8 Ways To Make The Perfect Mental Health Journal

8 Ways To Make The Perfect Mental Health Journal


A key component to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (and other approaches) is journaling. Whether you are currently seeing a therapist, engaging in self-help, or simply want to try to start journaling, these 7 tips are a great way to start looking closer at cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns so that you may gain a better sense of your mental health and begin to improve it.

1 – Note Significant Events of the Day

This aspect of the journal is fairly self-explanatory. As one might typically do in a journal, it can be helpful to simply jot down a general summary of your day, including anything significant that took place. By doing so, this will help to jog your memory and allow you to continue on to the next steps of the journaling process.

2 – Track Your Mood

Tracking your emotions is vital to understanding how things like sleep, food, experiences, and events influence the way you feel. By keeping track of how you feel emotionally (and physically), certain patterns and tendencies may emerge which can create insights in how to improve your overall moods throughout the week.

3 – Keep Track Of When You Face vs Avoid Anxiety

Experiential avoidance – the tendency to avoid meaningful experiences because they are perceived as being anxiety provoking – is a common issue with anxiety. By keeping track of when you FACE vs AVOID anxiety, you will be better to see the negative impact that avoidance can have in the long run.

4 – Write A List Of Goals, Objectives, and Strategies

Once you have a sense of your day, emotions, and avoidance tendencies, it is time to begin planning on how to take action and undo any unhelpful patterns that have emerged.

Remember: Goals are general, whereas objectives are specific tasks that can bring you closer to that goal. Strategies are specific ways that will allow you to accomplish those tasks (objectives).

5 – The Cognitive Triangle

Naturally, there will be some barriers to improving your mental health. To better understand these barriers, it can be helpful to outline specific events or situations, subsequent thoughts or beliefs, and actions that follow these events and thoughts.

By drawing out a cognitive triangle (pictured below), you can begin to conceptualize the relationships between events, thoughts, and behaviors.

Cog. Triangle

6 – Create A Thought Log

The next step includes getting more involved in noticing unhelpful thoughts/beliefs and how they can negatively impact your feelings and actions. Typically known as a “Thought Log”, the chart below outlines how to get started

7 – Plan Enjoyable Activities

Often overlooked, it can be vitally important to plan out activities that you enjoy. These could include anything from: reading, going for a walk, seeing a movie at the theater, skiing, yoga, swimming, you name it!

8 – Create A List of Things That You Are Grateful For

Research has shown that remaining mindful of things that you are grateful for can be advantageous for your mental health. At the end of your daily journal entry, it is highly recommended that you take a moment to meditate on what you are grateful for and jot them down. The very act of doing so can improve your mood in the short and long term.


8 Ways To Make The Perfect Mental Health Journal

Further Reading

Over To You

Did you find these tips helpful? Are there other ideas that you like to use?

James Voss, MA, LMHCA


James is a mental health counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and substance use related issues. James emphasizes the therapeutic relationship with his clients and uses a wide range of techniques to help reduce distress and foster psychological flexibility.

1 Comment
  • Joshlyne Villano

    May 19, 2019 at 7:57 am Reply

    Thanks for these journal guidance tips! I don’t journal as much as I should because I’m often lost from the beginning. This will be a huge help.

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