Journaling for Anxiety: How to Calm Your Anxious Mind

Sian Ferguson
Sian Ferguson

Sian Ferguson is a health content writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. With almost a decade of experience reporting on health and wellness, her goal is to create empathetic, science-based content that empowers readers to take care of their well-being. You can read more of her work on Healthline and Psych Central.

November 10, 2023

Struggling with an anxious mind? Journaling for anxiety relief is a flexible, low-cost practice that guides your mind away from overly anxious thought patterns and steers it toward identifying and overcoming your triggers.

It might come as a surprise to you, but anxiety is normal and even beneficial at times. It’s a natural stress response that helps you stay alert in dangerous situations.

However, for some people, this fear and worry is so intense and persistent that it interferes with their ability to function, hindering them from experiencing life to the fullest[1]

In this article, we discuss how journaling can alleviate anxiety, delve into its benefits, and show you how to get started!

Key Takeaways icon

Key Takeaways

  • Multiple studies indicate that journaling is effective at reducing anxiety levels.
  • Journaling can potentially reduce your negative response toward emotionally charged memories and help break cycles of chronic worry and stress.
  • Writing about your anxiety helps you identify and manage anxiety-related triggers, differentiate between real and perceived threats, and focus on the present.
  • Choosing a medium, whether pen and paper or a digital platform, and creating a routine is an excellent way to get into the habit of journaling.

How Journaling Can Reduce Your Anxiety

Think of anxiety as an internal alarm system triggered by real or perceived threats. If set off too frequently, this intricate behavioral response system can negatively impact you mentally, physically, and behaviorally[2].

Expressive writing, such as journaling, helps offset the harmful effects of anxiety by allowing you to pen down and work through your thoughts, experiences, and observations[3].

This practice can potentially reduce your negative response toward emotionally charged memories and flush out chronic worry from working memory, minimizing its distracting effects on your ability to think and function[4][5]

But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Fortunately, journaling has a well-documented history, with numerous studies examining its positive impact on anxiety and overall mental health. 

For example, a 2018 study asked participants to journal three times a week over 12 weeks. After one month, participants reported experiencing a reduction in their anxiety levels alongside increased levels of resilience toward stress[6].

Similarly, a 2021 study found that using an informative journaling app reduced anxiety and depression symptoms among young adults[7].

The above suggests journaling can help quiet an anxious mind. So why not give it a try? It might just be the answer you’ve been looking for.

What Are The Benefits of Journaling for Anxiety?

The research tells us that journaling does seem to have a positive effect on anxiety levels. 

This could be attributed, in part, to the fact that introspection through journaling helps us reduce the power that negative emotions and chronic worry have on our thoughts and behaviors[3][4][5]

It’s understandable, then, that journaling for anxiety can help you:

  • recognize patterns and triggers that cause feelings of anxiety
  • determine which of your anxieties are real or perceived
  • understand the way you see and react to the world around you 
  • practice positive self-affirming talk 
  • acknowledge that you may need further assistance to work through your anxiety
  • workshop ways to de-escalate and even overcome your anxiety
  • remember that you’re capable of dealing with difficult situations
  • face uncomfortable emotions
  • focus on what is within your control 
  • Improve your self-esteem by reminding yourself of your victories

If you’re going through a rough patch with your anxiety and feel like you could do with some of these benefits, then it might be time for you to tackle your worries with some journaling.

Start small if you have to — write down one or two things that have been getting to you lately. If you’re struggling, consider roping in an AI journaling app like Rosebud to help you out.

How to Start Journaling for Anxiety

Tackling your anxiety through writing can feel daunting. So take a moment to recognize this critical step to working on your mental health — you deserve it!

Now, what’s the next step? Here’s what you need to do:

First, choose a medium you’re most comfortable using, whether pen and paper or a digital platform

Next, establish a routine so that you remain as consistent as possible. Journaling in the morning can help you tackle the day with a clearer mind, whereas journaling before bedtime can help you unwind for a good night's rest. You could even pen your thoughts whenever you feel a spike in your anxiety coming on.  

