My own story towards creative journaling has been a long one! I started journaling back in the 90’s when it was considered cool, because Bridget Jones made it so! I would scribe about boys and and all the things going on at school.
I would put down my dreams and I remember one so clearly “I want to earn enough money to wear pencil skirts in a nice office”… yes – that was 15 yr old me – now – my goals are far more personal and more self reflecting than “wanting to wear a pencil skirt”!
But what this has taught me is that there is no right way and wrong way of creative journaling – but I absolutely need to to reflect, refocus and and get to the bottom of any negative thoughts I have rattling around, which brings me to the amazing group of people who contributed to this post!
If you want to learn more about memory planning you can read my post on how to create a memory page here
Reason to Journal # 1 Clearing your mind, uncluttering those thoughts
Dr. Sal Raichbach, the Director of Clinical Services at Ambrosia states the following benefits from journaling;
Journaling is extremely beneficial when it comes to clearing your head of thoughts and feelings that might be distracting you from the bigger picture. Putting pen to paper is a great way to organize how you are thinking and feeling. Using your journal as a reference tool, you can make decisions that are well-thought-out and less impulsive in the future.
There are many different styles and methods of journaling that are great alternatives to simply writing. One of them is art journaling. Simply put, art journaling is recoding your thoughts through art rather than writing.
It doesn’t matter how well you can draw; art journaling is simply a means to unclutter your thoughts. You can also get creative by combining both drawing and writing. As long as you stick to it, any style of journaling will improve your mental health. Creative journaling is an effective tool for getting rid of stress, as well. Journaling aids this process because it helps you identify and define feelings. Being able to identify stress feelings and avoiding them goes a long way in improving your mental health. This is especially true for people who have trouble calming their minds through traditional means, like meditation and mindfulness.
Remember that journaling is about the act more than the final product. You don’t necessarily have to produce something that is exciting to read. The action of simply jotting down your thoughts is what promotes positive mental health.
Journaling can also serve as a record for your emotions and how well you deal with them. For instance, if you’re more depressed than usual, you can use your past writing as a tool to help you discover the underlying causes. Relying on only memory can lead you astray, especially when you fall into the trap of thinking that emotions are permanent.
Amanda Stemen, licensed therapist and owner of FUNdaMental Growth in Los Angeles says the following about her creative journal journey;
It provides the space to get undeveloped ideas out of our heads and onto some paper (or other material) without judging the product. We all have thousands of thoughts that go through our head and feelings that go through our body a day so we need somewhere to put them so they don’t negatively impact our mental health.
It allows us work through our thoughts and feelings in a less structured format, which sometimes helps us better sort through them than we can linearly. There are so many different ways to express ourselves and creative journaling allows us to tap into some of those.
Jennifer Hoskins-Tomko, LCSW is a Psychotherapist and the business owner of, Clarity Health Solutions, a private practice in Jupiter, Florida, talks about how it can help organise thoughts.
When we feel emotionally overwhelmed, it is helpful to put our thoughts in writing, drawing or collaging as a way of helping them make more sense. It helps us to narrow in on what is really bothering us. Often when we feel upset, it feels like the whole world is against us. By organizing the thoughts, it helps us to hone in on what is really important. For example using creative journaling ideas like Collaging, creating a Pros and Cons List, Risks and rewards list
Reason to Journal # 2 Creating a more creative space for yourself
Amanda Ponzar is the Chief Communications & Strategy Officer at Health Care Charities where they focus in on mental health, and this is how Amanda uses creative journaling;
Creative journaling is important for mental health and stress relief and something I do almost every day. It provides a healthy outlet to express feelings – anger, depression, sadness, exhaustion, frustration – and allows you to write all your feelings and emotions, whether positive or negative, and to say whatever you want.
A journal can’t be hurt by your words so it’s often better to let it out to your journal versus another person. You can also use the journal to focus on gratitude and list what you’re thankful for every day, as there’s always something to be thankful for. Share the wins, joys, celebrations, insights, inspirational quotes, kindness and positivity.
