How to Start Journaling for Mental Health With Artificial Intelligence

Journaling is the most accessible, high-impact tool for improving mental health. Learn how starting a journal can be your gateway to improved mental health. Mindsera uses artificial intelligence to amplify all of the benefits of traditional journaling.

WHO estimates that around one billion people worldwide are suffering from some kind of mental disorder, with around 4% of the population having anxiety disorder. Mental health also surpassed cancer as the primary health concern, signifying one of the most severe crises in the world.

Journaling is the most accessible, high-impact tool for improving mental health. Your journal is the private space to reason in your thoughts, feelings, and actions. By documenting your innermost thoughts and feelings, you gain deeper self-awareness, empowering you to navigate life's challenges with greater clarity and purpose.

When we don’t have a clear idea of what is happening in our inner world, it is like sailing through a storm without a compass. We can’t read or understand our emotional navigation system, so we get off track. This often leads to feelings of poor mental health and a lack of well-being.

Journaling works as noise-canceling headphones for thinking, muting the distractions, and letting us truly hear our needs, emotions, and thought patterns.

How Can a Journaling Practice Improve Your Mental Health?

Journaling is useful for both mitigating negative emotions, like anxiety and anger and promoting positive ones, like gratitude.

For example, a study from Western Michigan University asked 100 participants to journal two times within 7 days. After this short exercise, the journalers had significantly lower levels of anxiety, negative feelings, and depressive symptoms. Even participants who never wrote about their feelings or felt some discomfort during the exercise experienced positive results.

On the other hand, journaling about uplifting topics can also improve mental health. For example, various studies have found that people who regularly write down what they are grateful for score higher in optimism and well-being.

Journaling works because it encourages us to engage in metacognition, otherwise known as thinking about our thinking. When our thoughts are in our minds, they can feel jumbled and disconnected.

It can be really hard to make sense of what we are feeling. At the same time, certain thoughts can set off negative emotions, which makes us even less capable of rationally analyzing our thoughts and experiences.

When we journal, we create space between our thoughts and our emotions. This distance can help us analyze our thoughts. We can better understand our emotions, find patterns in our thinking processes, and question whether our thoughts are true or accurate.

All of these actions can improve our mental and emotional well-being. A journaling practice has been linked to the following outcomes:

  • Reduce stress and worries
  • Raise self-awareness
  • Improve self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Increase emotional self-control
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Promote goal-oriented behaviors
  • Increase emotional intelligence
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Reduce depression symptoms
  • Encourage healthier lifestyle habits
  • Facilitate self-expression
  • Enhance problem-solving skills and creative thinking

All writing doesn’t need to be content, as all writing doesn’t need to be shared. Reflection should be part of your everyday self-esteem routine. Just like you brush your teeth twice a day to keep your teeth clean, you should write your thoughts twice a day to keep your mind clear.

If you’re wondering how to start journaling for mental health, Mindsera’s AI-powered journal app can help you every step of the way.

How to Start Journaling for Mental Health with Mindsera

Mindsera leverages artificial intelligence to amplify all of the benefits of traditional journaling. When you write an entry, Mindsera interacts with text by identifying patterns and themes, pulling out meaningful emotions, and highlighting the main ideas.

You can also use Mindsera as a source of journaling ideas for mental health. Under the Wellness frameworks, you will find a multitude of structured templates that guide your writing and assist you in reaching a targeted mental health outcome.

Here are a few mental health journaling ideas you can try out in Mindsera:

Analyze your feelings with an Emotion Audit

As humans, we can feel more than two dozen distinct emotions. No wonder it can be difficult for us to identify what we’re feeling. For one, while there are so many emotions, we may only have the language to identify only the most basic ones. This can limit how much introspection we can do.

Further, we may feel two or more emotions at the same time. Sometimes, these co-occurring emotions are contrasting, which makes dissecting our emotional state even more complicated.

Journaling for mental health

If you want to untangle a web of intense emotions, the Emotion Audit framework is extremely useful.

The Emotion Audit begins by asking you questions about your physical state. This is because different emotional responses set off sensations in different parts of the body. For example, love and happiness send warmth throughout our bodies, while anger, fear, and anxiety are mostly felt in the top half of the body.

Negative emotions may also trigger our fight-or-flight systems. In this case, we may feel sensations such as a rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, or tense muscles. Noticing these physical sensations is an important aspect of emotional awareness.

