October 6, 2021
How can journaling help with depression?

Journaling works in tandem with therapy to reduce symptoms of depression. Here are some practical tips for using your journal as a tool to cope with depression. 

How Can Journaling Help with Depression?

For those living with depression, navigating the responsibilities of everyday life can be a frustrating, difficult challenge. While therapy and medication are often important components of symptom management, experts agree that journaling can also help reduce the frequency and severity of depression.   

In addition to clinical studies that show the benefits of journaling on mental health and mental wellness, there are signs that journaling works in tandem with therapy to reduce symptoms of depression even faster. 

Here are some practical tips for using your journal as a tool to cope with depression. 

man experiencing depression and looking into window


1. How can journaling help with depression 

What makes journaling such a powerful tool for combating depression? The secret might lie in the versatility of the medium itself — journals can be used for a variety of thought management exercises, including:

  • Awareness training: Using a journal to increase your awareness for the good things in life can be a powerful way to stave off symptoms of depression.
  • Processing negative emotions: Journaling can be a great way to work through difficult thoughts or emotions. Putting bad feelings down on the page — even if they’re completely nonsensical — can be a great way to improve your mental health.
  • Narrative control: When thoughts remain trapped in your mind, they can move too quickly to process. Journaling can help you retake control of your own mental narrative, giving you a sense of ownership over your internal monologue.   

Alternatively, different forms of journaling can help combat depression in a multitude of ways. For instance, two-way journaling e-platforms are a great way to start a dialogue with someone who you can talk to about your current state of mind. Some journaling platforms even pair you with certified coaches who are specifically trained to help you navigate your feelings and develop strategies to improve your outlook on life. 

Additionally, journaling can… 

2. Increase motivation

Journaling is a great tool for increasing your motivation to do a number of things. Here are a few things you can try when you’re looking to find the motivation but are feeling too depressed to get started:

  • Create a to-do list: While to-do lists can be a source of stress for some, for others, they can act as a useful roadmap for breaking down an otherwise overwhelming series of tasks. Consider using your journal to create the kind of to-do list that actually works for you — that might mean making a list of just one or two items, or a list with some tasks already completed so that you can “check off” items before you even begin.

  • Envision yourself succeeding: When you’re feeling depressed and unmotivated, it can be hard to get inspired. Envisioning yourself succeeding — and writing down what that success looks like in great detail — can be an effective way to get excited about the things that matter to you. If it’s hard to imagine succeeding right now, consider writing out what “success” will look like a week, a month or a year from now.

  • Journal with a coach: Breaking through patterns of low inspiration can be difficult to do alone. A journaling partner or coach can help you work through your personal blockers. 

More than simply inspiring you, a journal can help… 

3. Improve mood

Journaling can a great mental health booster by helping elevate your mood. In addition to getting out all the bad feelings, writing about the bright moments and practicing gratitude can help you improve your outlook on life and remain thankful even during bouts of depression. Here are some mood-boosting tips to remember:

  • Write like nobody’s reading: Even if you’re journaling with someone else, it’s important to write like nobody else is reading what you’ve written. One way to do this is to imagine tearing up the paper after you’ve written things down, or (if you’re journaling on a computer) deleting all the words in the document after you’ve finished. This helps you stay honest with yourself and let it all out without worrying about grammar, structure or other writing conventions.

  • Don’t just focus on the bad: When working through depression, it can be easy to focus on all the negative aspects of life. While it’s important to let those feelings out, focusing only on the bad things isn’t always helpful. Consider changing directions if you’re consistently writing negative entries and see if there’s value in describing some of the more positive aspects of life.

  • Keep it simple: Journaling shouldn’t feel like a chore or another thing to “check off” your to-do list. If journaling is a stressful experience, look for ways to make it as easy as possible. Don’t force yourself to do certain exercises or write for a certain amount of time if it’s not helpful — anything that keeps you from writing isn’t worth it. 

It can also help you… 

4. Build positive self-care strategies 

Positive self-care strategies are key for consistent mental wellness. If you find your mental health suffering lately, journaling can help you work through self-care strategies and routines that work for you. For instance, you might come up with a schedule that includes blocks of time for self-care — that includes taking baths, meditating, reading, drinking tea, listening to cathartic music, watching TV and resting. 

All of these are ways in which a journal can help you make sense of your life while battling depression. When paired with other coping tools, strategies and techniques, you can not only make sense of your depression, but significantly lessen its severity and frequency. 

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