• Journaling enables us to express and process our emotions as well as our thoughts without judgment.
  • However, the act of journaling is more difficult for some than others.
  • If you’re interested in journaling but unsure where or how to start, mental health prompts can provide direction and offer health benefits, too.
  • Journal prompts around your gratitudes, goals, idols, favorite memories, and even regrets are worthy endeavors.

Journaling is a powerful tool. It serves as an outlet, allowing us to express our emotions and process our thoughts without fear of judgment — there is no need or temptation to censor ourselves when we’re writing to and for nobody but ourselves. What a gift.

And yet, for some, journaling doesn’t come so easy. Instead of putting pen to paper, we sit there and stare at the blank page before us. Some call it anxiety, while some say their mind is just too busy to wrangle. Others are merely inexperienced. In any case, a journal prompt can help. 

Journal prompts provide direction. They give anxious and busy minds a focal point, and they offer the inexperienced a place to start. Even devout journalers can benefit, as certain prompts can, well, prompt new thoughts and unexplored feelings. Journal prompts for your mental health specifically can serve to… 

  • Trigger positive emotions (like gratitude)
  • Set you up for short- or long-term success
  • Shine a light on your accomplishments and abilities

If you’re interested in journaling but don’t know where to start, or you’d like to tap into the benefits listed above, give the following mental health prompts a shot. And remember: This is by and for you only; no censorship necessary.  

1) What are you grateful for?

Journaling about your gratitudes is a sure-fire way to stir up positive emotions, and you’ll experience other benefits, too. Research shows that gratitude is associated with greater happiness, can help you deal with adversity, leads to stronger relationships, and can improve your overall health.

As you regular journalers know, there aren’t any rules when it comes to journaling — you can make a list of gratitudes if you prefer or write a few paragraphs about what you feel grateful for in this moment. Keep in mind that your list doesn’t have to be grandiose. Even small things like your new coffee mug, a book you’re reading, or a funny memory from yesterday deserve a mention. 

2) What do you want to accomplish today?

This prompt is designed to set you up for success today. It encourages you to think about your goals and prioritize accordingly. You might write about what you’d like to accomplish professionally, like putting the finishing touches on an upcoming presentation or simply cleaning out your inbox, and/or personally, like meal-prepping for the week ahead or taking out the trash. As with the previous journal prompt, big and small items alike are welcome! Remember, you’re journaling for you.

3) Who do you aspire to be like and why?

This question encourages you to think more about your long-term goals — specifically, who you’d like to be or become. 

There might be one person you hold in high regard and model your own actions after. Or, there might be several people you look up to and for different reasons. Additionally, you might immediately think of loved ones who you’ve gotten to know intimately or, on the contrary, celebrities who you’ve admired from afar. 

In any case, write down what you like about them. These details will help you understand why exactly you idolize these individuals and then how you can become more outgoing, charitable, patient, adventurous, or whatever it might be. 

4) Write about one of your favorite memories.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Thinking back on “the good times” can help to improve your mood. Think about a favorite memory and then write down everything you remember about it:

  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • What were you doing?
  • What were you wearing?
  • What was the weather like?
  • What else do you remember?

If you enjoy this photo album and you want to continue to explore positive memories, pull out the photo albums, call an old friend, look through those old boxes in the basement, or even go revisit that place where your favorite memories took place.

5) What might you regret not doing?

You’ve likely pondered the more common, “What are your biggest regrets?” but this prompt asks you to consider what you might regret in the future. More specifically, what you might regret not doing.

American Author Daniel Pink has explored the concept of regret extensively in several of his books. In his most recent, “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward,” Pink draws on research as well as his own World Regret Survey — which asked 16,000 people in 105 countries what their greatest regrets are — to determine the most common regrets in the world, may of which begin with, “I regret not…” 

So, what might you regret not doing? If you had a bird’s eye view of your life after it was over, what would you wish you’d done? Would you say, “I regret never asking that beautiful man on a date.” Or, “I regret not traveling more.” Or maybe, “I regret never telling my dad just how much I love him.” Once you answer this prompt, make yourself a promise that those would-be regrets don’t go any farther.