Next, the Emotion Audit asks you to reflect on your thoughts. Our emotions have a strong influence on our thoughts, and the reverse is also true. For example, if you are consumed with worrisome thoughts, you may start to feel anxious or sad. Conversely, a sudden change in your emotions may spark concerned or pessimistic thoughts. Journaling about your mental state can help you better understand how your emotions and thoughts are linked.

The following questions help you pinpoint what may have triggered your intense emotion. Common triggers include our environment, stress, memories, or conversations. Some triggers, like an argument, are obvious. Others we can only recognize after our journaling practice helps us identify patterns. If we know our triggers, we can manage our emotional health by either reducing our exposure or coming up with coping strategies that we can pull out at any time.

The Emotion Audit ends with a few exercises to help you think of actions you could take to avoid experiencing a similar negative emotional reaction. If you aren’t sure what you can do, Mindsera’s Thought Analysis can give you some helpful suggestions. Here’s how it works:

  1. Write the question: What could I do right now to feel better?
  2. Write your answer
  3. Highlight the text 
  4. Select “Analyze” 
  5. Choose the option “Make relevant suggestions”

From there, Mindsera’s AI-powered coach will generate a list of proven actions you can take to bring down your emotional intensity. If you need more examples or clarification, simply type your question into the AI coach and the answers will appear instantaneously.

Challenge your thought patterns with Cognitive Journaling

Many mental health journaling ideas come from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a therapeutic approach that helps us uncover the links between our thoughts, emotions, and actions. This is usually achieved through sessions with a psychotherapist and writing exercises.

However, for people interested in improving their mental and emotional health, CBT writing exercises alone can be extremely beneficial.

For example, the Mindsera Wellness framework walks you through the CBT exercise Cognitive Journaling, which helps uncover the links between emotions and behaviors.

Cognitive Journaling is useful for analyzing behavior patterns or challenging negative beliefs. It can also help you overcome self-doubt or limiting beliefs blocking you from achieving your goals.

The Cognitive Journaling framework is based on the ABC model of cognitive therapy. This theory outlines how our internal processes can directly influence our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

  • “A” stands for activating event. This could be an external situation, like a looming exam, or an internal event, such as a memory.
  • "B” is for beliefs. The activating event will trigger thoughts and emotions that reflect our beliefs about the event. Beliefs may be rational, irrational, or partially both.
  • Our beliefs lead to the “C”, or consequence. The consequence is usually a behavior or emotion. Consequences can be positive, negative, or neutral.

The Cognitive Journaling framework allows you to retrace and reflect on your internal process after a specific activating event. This exercise will help you uncover the irrational beliefs or cognitive distortions that may be driving your negative emotions or behaviors.

Before and after journaling for mental health

Irrational beliefs and cognitive distortions are faulty ways of interpreting information. While there are dozens of distortions, nearly all are overly pessimistic. For example, assuming that a single negative event will have permanent consequences is usually a distortion.

Pessimistic thinking can sink ambition and sow self-doubt. Cognitive Journaling helps you counter this effect through disputation. This means disputing the validity of the belief or distortion and actively replacing it with a more balanced and rational perspective.

When you open the Cognitive Journaling framework in Mindsera, you have the choice to start journaling or use a coach. If you choose the journaling option, all of the questions will appear on the sidebar. Nested under each question are examples and further explanations to help you refine and expand on your thoughts.

Alternatively, if you select coaching, the AI coach will give you personalized questions based on what you specifically want to discuss. You can copy-paste the results into the journal entry and begin answering the questions.

As you work through the exercise, keep these criteria in mind:

Make sure your responses are falsifiable: Falsifiable means that a statement can be proven true or false. This is distinct from an opinion, which may be true for some people but incorrect for others.

For example, if you are writing about an argument, recount the aspects of the event that are objectively true. This could be actions such as “We raised our voices,” or feelings like “I felt attacked.”

Avoid speculative descriptions, such as “It was the worst fight we ever had,” or “She/he/they started the argument.” Stick to the facts.

Remove any forms of judgmental language: Another tip is to avoid labeling any of your actions, feelings, or thoughts as good or bad. So, instead of writing, “My reaction was overblown,” or “My reaction was justified”, simply describe your reaction. Also leave out any judgments about yourself, others, or events.

Write in extensive detail: Cognitive journaling works best when you offer as much descriptive detail as you can about the activating event and your internal processes during that time. Information like the time of day, how you felt in your body, or what was said, all offer more data that you can use to analyze your behavior.

After going through the steps of the ABC model, you can begin reviewing your beliefs and thinking patterns for irrational beliefs or cognitive biases that may be contributing to negative emotions and behaviors.

You can use the Thought Analysis feature to help you with this process.

