Mental health self esteem group activities
Personal Strengths Defined (+ List of 92 Personal Strengths)
In my work with young people, we often talk about their ideas of personal strengths and weaknesses.
One of the exercises we begin with asks the students to think about one of their best friends or someone they admire, and to write a list of all the personal strengths they believe this person has. Then they are asked to write a list of their weaknesses.
Almost every time, the strengths list is long and full of wonderful sentiments and statements, while the weakness list usually contains one or two things, or nothing at all.
Then we flip the exercise. Students are asked to repeat the same task, but this time write a list of personal strengths and weaknesses they feel they have. The results? The strengths list is minimal, while the weakness lists are double the length.
I’ve found that this isn’t something that goes away as we become adults and further develop our experiences and personal knowledge. So, how do we better acknowledge our personal strengths versus our personal weaknesses? And what is the importance of doing so?
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Strengths Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients realize your unique potential and create a life that feels energized and authentic.
This Article Contains:
- Personal Strengths Defined
- Personal Weaknesses Defined
- Why Our Personal Strengths and Weaknesses Matter: The Research
- 5 Symbols of Mental Strength
- Fortitude of Character
- 5 Benefits of Listing Your Strengths and Weaknesses
- 3 Tools for Measuring Your Personal Strengths
- Professional Strengths: ‘The Big Four’ for Work
- List of 92 Strengths for Resumes & Cover Letters
- A Take-Home Message
Personal Strengths Defined
One of the key contributions positive psychology has made is supporting individuals to reflect on, consider, and identify their core strengths to utilize them to lead a flourishing life (Boniwell, 2006).
Within positive psychology, personal strengths are defined as our built-in capacities for particular ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving (Linley, 2008). We all possess distinct character strengths that are associated with the six virtues of positive psychology theory (Seligman, 2002):
- Love of learning
- Social intelligence
- Appreciation of beauty and excellence
Over three years, Peterson and Seligman (2004) explored what personal strengths might look like and came up with the above list of 24 core strengths. They referred to these as character strengths and concluded the following:
- These 24 strengths are evident across human history and world cultures.
- Each of the 24 strengths exists in all of us to varying degrees.
Positive psychology helps us to acknowledge that we may be stronger in some areas and weaker in others, and that’s okay. It’s what makes us all unique. The point is to identify your pattern of strengths so that you can tap into these to live a more fulfilling life.
Personal Weaknesses Defined
One of the other purposes of positive psychology is to bring our ideas of strengths and weaknesses into balance. Positive psychology traditionally took the stance that other areas of psychology have placed too much emphasis on pain, trauma, and negative emotions and experiences (Seligman, 2002).
With that in mind, positive psychology considers a weakness to be one of the 24 character strengths that you are lower in, rather than a full deficit of a strength in particular. Peterson and Seligman (2004) believe we each hold all of the character strengths within us, and understanding how each sits within our personal capacity allows us to respond and behave in more positive ways.
Positive psychology does not see weaknesses as ‘unfixable’ areas, and we can work to improve some of our less-developed character strengths if we wish to, through various positive psychology techniques and tools.
Why Our Personal Strengths and Weaknesses Matter: The Research
Understanding our strengths and weaknesses is important within positive psychology, as it forms the foundation for much of the theory and therapeutic work.
Encouraging children to become aware of their strengths helps them to develop more self-confidence and self-awareness, as well as a deeper appreciation and value for how each of us is different (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
Further research has backed up the positive impact of encouraging individuals to explore and understand their character strengths.
- The process of identifying and utilizing your strengths in everyday life has been linked to an elevated sense of vitality and motivation (Clifton & Anderson, 2001), increased probability of achieving goals, and a stronger sense of life direction (Hodges & Clifton, 2004). It has also been linked to higher self-confidence, engagement, and productivity (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
- Rust, Diessner, and Reade (2013) found that students who were encouraged to focus on identifying their character strengths over 12 weeks reported higher gains on the Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larson, & Griffin, 1985) compared with a control group.
- Identifying strengths has also been linked to benefits beyond the individual. Focusing on employee strengths during performance reviews was shown to increase workplace productivity by up to 34% (Corporate Leadership Council, 2002).