Tips for Making Anxiety Journaling a Habit

Finally, you’ve made it to the writing part. If you’re feeling slightly overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, try the following suggestions:

  • Challenge your thoughts. The goal here is to de-escalate your thoughts and emotions so that you can separate real vs. perceived threats. Once you’ve done this, you can start workshopping ways to tackle them.
  • Be positivity-focused. Humans are biased toward negativity, even at the best of times[8]. Anxiety can exacerbate this and cause us to get stuck in extremely negative thought patterns. A great way to combat inherent negativity bias is to practice gratitude journaling. This helps you foster a more positive outlook, which is incredibly important while dealing with anxiety.
  • Ground yourself.  Bring yourself into the present by writing down five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. 

The last thing you need on your plate is more worry. If the idea of journaling makes you feel scared or nervous, but you really want to give it a bash, consider trying Rosebud for free

This AI-journaling companion takes the anxiety out of journaling with its thoughtful prompts and insightful reflections, providing you with a safe, relaxing space to work on your mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions About Journaling For Anxiety

Absolutely. Writing down your thoughts and feelings allows you to express what's on your mind and helps you to understand and manage your emotions. By keeping a record, you can start to notice what triggers your anxiety and develop strategies to cope with it.

When you're feeling anxious, consider journaling about the following:
  • Situations and experiences that cause you daily stress
  • The anxious thoughts that frequently occupy your mind
  • Your emotions and how they fluctuate over time
  • Things you're grateful for. This can shift your mindset to a more positive one
  • Different coping mechanisms you've attempted and their effectiveness
  • Plans and next steps to take to reduce your anxiety
You can even doodle or sketch in your journal if you find that it soothes anxiety.
To combat overthinking, use your journal to:
  • Detail the thoughts circling in your head and challenge their accuracy.
  • Reflect on the outcomes you fear and assess how likely they are to happen.
  • Identify triggers that may be causing you to overthink.
  • Create a plan of action to address the things you're overthinking, giving you a more precise direction.
  • Stay grounded by writing about the present moment, including what you see, hear, and feel, or by noting positive moments in your day.

Journal as often as it is helpful for you. Some people find daily journaling to be a great way to consistently manage their anxiety, while others might prefer to journal several times a week or during particularly stressful times. Remember, journaling is a personal exercise to aid your mental health, not burden it. It's important to find a pace that feels right and provides you with the most benefit.


  1. Penninx, B. W., Pine, D. S., Holmes, E. A., & Reif, A. (2021). Anxiety disorders. Lancet (London, England), 397(10277), 914–927.
  2. Chand, S. P., & Marwaha, R. (2023, April 24). Anxiety. In StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available from:
  3. Guo L. (2023). The delayed, durable effect of expressive writing on depression, anxiety, and stress: A meta-analytic review of studies with long-term follow-ups. The British journal of clinical psychology, 62(1), 272–297.
  4. Schroder, HS, Moran, TP, Moser, JS. The effect of expressive writing on the error-related negativity among individuals with chronic worry. Psychophysiology. 2018; 55: e12990.
  5. Tamagawa, R., Moss-Morris, R., Martin, A., Robinson, E. and Booth, R.J. (2013), Dispositional emotion coping styles and physiological responses to expressive writing. Br J Health Psychol, 18:574-592.
  6. Smyth, J. M., Johnson, J. A., Auer, B. J., Lehman, E., Talamo, G., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2018). Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial.JMIRmentalhealth,5(4),e11290.
  7. Wang, J. (2021). Informative Journaling Application (Unwind) for Ambient Awareness on Mood in Young Adults to Reduce Anxiety and Depression: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial (Undergraduate thesis, Dartmouth College). Dartmouth College Undergraduate Theses.
  8. Vaish, A., Grossmann, T., & Woodward, A. (2008). Not all emotions are created equal: The negativity bias in social-emotional development. Psychological Bulletin, 134(3), 383.
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