  1. Highlight your responses that describe your thinking pattern during the event
  2. Select “Analyze”
  3. Choose “Scan for irrational beliefs” or “Scan for cognitive biases”
  4. Review the AI coach’s analysis
  5. If there are any terms you don’t understand, ask the AI coach for examples

Thought Analysis can also help you with the disputation process. Start by highlighting your beliefs/thoughts about the event and continue with the following steps:

  1. Select “Analyze”
  2. Choose “Give alternative perspectives”

The AI coach will automatically zero in on any irrational beliefs or distortions and offer a more neutral interpretation of the event. You can use some of these suggestions to replace any unhelpful or illogical thought patterns.

Generate mental health journaling ideas with Mentors

The general AI coach is not the only option for gaining insight into your journal entry. Mindsera has 10 built-in AI mentors based on the expertise, intellect, and observations of some of the world’s greatest thinkers.

Mindsera AI mentors for journaling for mental health

For mental health and wellness, you can seek advice from the following influential figures:

  • Carl Jung – Psychoanalyst and founder of Jungian psychology. Jung believed that mental unwellness often derived from conflicts within our unconscious. By bringing these tensions to the surface, we can gain a better understanding of ourselves.
  • Marcus Aurelius – Roman emperor and contributor to the Stoic movement. The Stoics emphasized the importance of managing what is under our control, accepting what isn’t, and cultivating the ability to decipher between the two.
  • Alan Watts – Buddhist philosopher, author, and speaker. Influenced by various religions and mysticism, Watts translated some of the most profound insights from Eastern wisdom into lessons accessible by a Western audience.
  • Virginia Woolf – Famed 20th-century author. In addition to penning classics such as Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf struggled with her mental health throughout her lifetime. She notably used expressive writing as an outlet.

You can consult any of these mentors to get advice, ask for an alternative perspective, or request some encouraging words. You can even create your own board of advisors by asking multiple Mentors for insight on the same topic and then comparing and analyzing their responses.

Self-reflection with Entry and Journal Analysis

As mentioned before, one of the most significant benefits of journaling is identifying patterns. By journaling with Mindsera, the app acts as a co-pilot for your mind, combing through your past entries and highlighting recurring themes and patterns.

You can make the most of Mindsera’s evaluation capabilities using the Entry and Journal Analysis features.

You can use the Entry Analysis after you’ve completed your framework or journal entry. On the right-hand sidebar, find and select the sparkle (✨) icon. After a few seconds, Mindsera’s AI will generate a report that includes:

  • An original artwork that visualizes your writing
  • A summary of your entry’s main ideas
  • Your emotional state based on your tone and word choice
  • A personality description
  • A list of concrete actions you can take to improve your wellbeing

You can use the analysis as a starting point for your next journal entry. The analysis can also help you with your emotional state over time and pinpoint any recurring themes or patterns in your writing.

After you have written and analyzed a few entries, you can gain broader insight by completing a Journal Analysis. Start by clicking the sparkle (✨) icon on the main menu bar, on the left side of the screen. 

From there, select a timeframe. You can choose to review entries from the past week, past month, past quarter, last half year, or last year. You also review all of your analyzed entries.

Then choose a question. The Journal Analysis can help you uncover the sources of your strongest emotions, any unmet needs you have, and give you insights into your personality.

Again, the results from the Journal Analysis are great starting points for later journaling sessions. Give these journaling ideas for mental health prompts a try:

  • Based on the analysis, what is my mental health state? Is this surprising or not?
  • What is my biggest takeaway from the analysis?
  • Do I disagree with any portion of the analysis? Why? What is a better/more accurate interpretation?

As with a traditional journaling practice, the more journal entries you have, the easier it is to pick up patterns. With each entry, Mindsera’s powerful AI coach learns more about you and can give more relevant insights.

How Mindsera protects your privacy

Journaling is a personal and private activity. There’s a reason old-school diaries often came with locks. Just as we would want our words in a traditional journal to remain confidential, Mindsera’s AI-powered journal offers the same privacy.

Mindsera journal privacy

Mindsera stands firm on the belief that privacy is a human right and follows the most rigorous data privacy standards. Unlike with other AI models, what you write in Mindsera is never used to train the AI or made accessible to anyone but you.

You can learn more about Mindsera’s privacy policy here.

How Mindsera Can Kickstart Your Journaling Practice

If you want to experience the amazing mental health benefits of journaling, your first step should be establishing a journaling routine. Mindsera can also help with that. Here’s how:

Join the 7-Day Journaling Challenge

For the ultimate kickstart, you can join Mindsera’s 7-day Journaling Challenge. All you need is at least 5 minutes a day to devote to journaling.