- Using strengths-based interventions in the workplace also led to a lower turnover of staff by up to 14% (Asplund, Lopez, Hodges, & Harter, 2009).
Understanding our strengths has been shown to have extensive positive benefits across our life. Still, research has gone one step further and acknowledged that alongside knowing our strengths, knowing when to use them is equally important. Understanding which strengths are optimal in which contexts allows us to further navigate our understanding of ourselves and achieve goals (Ryan, 2009; Schwartz & Sharpe, 2006).
5 Symbols of Mental Strength
Another positive psychology concept worth exploring in relation to personal strengths is the concept of mental strength, sometimes referred to as mental toughness.
Mental strength is the capacity to deal with various stressors or challenges when they arise and still perform to the best of your ability and personal strengths (Clough, Earle, & Sewell, 2002). Mental strength is another core foundation of positive psychology and something that can be built and developed over time with purpose and practice.
Positive psychology defines mental strength through the following attributes:
With personal strengths comes the balance of personal weaknesses, and the same is true with mental strength. If not practiced in alignment with personal strengths or without purpose, mental strength may change into its negative counterpart:
- Adaptability can become fickleness.
- Endurance may lead to martyrdom or victimization.
- Steadfastness can turn to inflexibility.
- Dependability can become predictability.
- Effectiveness may lead to laziness or taking shortcuts.
Being aware of this can help you to adjust where you notice an imbalance. Just as you might go to the gym to build physical muscle and give up bad habits to meet personal fitness goals, you can develop better mental strength through the right mix of behaviors and thoughts (Morin, 2017).
Fortitude of Character
- strength and firmness of mind; resolute endurance
- the strength to bear misfortune, pain, etc. calmly and patiently; firm courage
Collins Dictionary, 2020
Another term you might come across when exploring personal strengths within positive psychology is ‘fortitude of character,’ sometimes referred to as ‘strength of character.’
Similar to building mental strength, fortitude of character is the process of identifying, focusing on, and building your innate strengths over time. Alongside your strengths, fortitude of character advises focusing on the character strengths that assist you in overcoming challenging situations that you might be weaker in (Corbett, 2018). This could be assertiveness, courage, confidence, or justice.
This process does not happen overnight, and a purposeful, conscious practice is needed to regularly identify small daily actions that can lead to you building your fortitude of character. Each day will present new scenarios or situations in which you can practice.
5 Benefits of Listing Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Referring back to my example from the start of this article about how I get my students to list their strengths and weaknesses, one of the biggest resistances to this exercise is that it ‘is narcissistic.’ But that is entirely untrue.
Listing your strengths and weaknesses is a beneficial exercise that helps to motivate a range of positive cognitive and behavioral changes. Here are five to get you started:
1. Builds your self-awareness
Self-awareness is crucial in a variety of personal and interpersonal settings. When you spend time reflecting on and identifying your strengths and weaknesses, it allows you to consider the various situations where you shine and where you don’t.
This level of awareness means you can play to your strengths and seek support in situations where you are weakest.
2. Helps you understand other perspectives
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses also enables you to understand others’ strengths and weaknesses and increases your capacity for empathy (Abbate, Boca, & Gendolla, 2016).
Better self-awareness increases your confidence in your capabilities, resulting in reduced self-seeking and self-gratifying mentalities (Stephenson & Wicklund, 1983), freeing you up to listen to others and understand their perspectives.
3. Allows you to identify areas for improvement
Sometimes we might know intuitively where we need to improve, but never actually go one step further to proactively make those changes. Actively and creatively reflecting and problem solving around your strengths and weaknesses can motivate you to pursue improvements.
The process of writing these things down can instigate the identification of the micro-actions that can create the positive changes you might want to see.
4. Increases your positive vocabulary and positive self-talk
Another benefit of actively writing down your strengths is that it allows you to flex your vocabulary muscles and develop the language needed to talk positively about yourself. Self-talk is vital for our overall feelings of contentment. Positive self-talk has been linked to effective positive cognitive and behavioral changes (Tod, Oliver, & Hardy, 2011).
5. Greater appreciation for areas you may have previously undervalued
How do you know which aspects of yourself to value if you’re unsure what they are? Sometimes we view particular behaviors as negative or ‘weird’ when, in fact, they are linked to personal strengths.