Journaling provides a way to process and reflect on your day – events, conversations, projects, thoughts. To set goals and plans, to share hopes and dreams, to keep track of your personal and professional progress.
The creative part of journaling, for me, is illustration. You can illustrate your journal with colored pencils, colored pens, markers, charcoal, etc. Drawing helps add color and beauty and provides a way to further enhance and express your words. You can illustrate in black and white with one nice black pen. Or, when you don’t know what to write, you can draw or design to express your feelings. Plus, the mindless doodling/designing is soothing and relaxing, especially after the chaos most of us face in our busy lives.
You can color in your journal while listening to music or just in peaceful silence in the early morning or late at night when everyone is asleep. I sometimes bring my journal to events, like church, to illustrate important points and color. It’s nice to see the finished product at the end and feel proud of what I created.
I don’t post my creative journal pics on social media as it’s a private journal, but have been journaling for many years and could take a few pictures of certain illustrations.
Joe Flanagan, Lead App Developer at GetSongbpm talks about creative journaling
Creative journaling may involve writing, but for many, this could also yield thoughts of drawing instead. Whatever your way of expressing your own creativity onto a piece of paper – one thing that should be noted here is the benefits that this has for your mental health.
Creative journaling may become a means of relaxation for many, bringing about a feeling of calmness. This can help to get rid of anxiety symptoms and help you forget about the stressors that affected you during the day.
When anxiety is reduced and stress declines, you gain the benefit of enabling yourself to better deal with mental health problems, such as depression, as well. Bottom Line: Creative journaling is useful for reducing stress, improving anxiety, and could even be helpful for depression.
Reason to Journal # 3 Reviewing your year, your life and yourself
Amanda Ponzar talks further about hoe creative journaling can be used as a tool
And it’s an incredibly useful tool to review weekly, monthly, yearly. Going back to read your thoughts shows you how you’ve grown, how you’ve changed, whether you’ve seen it or not. Reading journals from 20 years ago, I see how much my mind has expanded, and I’m proud that I’ve become more open, more forgiving. Growing older has given me more grace for others versus seeing things in black and white. I find that truth in my journals.
Jennifer digs deeper into this by talking about creative journaling prompts by looking at things from a bigger picture.
Jennifer Hoskins-Tomko, LCSW is a Psychotherapist and the business owner of, Clarity Health Solutions, a private practice in Jupiter, Florida discusses how it gives your something to reflect on
By Creative journaling we can often give a tangible feeling to an abstract experience. Sometimes, I will ask people to draw what their anxiety would look like if they could see it. Later, they can use this image as a coping skills to improve stress. Ex. Draw a picture of how your anger effects you? What would your depression say if it had a voice?
Reason to Journal # 4 Exploring issues or problems
Annie Varvaryan, a licensed Clinical Psychologist talks about how you can use journaling to explore your problems in a safe space;
Therapy comes in many different forms. For some, it’s traditional talk therapy, or maybe even through video therapy or messaging with a therapist. For others, it may include being outside in nature, or even doing something crafty like scrapbooking, drawing, painting, or creative dance.
While writing in a journal could also be traditional in a lot of aspects, it does not have to be. As a therapist, I encourage my clients to write in a journal for many different reasons. There is something different that happens in our brains and in our mind when we decide to write something down in a journal rather than speak about it.
We use different parts of the brain which in return, channels different parts of ourselves and we may explore different things that we couldn’t access while just talking through our problems. When writing in a journal, some of my clients seek prompts such as “What were 3 good things about your day and what was one thing you would like to work on?” They may feel like the structure really helps them sort through the different thoughts they may be having. Others are open to writing about what happened throughout their day, or write down their worries before they go to sleep. In writing down our thoughts or worries, we can see that perhaps they don’t have as much weight or value as we once *thought*they did.
