to when you’re sad. What do you listen to when you’re happy? What songs help you cope with strong emotions?

19. Write about a person who has made a positive impact on your life. What did they do that helped you the most? What would you say to them if you could talk to them now? How can you help someone else with similar struggles?

20. Write about a book that you would happily read again. How has this book brought comfort in times of hopelessness? Who would you recommend this book to?

21. Write a letter to your future self. Write about the things you hope for. Ask yourself questions. Even if you don’t get the answers right away, you can keep looking for them. Then, try writing one to your past self.

Journaling Prompts for Anxiety

Journaling prompts for anxiety can help you identify what’s really bothering you. Or they can help you steer your mind in a more calming direction, so you can touch base with yourself and focus on the present moment. 

22. Write about your clothes. How do they smell? How do they feel? Include the things you like about them. How do you feel when you’re wearing them?

23. In times of stress, take a few moments to write about things that make you happy. What are you grateful for?

24. Write about a time you faced a challenge and overcame it. How did you feel afterward? Was it as bad as you’d thought?

25. Make a list of people you can reach out to when you feel anxious. Do you have a way to contact them? How would they help you?

writing on journal therapeutic journaling prompts

26. Write about the way you see yourself in social situations. What are some of the things you do that make you insecure? If someone else did/said the same thing, would you judge them?

27. Write about advice that you would give to a friend who is stressed. What would you tell them to try? What are things that have helped you in the past?

28. Make a list of things you like about yourself, things you want to do someday, and reasons to keep trying new things.

29. If you could do anything without failing, what would you try? What is standing in your way now?

30. Write about your ideal day. What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you spend the day with?

31. Make a list of places to go during the next month. They can be specific stores, restaurants, or nearby cities. What would you do at each place?

Journaling Prompts for Healing

Most of us can’t pass through life without past wounds, shame, insecurity, and pain. It is part of being human. But that doesn’t mean we can’t heal from these traumas and drams. Journaling can be part of the healing process.

32. In what part of your body do you carry the most emotional pain? Write about the pain, what it feels like, and why you think you feel it in this area of your body.

33. What triggers your deepest emotional wounds? Write down the triggers and how you react to them.

34. How have the triggers, and your reactions to them impacted your relationships? Journal about the specific ways your close relationships are impacted by your reactions.

35. Think of someone in your life who has wounded you deeply. Write a letter to that person (without sending it) expressing your most honest feelings.

36. Consider something in your childhood that caused you deep pain, shame, embarrassment, fear, or trauma. Journal about the situation, and then write a letter as your adult self to that small child.

37. Journal about some of the people you have hurt in your life and what you did to hurt them. Write about how you can forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness if appropriate and useful to your healing.

38. What do you feel shame about in your life right now? Journal about the shame you feel, why you feel it, and how it impacts your life.

39. What are you hanging on to that you need to let go of? It could be something material, a relationship, a job, or a belief. Journal about why you can’t let it go.

40. Consider any negative thought patterns and mental loops you regularly engage in. Journal about these thoughts and whether or not they are true. How do these thoughts impact you?

41. Is there something you are afraid to face or address head-on? Journal about this situation and why you are fearful of it.

Journal Prompts for Depression

Depression is often the result of unaddressed and untreated past wounds and life challenges. Even when depressed, you can still participate in your healing by releasing the internalized emotions as you write about them.

42. Journal about how depression feels to you. Use descriptive words to express the power of the physical, mental, and emotional feelings of your depression.

43. If your depression is situational, journal about the reason you feel depressed and why it has impacted you.

44. Journal about some of the positive things that have come as a result of your depression. These can be small acts of kindness, a moment of insight, or being forced to take a break from your routine.

45. Journal about any activities that make you feel better and your plans to do more of these things.

46. Journal from the perspective of your higher self or a wise and loving friend who offers you supportive and caring words.

47. Write in detail about three things you like about yourself and why.

48. Are you holding on to anything or anyone that keeps you from feeling better? Journal about this person or situation and why you must hold on.

49. Journal about a plan to help you heal from depression and the action steps needed — even if you can’t take the actions right now.

50. What have you learned from being depressed? Journal about anything you can draw from the challenge of depression.

51. Journal about how far you’ve come through the journey of being depressed, even if you have a long way to go.

Which of these journaling prompts for mental health will you begin with?

Now that you’ve read through this list of mental health journal ideas, you can take some time to save the ones that stood out. 

Try using these whenever you need to put your thoughts on paper. This can be an excellent healthy coping mechanism for stress, depression, racing thoughts, or hopelessness. 

Try sharing your journal entries with a therapist or a friend. Find time every day to ground yourself and de-escalate if you’re overwhelmed. 

Journaling can do wonders for your writing skills and your ability to communicate with others, as well as your ability to empathize with those who are struggling. 

May the gift of journaling bless you and those you care about — today and always.

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