Identifying your strengths and weaknesses also allows you to begin connecting them to specific behaviors and habits. In doing so, you can begin to decide which ones are beneficial and contribute to who you want to be, and which ones aren’t.
This process of listing your strengths and weaknesses isn’t a one-time exercise. Make sure you revisit your list often to review your progress. Your ideas of your strengths and weaknesses will almost certainly fluctuate over time, so this exercise can be great to see what direction you’re heading in.
3 Tools for Measuring Your Personal Strengths
Exploring your strengths can be an exciting endeavor if this is the first time you’ve considered them. Positive psychology has presented us with several valuable tools we can use to begin painting the picture of our strengths and weaknesses.
Here are three to get you started:
1. The VIA Character Strengths Inventory
Developed by Peterson and Seligman (2004), the VIA Character Strengths Inventory is one of the most popular and fundamental ways to measure your personal strengths.
It is based on their 24 character strengths, around the six virtues. You can complete a short questionnaire, responding to a series of statements. Your results then rank the character strengths, from strongest to weakest.
It’s an excellent starting point and can be quite enlightening and surprising.
2. The Big Five Personality Test
The Big Five Personality Test is another excellent questionnaire to begin exploring your personal strengths.
Free to access and complete, it provides you with a series of statements and asks you to rank them from inaccurate to accurate as you feel they relate to you. The results then provide you with a score for the ‘Big Five’ personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
It is shorter than the VIA Survey and should only take around 10 minutes to complete.
3. The 300-Question Personality Traits Inventory
If you’re seeking to go in depth, this could be the questionnaire for you!
Consisting of 300 statements, this inventory asks you to rate your responses to each one from inaccurate to accurate as you feel it relates to you personally. The results then provide you with a detailed overview of your core character traits.
This inventory takes around 30 minutes to complete.
Professional Strengths: ‘The Big Four’ for Work
Once you’ve spent some time reflecting on your strengths, you might also begin to consider your professional strengths.
Many of our strengths can be translated well to the workplace and professional contexts, but it’s how we translate them and the language we use that transitions them from ‘personal’ to ‘professional.’
|Personal strength||Professional strength|
|Love of learning||Commitment to professional development|
|Perspective||Strong team player|
|Bravery||Able to deliver on tough projects|
This reflection can be especially helpful when you’re considering which jobs might be right for you. Once you know your personal and professional strengths, you can start to reflect on job roles in this context and find ones that are the best match for you.
When applying for jobs where you feel unsure about which strengths to focus on, try asking yourself these four questions:
1. Is it relevant for the job?
This one is crucial. We often have a list of strengths and skills, but we don’t hone them down for relevance.
When weighing up whether to include a specific skillset, reflect on the job role itself and review the job description. Is the skill mentioned in the job posting? Will it be required for the role or add value?
If it is not relevant, do not include it.
2. Is it accurate and true?
Many employers state that one of their biggest annoyances is when candidates list skills that they don’t have. I often experience this with the students I work with, where they list a skill they know is relevant to the industry, but have little or no experience with themselves.
Make sure everything you list is accurate about you and provides a true reflection of your skill level. You will be asked about it!
3. Is it adaptable?
There will be certain skills we pick up in one role that are fully relevant and adaptable to another.
If you identify some skills that fit this profile, make sure you detail how the skill can be adapted to the new role or industry you’re applying to. Years working in a retail job will give you excellent communication and teamwork skills, which could adapt well to an office or administrative environment.
4. Can you provide examples?
Linked back to question number two, make sure that any skill you list comes with tangible examples of when you have used or developed it. This is especially important if it is a skill listed in the job posting, as you will likely be asked about it in the interview.
One of the best ways to structure an example that focuses on a specific skill is the STAR technique. Here’s what that looks like:
Situation: Set the scene for your example, describing where you were working and what your role was.
Task: Provide details of what you were asked to do that demonstrates the skill you are seeking to describe.
Action: Paint the picture of what you did to meet the demands of the task and show your skill.
Result: Detail what happened as a result of your actions and skill.
List of 92 Strengths for Resumes & Cover Letters
Anyone who has ever had to write an application, resume, or cover letter knows that listing your strengths is crucial to demonstrate a personal and professional match for the role.