Tangibly seeing words on paper helps us to feel like we have power over those thoughts rather than the other way around. Additionally, writing down our thoughts induces the healing response. It gives us the opportunity to build awareness, feel in control, and feel like we have options when it comes to these thoughts. We don’t necessarily have to feed into them or give them power. When we sit down to be mindful and present-focused, we are also initiating the relaxation part of our nervous system and it could feel very soothing to sit down and write without multitasking or thinking about anything else.
Kara Lissy, Psychotherapist and Clinical Coordinator from A Good Place Therapy and Consulting talks about creative journaling as a way to make peace with ones thoughts. She explores it further by saying;
It is a way to translate the chaos in our minds into coherent narratives on paper. It honors and gives language to our suffering, a huge benefit for anyone struggling with mental health issues.
Journaling can help with depression as it allows a safe, nonjudgmental outlet to express one’s feelings. People can express their pain while simultaneously remaining slightly distanced from it by experimenting with a fictional character in a story. Journaling in the first person is also a healthy, often cathartic form of self-expression.
People struggling with anxiety may find solace in using a journal to argue the validity of their worries. I once suggested an anxious client write down a vivid, colorful description of her anxiety as a “bully” who wouldn’t leave her alone; this took the sting out of some of her thoughts and helped her visualize how to stand up to them.
Grieving people are often comforted by writing a letter to their lost loved one. Describing what life is like without the person they’ve lost, what they miss most or the lessons they’ve learned from them can be powerful and healing.
People with alcoholism or other substance abuse struggles can write impassioned letters to their drug of choice (i.e. “Dear Alcohol”). These letters can address the power the substance had over their lives and the way it’s interfered with healthy decision making and relationships.
I’m partial to writing letters myself in my own journaling practice.. After recovering from rough times, once I’m feeling better, I’ll write myself a letter and save it for the next time I’m in a slump. Reading hopeful statements like “You will smile and laugh again” and “There is plenty about life to enjoy” is like giving myself a small gift from the future, reminding myself things will eventually be okay.
The most important part about creative journaling is that it is validating. There is no greater satisfaction than to find exactly the right words to describe your experience.
Jennifer Hoskins-Tomko, takes us through this concept further by exploring how it allows us to explore the feeling without judging it;
We often get very concerned if we feel anxious or depressed. Sometimes, we allow the fear of feeling anxious to cause anxiety on it’s own. By assessing the feeling without judging, we can acknowledge that we feel stress and then choose what to do next. Often we allow the emotion to guide our decisions, but this often backfires. Ex. Thank yourself for having passionate emotions, but then write down decisions that you will be proud of verses the things that you want to do in that moment. Then decide which ones will your future self be thanking you for.
Reason to Journal # 5 No one way is the right way, there are multiple ways to express yourself with journaling
Hugo Huyer, a mental health coach that focuses on quantifying happiness at Tracking Happiness
It’s a known fact that journaling is positively correlated to a better sense of self-awareness, gratefulness, and happiness. This has been established by many different studies already. But creative journaling takes this positive correlation a bit further. Why is creative journaling better than just regular journaling?
Because being able to get creative makes it more fun, which will motivate you to journal more often and more consistently. I am a good example of this myself. I started journaling 6 years ago, and at that time, I only wrote walls of text on white pages. It was okay, but not as much fun as to what I’m doing now. Instead of bullet-journaling, photo journaling, or other creative methods, I choose to go the digital route. I turned my entire journal into a digital dashboard, that’s able to tell me how I feel via great-looking graphs and calendars. This is my personal way of adding creativity to my journal, and it’s worked amazing ever since.
For example, my creative journal is able to tell me how happy I feel by visualizing how high I rate my happiness every day of the month. This is what it looked like last month (September 2019): (image link 1).
Another thing my journal shows me is how often something specific influences my life. You can think of my relationship, my work, my hobby (running) or even how tired I feel. In fact, here’s an image showing how often these factors influence my happiness: (image link 2).
