Journaling for Depression: Uses, Benefits, and How to Start

Jane Leonhardt
Jane Leonhardt

Jane Leonhardt is a Phoenix-based copywriter with a background in psychology and communications. Her writing covers simple, science-backed methods for improving mental health and overall wellness.

October 19, 2023

In the shadows of depression, finding a glimmer of hope can often seem like an endless chase. Yet, a simple journal can serve as a beacon for healing and self-discovery! Many mental health professionals and expert studies express that journaling for depression helps manage symptoms and set the afflicted on a path to brighter days.

In this article, we highlight the benefits of journaling for those grappling with depression and provide simple tips for implementing this holistic health practice into your life. We'll also answer some common questions about journaling with depression so you can start confidently.

Join us as we explore the connection between writing and mental wellness!

Key Takeaways icon

Key Takeaways

  • Journaling serves as a beacon of hope for those with depression and can be a transformative tool for healing and self-discovery.
  • Benefits of journaling for depression include emotional release, stress reduction, a more optimistic outlook, and progress tracking.
  • To start journaling for depression, choose your journal, set a routine, create a safe space, use prompts, express without judgment, and reflect on your entries.
  • Journaling can complement other forms of therapy and medication for depression, but it may not be an effective standalone treatment for everyone.
  • Rosebud is an AI-powered journaling app that delivers personalized prompts to help cope with depression and manage its symptoms.

Benefits of Journaling for Depression

A recent study found that expressive writing (journaling about thoughts and feelings) and gratitude journaling (recounting things you are thankful for) can be effective intervention methods for common mental health concerns[1]. Because depression is the second most prevalent mental illness in the United States[2], journaling for mental health may benefit you or someone you love.

Emotional Release

When grappling with depression, it's common to feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts yet struggle to communicate or make sense of them. Journaling provides a safe place to unleash painful emotions without fear of judgment or criticism. Inside the pages of your journal, you can regain a sense of control over your feelings and feel empowered to do more of what makes you feel good.

Stress Reduction

Depressive episodes can worsen anxiety, and vice versa, eventually impacting your physical health[3]. The act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard if you prefer a digital journal, like Rosebud) can help you process and release stress, leaving you with a sense of relief after each writing session. As you make depression and anxiety journaling a regular practice, you may develop a self-care routine to turn to whenever you're overwhelmed. 

A More Optimistic Outlook

Keeping a gratitude journal where you write down things you are thankful for can help replace depressive thoughts with positive ones. Studies show that regularly expressing gratitude leads to higher happiness levels, fewer doctor visits, improved relationship satisfaction, and enhanced emotional maturity[4]. By regularly acknowledging and recording things that make you feel good, you can train your mind to seek out the good things in life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

Tracking Progress

Life moves quickly; realizing how much you've grown recently can be challenging! Sometimes, you may find yourself experiencing depression because you feel stuck in the same place you were a year ago - or longer. Journaling your thoughts, feelings, and actions for just a few minutes a day creates a written record of your life, giving you something to look back on and feel proud of how far you've come. 

Celebrating little victories along the way activates the reward system in your brain and encourages you to keep doing things that bring you joy. So, treat yourself every time you complete a journal entry and whenever you notice yourself making progress in other areas of life! No victory is too small to celebrate.

Now, let's dive into how to start journaling so you can use it whenever you feel depressed.

How to Start Journaling for Depression

Starting a journaling practice for depression can significantly improve your overall health. You deserve congratulations just for taking an interest in this new habit - that’s the actual first step!

Here's what to do next:

  1. Select your journal: Choose a notebook or digital platform that suits your preferences and is easily accessible. It could be a simple notepad, a personal blog, or Rosebud, the #1 AI-powered journal for mental health and personal growth!
  1. Set a routine: Set aside journaling time that works with your existing routines. Depending on your comfort and availability, it could be daily, every other day, or weekly. Consistency is more important than frequency, so choose a schedule you can maintain with ease.
  1. Create a safe space: Depression journaling in an environment with fewer distractions can help you turn inward and get in touch with your deepest thoughts. Try to set yourself up in a quiet room alone so you aren't worried about anything but yourself and your feelings.
  1. Use journal prompts: Journaling prompts can be incredibly helpful when feeling depressed. Questions like "How are you feeling right now?" and "What's making you feel this way?" or "What is your favorite happy memory?" will help get your thoughts and feelings flowing - this is especially helpful if you often stop writing because you don't know what to jot down.
  1. Express without judgment: There is no wrong way to journal. Write freely and honestly. Don't judge your thoughts or worry about grammar or spelling. Your journal is a private space to brain-dump how you feel about the day's events and express yourself without a filter!
  1. Reflect and seek patterns: Regularly review your journal entries for patterns, triggers, and insights into your emotions. This reflective process can help you understand your depression and develop strategies to cope with it.
  1. Consider professional help: While expressive writing helps manage depression, it's not a substitute for professional help. If you're struggling with major depressive disorder or suicidal thoughts, consider seeking the support of a licensed clinical psychologist or counselor in addition to your journaling practice.

FAQs About Journaling for Depression

While it may not serve as a standalone treatment for clinical depression, it can complement other forms of therapy and medication. Try journaling consistently for a few weeks and reviewing old entries to see how you’ve grown and improved.

Yes, journaling can be good for many people with depression! It's important to note that the effectiveness of journaling varies from person to person, and it may not be the exclusive solution for everyone. However, for many individuals struggling with depression, journaling offers several advantages that can contribute to their mental health and well-being.

If unsure where to begin, use a basic prompt like, "I'm feeling sad today because..." This can help initiate your writing and focus your thoughts.

Depression leaves many people feeling unmotivated. Establishing a routine with low expectations is a great way to make journaling a natural part of your day. Don’t pressure yourself to write long entries every time! A few bullet points are wonderful - especially when you don’t feel like writing.

Battle Depression with Journaling

Journaling for depression is a mighty and accessible tool that can lead to healing and emotional well-being. Just by reading this article, you have already taken a significant step towards managing mental health challenges - you should be proud of yourself! 

With each stroke of the pen or tap of the keyboard, journaling can build resilience and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Start your journaling journey with Rosebud, an AI-powered journaling app that delivers personalized prompts, automatic reminders, and insights that help you dive deeper into your feelings.


  1. Sohal, M., Singh, P., Singh Dhillon, B., & Singh Gill, H. (2022). Efficacy of journaling in the management of mental illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis. ProQuest, 10(1).
  2. World Health Organization. (2022). Mental disorders. World Health Organization; World Health Organization.
  3. Sawchuk, C. (2017, June 2). Depression and anxiety can occur together. Read about the connection. Mayo Clinic.
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, August 14). Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Health.

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