Return to site

Guided Journaling

· Stress Management
black and pink journals next to golden pen and leaves on top of pretty pink desktop

What is guided journaling?

Guided journaling helps you commit to mindfulness and can help you improve mental health through structured, reflective writing prompts, guided questions, and affirmations.

What is the difference between guided journaling and regular journaling?

Your thoughts can take you anywhere and everywhere. Without structure, regular journaling is a “continuous unedited chronological flow of conscious experience through the mind,” or through a stream of consciousness, leading to an interior monologue. Guided journaling provides more structure and can be quite effective as therapeutic help.

Why is guided journaling effective?

Guided journaling generally begins with a prompt to guide the flow of writing which leads to certain goals and a deeper level of thinking. Creating an unfiltered and uninterrupted safe space and safe place is a part of prepping for guided journaling.

What are the therapeutic benefits of guided journaling?

Guided journaling is close to guided meditation, a form of mindfulness that improves mental health with reflective thinking in the form of writing. Guided journaling can be the first step to habit-forming journaling that trains the brain to have reflective thinking routines that help with irrational beliefs or thinking. Taking the 10 most common thought distortions (developed by David Burns), for example, are a part of journaling exercises that help people to work through thinking distortions.

10 Forms of Distorted Thinking

All-or-Nothing Thinking ||| This is an extreme form of thinking in “black or white.” ||| If I don’t get a job by next month, everything is lost.

Over-generalizations ||| When one instance or example is used as a basis to generalize all experiences to follow. ||| Everybody is against me. The community I live in doesn’t like me because I have made a mistake in my past that I consider unforgivable.

Mental Filter ||| Removing the context of a situation to focus on one negative aspect of an event, and ignoring the positive to create a new lens or perspective. ||| I failed this test, so I must be stupid.

Magnification or Minimization ||| Magnifying or exaggerating the significance of something or reducing the situation to less than what it is or was. ||| A mother who generally cleans up after everyone but doesn’t take out the trash regularly who says, “I am just not a clean person.”

Labeling ||| Assigning a label or judgment to oneself based off of a single event or instance. ||| I got it wrong because I’m an idiot.

Jumping to Conclusions, Mind Reading or Fortune-telling ||| Making predictions or conclusions based on little to no evidence. ||| My whole family is poor, which means that our DNA doesn’t have what it takes to have financial success.

Should Statements ||| Irrational rules that govern or criticize how the world “should” be. ||| I’m over 30, so I should have a house, a car, and my own family by now.

Personalization of Blame ||| Internalizing the outcome of a situation you had no control over and blaming yourself for it. ||| I am not worthy of a companion in my life, because I have always been a burden to those around me.

Discounting the Positive ||| Turning a compliment into an insult or put-down. ||| I made the basket out of sheer luck.

Emotional Reasoning ||| An assumption based on feelings that an irrational thought is valid and true ||| I feel lonely, therefore, nobody wants to get to know me, even if I try to go out and socialize

Sample Journal Assignment

Thought Distortion ||| Situation ||| Thoughts/Feelings ||| New thought ||| Changes

All or nothing thinking ||| Write description of situation ||| Write your thoughts/feelings about situation ||| Alter your thought from all or nothing to different type of thinking ||| What do you think and feel now....?

Impact of Journaling on Students' Self-Efficacy and Locus of Control


One strategy to address depression due to cognitive distortion is through addressing an “All or Nothing” thought distortion. This thought distortion stems from perceiving the world in extremes, or “black and white.”

Over time, using guided journaling allows for intrapersonal growth and understanding of one’s self, which leads to self-compassion.

How can guided journaling help with anxiety?

Guided journaling relieves stress and helps to manage other emotions, such as anger, fear, or frustration. For those who have experienced trauma, it can be an outlet that allows you to process the experience through a series of questions or prompts that lead to a greater understanding of the situation and your relationship with yourself.

Guided journaling can include a combination of techniques that involve creative visualization and relaxation. Some guided journaling apps, such as Jour, encourage taking deep breaths or taking pauses throughout the writing session.

jour app screenshot

Incorporating physical relaxation techniques when writing can help to relieve stress, insomnia, and anxiety. You may be encouraged to focus on changes happening in the body while inhaling, exhaling, and suddenly releasing tension in the muscles. Many mindfulness and meditation systems involve visualizing feelings flowing out of the body, relaxing the muscles, and relieving tension. However, guided journaling takes techniques like Progressive Muscle Relaxation and puts them into a guided, written goal.

How do I get started with guided journaling?

Jour app screenshot with insights

Guided journaling is not restricted to blank pen and pad, but there are also apps and journals with prompts embedded into notebooks.

The Passion Planner provides a journaling system that starts with a step-by-step roadmap of your goals. It begins by asking the journaler to make a wish and answer the question, “If I could do anything, have anything or be anything, what would it be?” to challenge the author to think beyond the most common restraints--time and money. To begin the exercise, a 5-minute countdown is encouraged while answering the question, and keeping in mind there are no limitations to what you can achieve.

Passion Planner journal next to a mug with paintbrush and highlighters on top of wooden desktop

The roadmap will later be used to define long and short-term goals. These goals are later broken down into actionable steps, daily prompts, and monthly check-ins. To start out the week, the Passion Planner begins with inspirational quotes that when embraced lead to self-inspiration and self-motivation. Following a guided journal increases self-awareness and mental well-being independently as a form of therapeutic help.

What are the long-term benefits of guided journaling?

Guided journaling leads to increased productivity, a deeper sense of gratitude, and self-compassion. It can be done as a form of therapeutic help, or it can be in combination with a therapist as a collaborative effort to make a purposeful, therapeutic journey.

Open Passion Planner journal next to markers