Positivity Journaling to Fight Depressive Symptoms

Photo of a piece of decor that says 'one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day' with glasses in front of it.

What is a positivity journal? Here’s how you can use journaling to refocus on happy events and positive aspects of your life. This type of journal is helpful for fighting depressive symptoms.

While we were taught in psychology classes that journaling is helpful for clients, I don’t find that to always be the case. It’s important to evaluate if your journaling is helping- or hurting. For example, I find that focusing on negative things in my life isn’t particularly helpful. It keeps me focusing on what is wrong. For many people, they write those things in a journal and let it go. I do not.

Even more problematic is that rereading these traditional journals tends to make me upset again- and I really don’t need to regurgitate icky memories or feelings. It’s not that I don’t believe in processing trauma- I do. But I don’t want to remain stuck in that trauma.

I think this can be an issue for many people who are experiencing symptoms of depression. Many types of therapy revolve around changing how our brain thinks and journaling can function similarly. There are some events in your life that DO NOT have a positive aspect to them. But many things do- for example, taking a road trip. You’re about to be trapped in a car with your whole family for 6+ hours. There’s a lot of stress involved. But instead of focusing on that, it’s better to plan for fun instead- buy special snacks for the trip, plan stops at places your whole family will enjoy, and it’s SO COOL to travel south (or north) during the winter and watch the weather change as you drive.

Our brains are predispositioned to think about the negative, but negative thoughts can snowball and make us feel worse.

Please make an appointment through the patient portal or call 443-300-6094 if you’re interested in pursuing therapy in Howard County, Maryland through Happy Honeysuckle Healing Center. If you have a psychiatric or medical emergency, please contact 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

This blog is for educational purposes only. This information is best case scenario, at least within the scope of my knowledge and experience at the time I write the post. Not only does everyone have different approaches to parenting and life- and my way may not be your cup of tea, but also- I am not perfect, nor do I want anyone to imagine that I am. Despite being a therapist and having a whole host of really cool techniques for all the mental health related things, I am constantly learning and trying to do better.

I’m hoping that this blog can help you. When we share what works for us, we can help others develop their own toolkit for improving their mental health.

Many years ago, I started keeping a positivity journal. A friend of mine suggested it and bought me a beautiful blank notebook to use. I use the journal to write about everything and anything that makes me happy or makes me feel good. This includes smells that I like (ie. the smell of fresh baked cookies!), activities I enjoy, and happy memories. I also use it to write cute things that my kids or husband say.

The journal should EXCLUSIVELY be used to write about things that will make you smile if you read back over it.

I also tend to focus more on the PROCESS stuff- not the ‘event.’ For example, buying your first home is great, but I don’t get happy feelings when I think about those words. Those words alone might have the opposite effect- I may start thinking about the expense, the legal paperwork, and the process of moving out. I write about what makes me smile. For example, that feeling of moving into a new home, laying on the floor, and making your voice echo in the emptiness. Or the satisfaction of unpacking everything in its new space.

I also have an area where I write things that I might want to do again if I’m feeling sad. These are good to look at in case I’m feeling depressed and need to remember how to bounce back. “Oh yeah, I haven’t been on a trail ride for a while! Let me set that up!” or “Ooo I can go to the arcade and play laser tag!”

I try to add to the journal regularly and then read through it when I’m feeling sad or anxious. It never fails to help me feel better and usually I’ll get excited reading through it and remember new things to add to it.

The journal helps me reevaluate a situation and see the positives. It encourages me to look for the “half full” perspective, when I’m feeling more inclined to look at things “half empty.”

Sometimes I’ll journal about the positives about a tough situation I am in, but mostly I just focus on unrelated positives.

The ONE RULE is to NEVER add any ‘buts’… these are the ‘I love moving BUT I HATE DEALING WITH MOVERS” type comments. Those ‘buts’ don’t belong in this journal.

I have this quote added to the front of my journal as well. It’s a good reminder…

The best part about this journal? You never have to worry about anyone else reading it.

Positive Journal Prompts

Here are some prompts if you need some help getting started:

  • Write about someone who has had a positive impact on your life. Write about your memories of this person.
  • What are your favorite foods? What do you like about these foods?
  • Write about an activity that you enjoy, but don’t get to do often enough.
  • Happy childhood memories.
  • What are your best qualities- the things you wouldn’t want to change about yourself?
  • Talk about a time where you are proud of something that you did.
  • What is your safe space? What makes it feel safe and peaceful for you?
  • Write about a time that you helped someone else. How did that make you feel?
  • Have you ever had someone go out of their way to help you? Write about that and how it made you feel.
  • Can you think of a time when things seemed really bad, but they ended up working out perfectly? If it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, write about it.
  • Choose some of the people who are in your life and write about their good qualities and/or experiences with them that make you smile.
  • What is something that puts you in a good mood?
  • Do you have favorite smells or smells that bring back fond memories?
  • What are some of your favorite quotes that make you smile or laugh? Maybe it’s a funny quote from a movie, tv show, or book.
  • Make a list of books, tv shows, or movies that make you smile and feel good.
  • What is one thing that you accomplished today?
  • What is one good thing that happened today?
  • Make a list of favorite hobbies or activities. Can you schedule yourself to do one of these?
  • What are your 5 favorite things about your home/spouse/kids/country/job?
  • Write about a compliment that you received that made you feel good.

I’ve seen a lot of prompts that are REALLY intense ‘what is the meaning of life’ type stuff. I think that’s going to be a short journal. I don’t want to think that hard or make this too ‘deep.’ I want my journal to be lighthearted reading.

I prefer to write about how I feel when I go in late at night to check on my children and they’re all snuggled in their bed. If you’re a parent, you may know that feeling. It’s such a feeling of peace and contentment. Or the woman who stopped to let me sit in her car when she saw I was standing at the bus stop in the pouring rain (I was in college, I wasn’t worried about kidnapping). I have been listening to an audiobook recently and whenever the guy’s cat Donut does something that could get them in trouble, he yells G*D*it DONUT! It makes me laugh EVERY TIME. I also have a beautiful memory of sitting alone in a garden in Ireland at 5am and just… relaxing.

I hope this was helpful and gives you a good place to start.

Closeup photo of someone writing in a journal 'today I am grateful for...' with the text overlay "Positivity Journaling: Changing your mindset with a happy journal."