Is Negative Thought Journaling for You?

Negative Thought Journaling
Jun 28, 2023 Reading time : 5 min


The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp

We’re all looking for ways to enhance our lifetyle and improve our mental wellbeing. One of the most common ways mental health experts recommend using to improve mental health is to keep a gratitude journal. But have you ever heard of keeping a negative thoughts journal?

While we’re typically taught to accentuate the positive, keeping negative thoughts from derailing your day can often be challenging. Sometimes the negative thoughts can become overwhelming, which can happen to anyone. Don’t beat yourself up over it, there are times when we all need to ask for help to get through a difficult time. There’s no need to feel alone, know that there are options for getting support to help you feel better. 

For some, online therapy is the solution that fits best into their lifestyle. Online therapy platforms can match you with a licensed therapist as quickly as 24-48 hours after signing up. Online therapy can also make more sense for those who prefer meeting with a therapist from their own home without driving to an appointment. 
In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of writing down negative thoughts in a journal, plus give you some tips on how to get started on reframing negative thoughts. 

Tips for Journaling Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can certainly affect our mental health for the worse. But how can we intervene when negative self-talk takes hold? The strategy for dismantling negative thoughts using a journal follows a pattern of identifying the negative thought, documenting it, then challenging that thought. 

Here are the steps for starting a negative thought journal:

  1. Listen for negative self-talk or negative reactions to your relationships and events. Life can be frustrating and challenging on a daily basis. Chances are, you go through your day being overly critical and unkind to yourself and others at least once per day, in all likelihood it’s probably even more often.
  2. Once you identify something negative, write it down in your journal. If you’re in online therapy, the platforms are often set up for 24/7 messaging. There are also mental health and journaling apps you can use. Writing things down can help you articulate issues to better understand what’s going on. Some people feel a sense of relief just by getting a negative thought out, which is great. But it’s important to follow through the process to the next step.
  3. Challenge the negative thought. Go back, and read the negative thoughts to yourself. You may even find them utterly ridiculous and easy to dismiss once you have some perspective on the situation. But it’s important to take the steps to refute your negative thoughts. This step may take the most skill and require some research to practice refuting negative thoughts effectively. Engaging in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may also be helpful in mastering the techniques of dismantling cognitive distortions.

Benefits of Negative Journaling

Journaling Negative Thoughts

Sometimes, dealing with negative thoughts can be overwhelming. Journaling provides the ability to go back and refute negative, distorted thoughts when you’re in a more positive frame of mind. It’s like putting the negative situation on pause until you can return. 

Using a journal or capture system like an app means that negative emotions aren’t ignored – while also making them less likely to interrupt your day. You can come back to them later. Another benefit is that you have a record of events, which can be helpful in finding patterns in your behavior. Identifying patterns can also lead to a better understanding of your triggers. Review these records of your thoughts regularly, and determine whether they’re valid or not.  

While the ideal is jotting negative thoughts down as they appear, it’s not always possible. After a long day, you may want to use journal prompts to help you get in touch with your negative feelings that took place throughout the day. Try asking yourself questions like “When did I feel negative today?” or “Who did I react negatively to today?”

What Happens If Documenting My Negative Emotions Makes Me Feel Bad?

While refuting negative emotions may be uncomfortable, don’t do anything that pushes you beyond what you’re able to handle. If you ever feel like your negative emotions are becoming too much, contact a doctor or therapist. It’s important to be kind to yourself throughout the process and to get professional help if necessary. Just know there’s no reason to feel alone during the process, support is out there. 


While there’s a risk of feeling bad when looking at your negative self-talk, there’s almost no clear way to address the impact of these negative thoughts without first becoming aware of them. Be gentle with yourself, and do your best to confront your negative emotions. Once you’ve turned a corner, you’ll be able to see the false narrative of negative self-talk and look forward to a kinder, more positive future.

James Wilson
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James Wilson