Most of us, however, get stuck at knowing how to articulate these strengths.
One of the core ways to begin identifying which strengths you should list or focus on is to read the job posting carefully, highlighting any keywords that stand out and particularly focusing on those that relate to the personal and professional requirements of the job itself.
Once you have this list, you can begin to create your own list that aligns as closely as possible. Having the language to do this helps a lot. We’ve compiled a list of 92 key personal and professional strengths that can be used for resume and cover letter purposes (List of Personality Traits, n.d.; Positive Personality Adjectives, n.d.; 638 Primary Personality Traits, n.d.):
A Take-Home Message
Exploring and understanding our personal strengths and weaknesses can be a fulfilling experience. I know that when my students start working on this, I see a noticeable improvement in their confidence and the positive ways they begin to talk about themselves. They also acknowledge each other’s strengths, and this, in turn, creates a great classroom environment where we support each other.
I hope after reading this article, you’ll have found a starting point or a continuation for the ways in which you can explore your personal and professional strengths. If there’s one key message I’d like you to take away from this, it’s that this process is in no way narcissistic and can lead to some wonderful moments of self-discovery and growth.
I’ve seen my strengths and weaknesses develop over even a short amount of time as I focus on the ones I want to work on and improve.
After reading this, I hope you feel a renewed motivation to check in on your strengths more frequently.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Strengths Exercises for free.
- 638 Primary Personality Traits. (n.d.) Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from http://ideonomy.mit.edu/essays/traits.html
- Abbate, C. S., Boca, S., & Gendolla, G. H. E. (2016). Self-awareness, perspective-taking, and egocentrism. Self and Identity, 15(4), 371–380.
- Asplund, J., Lopez, S. J., Hodges, T., & Harter, J. (2009). The Clifton Strengths Finder® 2.0 technical report: Development and validation [technical report]. Gallup.
- Boniwell, I. (2006). Positive psychology in a nutshell. PWBC.
- Clifton, D. O., & Anderson, E. (2001). StrengthsQuest. Gallup.
- Clough, P. J., Earle, K., & Sewell, D. (2002). Mental toughness: The concept and its measurement. In I. Cockerill (Ed.), Solutions in sport psychology (pp. 32–43). Thomson.
- Collins Dictionary. (2020). Definition of Fortitude. Retrieved from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/fortitude
- Corbett, T. (2018). Fortitude – Strength of character. Retrieved from https://ethicalfoundations.com.au/fortitude-strength-of-character/
- Corporate Leadership Council. (2002). Building the high-performance workforce. Corporate Executive Board.
- Diener, E., Emmons, R., Larson, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction With Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), pp. 71-5.
- Hodges, T. D., & Clifton, D. O. (2004). Strengths-based development in practice. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (pp. 256–268). John Wiley & Sons.
- Linley, A. (2008). Average to A+: Realising strengths in yourself and others. CAPP Press.
- List of Personality Traits. (n.d.) The Lists. Retrieved from http://www.thelists.org/list-of-personality-traits.html
- Morin, A. (2017). 13 Things mentally strong people don’t do: Take back your power, embrace change, face your fears, and train your brain for happiness and success. William Morrow Paperbacks.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. American Psychological Association.
- Positive Personality Adjectives. (n.d.). English Club. Retrieved from https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/adjectives-personality-positive.html
- Rust, T., Diessner, R. & Reade, L. (2009). Strengths only or strengths and relative weaknesses? A preliminary study. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 143(5), 465–476.
- Ryan, L. (2009). Opportunities and obstacles: Incorporating positive psychology into business coaching (Unpublished master’s dissertation). University of East London, UK.
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. Free Press.
- Schwartz, B., & Sharpe, K.E. (2006). Practical wisdom: Aristotle meeting positive psychology. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 377–395.
- Stephenson, B. O., & Wicklund, R. A. (1983). Self-directed attention and taking the other’s perspective. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 19(1), 58–77.
- Tod, D., Oliver, E. J., & Hardy, J. (2011). Effects of self-talk: A systematic review. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 33(5), 666–687.
5 Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health
Writing about stressful and traumatic events can significantly benefit our physical and emotional health.
In fact, studies show that time spent journaling about our deepest thoughts and feelings can even reduce the number of sick days we take off work (Sohal, Singh, Dhillon & Gill, 2022).