The key to journaling is to learn as much about yourself as possible. Being able to add creativity to your journal allows it to become much more fun. For some people, this might seem like a lot of work and a pain in the ass to maintain, but to each their own. There are plenty of ways you can add creativity to your journal,in order to make journaling fun.
I strongly believe in what gets measured gets managed. This rings true for mental health as well. We cannot control 100% of the things that happen in our lives, but I believe we can at least UNDERSTAND 100% of our lives. Journaling is the best way to get to that point. That’s the power of journaling: getting to know yourself better.
Reason to Journal # 6 You can capture your dreams, and not just the goal setting kind!
James Cobb, RN, MSN The Dream Recovery System talks about using a dream journal to track your inner deeper thoughts;
Creative journaling helps one get in touch with oneself and the state of his or her mental health. The interchange between the individual and the events and people in his or her life provides a roadmap as to where they are in life.
Journaling dreams can be especially illuminating. Other forms of creative journaling can lead one to frustration. The person won’t know what to write as a form of writer’s block.
Dreams come unbidden. Dream journaling gets one in touch with their hopes, fears and concerns as expressed by the subconscious. During the waking hours the subconscious is held under the sway of the waking mind. Making an effort to remember your dreams and to journal them can do a lot of good. Journaling can highlight the pressures you face and the way seemingly random events affect your day. It helps one cue in on a variety of feelings: guilt, appreciation, fear, pleasure and more. Without dream journaling much of this would remain a mystery. The dreams are clues that helps you solve yourself..
Dreams can also be something like the warning lights on the dashboard of a car. For example, if you have a dog and you dream your dog has no legs, it could be that you, deep down, think you should be making time to walk him. Dream journaling in this case is helping you pinpoint exactly what is the source of your feelings about the situation.
On the other hand, if you’re bounding around in a dream unencumbered by gravity, it could be a sign that something is causing you a lot of joy, that you feel you’re free of restrictions. That, too, is important information because you’ll understand what it is that makes you happy.
Reason to Journal # 7 you can make it part of your daily habits
Dr. Tricia Wolanin Psy.D. Clinical Psychologist, Author, Yoga Instructor talks about how to add it to your daily routine;
Having morning pages at the start of your day is a form of daily discipline. It’s one act of getting your thoughts on paper repeatedly. It does not matter if you are creative or not, but this process encourages you to develop and stick to a routine. It’s also a way to process what happened the day prior or what the day has in store. At times i may utilize it to process dreams. We can begin to shape how we want our day to go through carving out some sacred time each morning for this process.
Reason to Journal # 8 its non judgemental and safe
Dr. Nancy Irwin, Seasons in Malibu Psychologist talks about the importance of creative journaling.
This is important for several reasons. It allows the patient to get in touch with their feelings and thoughts free of any pressure from others.
They can then bring this to sessions and be more articulate as they’ve begun clearing away some of the blocks to their expression. This also typically aids their communication with others. As well, creative journaling allows patients to normalize some of the dark thoughts they have kept compartmentalized. Shedding light on them allows them to be processed and dissipate. Further, journaling allows the patient to be an active part of the therapy process. Many want the therapist to fix them but journaling allows them to see that the answers are within the self, waiting to be freely heard and seen.
Lucy Harris, Mom & CEO at Hello Baby Bump talks about how she uses creative journaling
Creative journaling is incredibly important for mental health, especially if you struggle with depression, anxiety and get overwhelmed by your emotions and thoughts easily. It allows you the chance to release your pent up thoughts and feelings and just vent without hurting anyone. Not only that, but it can help you organize your thoughts and feelings which is really important to be able to effectively express yourself and understand yourself better.
As you journal you will start to realize things such as situations that make you uncomfortable, people who really get on your nerves and even how you see yourself. This can give you the chance to fix issues that are causing havoc in your life so you can improve your mental health, as well as improve your own view of yourself. In turn, this encourages your outlook on life to become more positive.