Up for the challenge? Here’s how it works:

Every day for 7 days, you’ll receive an email reminder challenging you to test out a Journaling framework in the Mindsera app. You’ll also receive tips on how to make the most of Mindsera’s features and how to start journaling for mental health.

You can also use the Habit Tracker on the main dashboard to track your time and writing streak. Try to make it 7 days in a row and see if you notice a difference in your mental health.

The Mindsera 7-Day Challenge is just the first step towards cultivating an enriching and thought-provoking journaling habit. Here are a few more ways to use Mindsera to generate mental health journaling ideas and cement a journaling practice.

Create a practice with the Building Habits framework

Making a journaling practice stick requires a powerful why. For this reason, Mindsera’s Building Habits framework encourages you to articulate the outcome you envision. Would a daily journaling habit make you more peaceful? Help you be a better friend or parent? Increase your self-awareness?

Whatever it is you are seeking, write it down and find ways to hold yourself accountable.

The framework also gives you the following four-step plan to incorporate journaling into your daily routine:

Step 1: Make it obvious – All habits start with a cue or signal. For example, for most of us, getting up in the morning is a signal to brush our teeth, take a shower, and drink coffee. All of these habits can also serve as cues.

Think of an action you already do without much thought to serve as a cue for journaling. For example, some people journal during their lunch breaks or just before going to bed. You will think of a time and place that works best for you.

Step 2: Make it attractive While journaling itself can feel cathartic and engaging, the true benefits often come after doing it for a while. That is because traditional journaling is based only on your input. With Mindsera, journaling becomes interactive.

You can use Mindsera’s analysis features as incentives to make your journaling practice more immediately rewarding. For example, Entry Analysis reviews your writing and generates original artwork based on your words. Seeing a visual representation of your thoughts can provoke motivational feelings like curiosity and wonder.

Infinite Prompts is another feature that makes journaling more exciting. It works by analyzing your entry and offering relevant questions that deepen your thought process. This feature is so responsive, it can feel like interacting with a very caring friend or mentor.

You can also adapt your routine to make journaling more appealing. One idea is to create a playlist of your favorite songs that you only listen to while journaling. You can join a journaling community where you can meet other people who are working towards similar goals. You might find the companionship encouraging.

Step 3: Make it easy – The easier a habit is to do, the more likely you are to stick to it. One way to make a journaling practice easier to follow is by making Mindsera more accessible. You can bookmark the Mindsera page on your internet browser or add it to your phone home screen so you can log in with one click.

If you prefer, you can also use the voice recording feature to speak your entries instead.

Step 4: Make it satisfying – Before your journaling practice becomes a fully automated habit, you will have to find ways to make completing the process feel like a win. You can do this by gamifying your practice.

Use the Mindsera Habit Tracker to record each day you write in your journal. Aim for a 7-day streak. Then, try to beat your personal record - again and again. You can also challenge yourself to never miss two days in a row.

Also, Mindsera will send you a personalized Weekly Review to your inbox every Sunday. The Weekly Review will showcase your journaling stats and analyze your mood and thought patterns based on the previous week’s entries.

Journaling for mental health with AI

Overcome writer’s block with Thought Analysis

The dread of a blank page can keep people away from journaling. Thankfully, Mindsera’s built-in Thought Analysis feature can blast through writer’s block by giving you a never-ending source of thought-provoking mental health journaling ideas.

  1. Start your entry by recapping your day
  2. Highlight an idea or thought you want to go deeper on
  3. Select “Analyze”
  4. Choose “Give prompts to think deeper”

The AI coach will generate five specific and well-formulated journaling prompt ideas that will help you delve into the topic more comprehensively. Choose the question that inspires you most and restart the writing process.

Learn new journaling techniques through the Journaling frameworks

Alternatively, you can use a structured journaling template to ignite your creativity and overcome writer’s block. The Mindsera 7-day challenge will introduce you to various Journaling frameworks that offer a series of questions to guide your journal practice. You will find the challenge under the academy section when logging into your Mindsera account.

The lifelong journey of self-reflection and personal growth begins with a single step. Join the 7-day Journaling Challenge and learn how to start journaling for mental health today.

Disclaimer: This article provides general advice and insights about starting a journaling practice for mental well-being. It is not intended to replace professional mental health counseling or therapeutic interventions. Every individual's mental health needs are unique. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please consult a licensed mental health professional or trusted healthcare provider.

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