Write your way out of anxiety: 6 benefits of journaling

March 9, 2022 - 11 min read


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What is anxiety journaling?

6 mental health benefits of journaling

How can journaling help you with anxiety?

5 tips to start journaling

6 journaling prompts to help you with anxiety

Bottom line

Keeping a diary may feel like a thing of the past — say, the days of your 9-year-old self.

But as an adult, there are benefits to your well-being, too. Writing can help get swirling thoughts out of your head. And, thoughts on paper make it easier to reflect and see patterns. Starting to journal may help reduce anxiety, for instance. 

Discover the mental health benefits that accompany anxiety journaling and get ideas for how to get started on the practice. 

What is anxiety journaling?


If you’ve ever wondered if journaling helps with anxiety, the short answer is yes. Journaling constitutes keeping a record of your thoughts. 

There are many types of journaling. Your daily practice could be keeping diary entries, a gratitude journal, or simply brainstorming about your day or the future on paper. You can draw, type in the notes app of your phone or in a document on your computer, or can handwrite journal entries.

The primary goal of daily journaling is to get your negative thoughts out of your head and someplace else. Seeing your fears and anxieties written down on paper is a first step to acknowledging them and moving past them. 

No schedule is required for journaling. You can make it a daily habit, journaling while you drink your morning coffee. Or, you may do it once a week. Journal whenever it works best for you. 

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6 mental health benefits of journaling

Journaling is often recommended to people struggling with their mental health. It’s a straightforward, non-demanding approach to controlling emotions and improving your mood.

Here are some of the main health benefits of journaling: 

  1. It reduces stress levels 
  2. It can clear your head, which improves your ability to focus and cognitive function
  3. It enables more efficient problem-solving. Jotting things down allows us to see hurdles from multiple angles
  4. It can help you stop overthinking and practice self-awareness  
  5. It may reduce physical symptoms  — for instance, researchers found that women with breast cancer who journaled about their situation had fewer cancer-related appointments and reported fewer symptoms. 
  6.  It’s fun, low cost, and will elevate your mood

Think of journaling as talking to the world’s best listener. You'll be free of judgment and won't have to worry about being interrupted, and you’ll always be in a safe space away from prying eyes and opinions. 

At BetterUp, we provide the perspective and accountability you need to grow into the best version of yourself. Journaling isn’t perfect, but it will always be in your toolbox, there when you need it. 

Two-women-sit-on-a-couch-together-and-write-in journals-anxiety-journaling

How can journaling help you with anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stressful events. It’s normal to feel anxious, fearful, and worried sometimes. But if anxiety hinders your everyday life, you may need to make a change. Unchecked, chronic overthinking and pessimistic self-talk can lead to anxiety disorders or depression.

A great coping strategy is, of course, journaling. 

Anxiety journaling provides instant, temporary relief from overwhelming thoughts. It helps you face anxious thoughts, and even embrace them. By writing things down, you’ll face your vulnerabilities, which can reduce stress

It’s important to have a space to vent freely. In a journal, you can write down a list of everything causing stress without worrying about burdening your loved ones. Journal entries are a healthy way to privately dump out your thoughts.

If you don’t know where to start, ask a professional. Therapists often incorporate journaling into cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The practice encourages people to analyze the harsh beliefs they hold about themselves. 

Research has shown that gratitude journaling, in particular, gives us a happiness boost. The dopamine levels in our brain increase which improves our mood, even our sleeping habits

Language is a powerful tool — let your words be fuel. Reread what you’ve written, especially positive notes. With journaling, you can immerse yourself in self-love and self-compassion. And, in a lot of ways, journaling can help you take care of your mental health

5 tips to start journaling


Journaling about your anxiety will look slightly different for everyone. Here are some tips to help you start:

1. Keep it simple

Don’t put pressure on yourself to journal for two hours. Try setting a timer for 10 minutes each morning. When the time is up, move on to something else. 

2. Make it a habit

Having a routine helps you stay organized.  Aim to journal at the same time every day. Having a set time will help you prioritize this new habit

3. Do what feels right

There’s no rulebook when it comes to journaling. Your spelling, handwriting, and subject matter don't matter. 

4. Write on anything

For some, writing in a pretty journal makes them feel inspired. For others, it doesn’t. 

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing — or where — as long as you write. Feel free to journal in a notebook, on a computer, or using random scraps of paper and napkins. You can write with colorful pens, use stickers, draw, handwrite, or type your thoughts out. 

The beauty of journaling is that you can tailor the process to whatever suits you. No matter how you journal, you’ll gain a greater understanding of your feelings and emotions and how to navigate them. 

5. Don't set your expectations too high

Journaling won’t solve all of your problems, but it’s a fantastic step to kickstart your journey toward building strength and resilience.

6 journaling prompts to help you with anxiety

A blank page is intimidating. No wonder it takes us a long time to start on that weekly report for work. But don’t fret: that’s what writing prompts are for. 

Here’s a list of journal prompts for anxiety and depression to help reframe your mindset, and anything else weighing on your mind. 

  1. If I could make a promise to myself, it would be…
  2. I’m so sick of…
  3. List 10 positive affirmations you can repeat when your anxiety spikes 
  4. What does your perfect day look like?
  5. Think of a time when you failed at something or made a mistake. What did you learn?
  6. Write a letter to your childhood self 

You can find more journal prompts online, or buy a journal that includes suggestions on each page.



Bottom line

The most important thing about journaling is to start. Where you choose to go from there doesn’t matter.

This quote may give you inspiration as you begin journaling:

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak out. Be willing to be split open.”

Natalie Goldberg 

Journaling is a way to still your racing mind and calm your heart. You don’t have to produce anything profound or revolutionary.

BetterUp is here to help you confront your feelings head-on so you can become your best, most vibrant self. We strive to help every individual unlock their potential, purpose, and passion.

That means caring for yourself and building mental fitness. Changing thought patterns is a challenge, but it's doable if you’re willing to put in the work. We're here to support you every step of the way.

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Published March 9, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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