For a journal to be effective you need to be truly honest with yourself. Don’t hide behind your feelings and words, be honest. If you arent completely honest when journally you can create a false perspective that is often more detrimental to your mental health than just being honest with yourself.
Reason to Journal # 9 you can be clear and unfiltered about your goals and intentions
Jonathan Mendoza, Content Marketing Specialist, Fueled talks about his journey with creative journaling;
I began creative journaling a few months ago, specifically in two different forms, in order to improve my mental health. One is a prompt journal that has 300 prompts for you to journal about, focused on your life and your goals. This is a great way for me to journal because it gives me something to write about rather than having to write about whatever is on my mind. It guides me to consider things I haven’t considered before. This has helped my mental health because it’s a creative outlet outside of work that gives me a moment to breathe and just think about me.
Some journals provide prompts as well, but they also typically contain inspirational quotes and even a page or two to color and just relax. This has been great for my mental health because if I’m not in the mood to write, there are other routes in the book I can use to still relax.
I think creative journaling is important for mental health because it gives you a moment to decompress and relax but still focus on you and your goals. It allows you to dig deep and learn more about yourself in a guided manner. Most importantly, it’s a great way to get your mind off the chaos that is life, even if just for a few moments.
Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley talks about building up your intentions in your creative journal further;
When you use your journal to write down your goals, you can revisit your intentions — your why’s:
– Why do you want something?
– Why are you doing what you’re doing?
– Why is this the thing you must do beyond other things?
Reading through journal entries provides valuable insight into your thought process and emotional life. You can look back and see how you’ve dealt with important decisions and challenging situations to feel more confident in your ability to do so again.
Jennifer Hoskins-Tomko, further discusses creative journaling as a non-judgemental process;
biologically we are programed to want to connect with others when we are stressed. Kelly McDonegal discusses how when we are stressed we release Oxytocin, which is the “cuddle” hormone.
The problem is that we don’t always feel safe to tell other people what we are feeling and thinking. Journaling is a safe way for self expression and feeling heard without the vulnerability of other people knowing what is going on in our heads. Ex. Use Prompts you can find online or your own ponderings, noone is going to see it.
Reason to Journal # 10 Forces you to slow down
Jennifer Hoskins-Tomko, again talks us through slowing down our thoughts
Putting our thoughts to paper forces us to slow down and focus on the specific topic that needs to be processed. By slowing down it gives us a feeling of regaining control of ourselves. This helps us stabilize faster.Ex. Write a letter that you will never send. Write it to someone who hurt you or to the version of yourself that is feeling bad, ie. your anxious self may need reassurance.
Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley author of The Gift of Crisis: How I Used Meditation to Go From Financial Failure to a Life of Purpose talks candidly about her own journey;
In 2005, during a disturbing turn of events, my husband was hospitalized due to the onset of symptoms for a stroke. He was 33 years-old. In every way imaginable we were unprepared to deal with the long term effects of the challenges that lie ahead. The financial distress, parental responsibility, unexamined emotional wounds, blame, resentment, fear and anger unearthed elements of our psyche that nearly destroyed us and our marriage. It wasn’t until I turned to meditation and journaling to make it through each day and began sincere self-examination, that I was ready to understand the circumstances provided an invitation for growth. I turned within for at least 20 minutes a day to make it through each day. At the time, I had no idea the practice I created around journaling would become my first book almost seven years later
Reason to Journal # 11 Build self confidence!
Last but not least it can boost that self confidence of yours that might be waning somewhat. How? A couple of ways – by regularly journaling you can see what tactics and tools you have used in the past that work and help to get you through any tough times you are currently facing and making it easier to establish better habits for those tactics.
Once you have your self confidence boosted and your metal health is on the upswing you’re going to feel charges and far more ready to take on the world!