Journaling is a helpful strategy to ease your worries and manage your anxiety. You can start and find your rhythm with a few tips and prompts.

Journaling is a therapeutic writing technique based on putting your thoughts onto paper. This expressive writing technique can clear your head, boost self-awareness, and ease stress and anxiety.

Recent research shows that journaling helps reduce stress, and the practice is associated with fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

This form of writing has been around for centuries. In 167 A.D., Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius put his deepest thoughts into a journal collection known as “Meditations.” But journaling’s history can be even closer to home — just think back to the diary you likely had as a kid.

Then and now, journaling can help you make sense of the world around you so that it feels a little less daunting and a little less stressful. With a few tips and prompts, you can start this practice and find your journaling flow to help you manage your anxiety.

There are an infinite number of journal prompts for anxiety and depression — and everything in between — but here are some options to consider to get a feel for it:

  1. Do a heart scan. Write down everything you’re feeling right now — just let it all out.
  2. As a grounding exercise, scan the room you’re in, find an object, and then write about a memory with that object.
  3. Write a letter to your anxiety like you were writing a letter to a long-lost best friend. What do you want to tell your anxiety right now?
  4. Journal about your happy place using all five of your senses. Get specific on how it smells, feels, looks, sounds, and even what something there may taste like.
  5. Identify one of your biggest worries, then write about what it would be like if the opposite happened (the “best-case scenario”).
  6. Put your experience on paper by journaling about what your anxiety feels like for you.
  7. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? Journal about how it would feel (or did feel) to take that advice.
  8. Imagine that your anxiety wants to be heard. Journal about what it sounds like and what it’s saying it needs.
  9. Write yourself a letter of forgiveness for something you’ve been blaming yourself for.
  10. Make a list of everything that is stressing you out — and then rip it up.
  11. Create two columns. On the left, start a list of things that make you anxious. For every one thing that makes you anxious, challenge yourself to add something that makes you feel at peace on the right.
  12. Write a thank you letter to someone who has helped you heal. (It may even feel good to really send this.)
  13. Make a list of everything (and everyone) that feels like a sigh of relief to you.
  14. Write a letter to your younger self about what you wish you had known back then.
  15. Journal about a time when you bravely defied the odds (even if it was unexpected).
  16. Write down one thing you’re proud of yourself for recently — and let this one thing be enough.
  17. Make a list of three things you can do to make today a little easier.
  18. Finish this sentence: I feel most at ease when …

Though not a prompt, another form of expressive writing you could try is a stream of consciousness journaling. Write down anything that comes to your mind. Working through your inner dialogue can also help you clear your mind and become more self-aware.

One of the great things about journaling is that it’s customizable. If you’re just starting, there are a few tips you can explore to help you find your preferred flow.

Set up your journaling space

Pick a space in your home, or even outside, that feels safe and comfortable. You can also enhance this space with other items that feel nurturing, such as your favorite candle, a blanket, a go-to playlist, or a cup of tea.

The idea is to create an environment that feels good to journal in and helps ease any present anxiety.

Find your ideal journaling time

There’s no right time to journal. It’s about when it feels good for you. You can try journaling first thing in the morning when your mind is fresh, use journaling as a reset button after work, or journal midday as a mental break. Try each time, and tune into what feels best.

Put pen to paper

You can certainly journal in the notes app on your phone or laptop. But putting pen to paper can help alleviate stress and has been proven to improve memory.

Consistency and compassion

If journaling helps you manage your stress, try to stay consistent — even if it’s just for 5 minutes each day. At the same time, try to be compassionate with yourself if you miss a day or don’t feel up for it.

Journaling is a way to take care of your mind, and sometimes that means taking a day off.

Writing and journaling, in particular, have a host of mental health benefits.

A 2018 study found that journaling can decrease mental distress and increase well-being. The same study also saw benefits increase with long-term journaling. One month of journaling led to fewer depressive symptoms and anxiety, while 2 months led to greater resilience.

Other research suggests that journaling can increase gratitude and decrease post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in some people.

But journaling isn’t the solution for everybody. If you’re not naturally expressive, journaling about your anxieties could heighten your worries.

A 2014 study found that participants who were not naturally expressive and were asked to journal about “their most stressful/traumatic event” showed higher anxiety levels in a 3-month follow-up. Those naturally expressive and given the same task showed a significant reduction in anxiety levels.

As with most coping strategies, it’s all about seeing what works best for you.

If your anxiety starts to feel heavy, you can try lightening the load by putting pen to paper.

Consider trying a few different types of prompts, explore when and where you journal and get a feel for what it’s like to show up for yourself on the page.

If it feels good, try to keep up with it. If it’s not right for you, that’s OK, too — there are several other coping strategies you can try to ease your worries.

Whether you write 1 page or 1 million pages, you deserve a reprieve from your anxiety — and a journal is one place you can try to find it.