Research suggests that journaling can help us accept rather than judge our mental experiences, resulting in fewer negative emotions in response to stressors (Ford, Lam, John, & Mauss, 2018; Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005).
This article explores the numerous benefits of journaling and introduces guidance and techniques to support clients as they attempt to express how they feel and think.
Before you start reading, we thought you might like to download our three Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF) for free. These science-based exercises will equip you and those you work with, with tools to manage stress better and find a healthier balance in your life.
This Article Contains:
- Why is Journaling Good For You?
- 5 Surprising Benefits of Journaling
- How to Journal for Optimal Mental Health
- Getting Started – Journaling Prompts
- Resources From PositivePsychology.com
- A Take-Home Message
Why is Journaling Good For You?
Journaling is a widely used non-pharmacological tool for coaching and counseling and the treatment of mental illness. Two forms of journaling are particularly commonplace in psychotherapy (Sohal et al. , 2022):
- Expressive writing
Typically performed over three or four sessions to access the client’s innermost feelings and thoughts; focusing on the emotional experience than events, people, or objects.
- Gratitude journaling
Involving a focus on the positive aspects of life through capturing situations, events, and interactions for which we are grateful.
Keeping a record of personal thoughts and feelings is particularly helpful in supporting mental health by (WebMD.com, 2021):
- Reducing anxiety
- Breaking away from a nonstop cycle of obsessive thinking and brooding
- Improving the awareness and perception of events
- Regulating emotions
- Encouraging awareness
- Boosting physical health
The positive effects of journaling can even be felt when not performed daily – helping the individual better understand their needs and boosting their wellbeing (Tartakovsky, 2022).
Research on Journaling
Studies show that by capturing our thoughts and feelings on paper, “participants often reveal a considerable range and depth of emotional trauma” (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005, p. 339).
Indeed, while the experience of writing can be upsetting, clients report they find it valuable and meaningful and, ultimately, a valuable part of the acceptance process.
In fact, based on client self-reports, research suggests a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits from expressive writing (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005):
- Lowered blood pressure
- Improved lung and liver function
- Less time spent in hospital
- Better moods
- Improved psychological wellbeing
- Fewer depressive and avoidance symptoms
- Reduced stress-related visits to the doctor
- Less work absenteeism
- Less time out of work following job loss
- Higher student grade averages
Not only that, but research into gratitude journaling suggests that “study participants who regularly drew their attention to aspects of their lives that made them feel blessed increased their positivity” (Fredrickson, 2010, p. 187). However, a caveat exists. Recording what makes us feel grateful every day can become monotonous, even zapping positivity. A few days a week may be sufficient.
The Psychology Behind Journaling
“Research has consistently linked the habitual tendency to accept one’s mental experiences with greater psychological health” (Ford et al., 2018, p. 2). Study findings suggest that accepting our feelings is linked to better psychological health and positive therapeutic outcomes, including improved moods and reduced anxiety.
And this is where journaling can help. It can promote acceptance–and mindful acceptance in particular–which is a valuable and effective way of getting unstuck, freeing ourselves to move forward (Forsyth & Eifert, 2016).
While the exact mechanisms involved in journaling that confer physical and mental health benefits are not clear, the following psychological processes may be involved, to a greater or lesser degree (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005):
- Emotional catharsis
An emotional release of unconscious conflicts through venting negative feelings.
- Increased cognitive processing
Time spent creating coherent narratives of what has happened.
- Repeated exposure
Increased and prolonged exposure to stressful events may lead to a reduction in harmful thoughts and feelings.
- Emotional inhibition
Actively inhibiting negative emotions takes a considerable effort, further stressing the body and mind. Confronting them may support cognitive integration and further understanding.
For each suggestion, there is supporting and contradictory evidence. The benefits of journaling seem apparent, yet the mechanisms beneath are yet to be fully understood (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005; Tartakovsky, 2022).
5 Surprising Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is a popular therapeutic intervention used in many different disciplines and psychological approaches.
Easy to implement and get started, it can benefit clients experiencing different mental health issues (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005; Ford et al. , 2018):
Journaling for Anxiety
Journaling has proven popular and effective for treating clients experiencing anxiety, possibly because of an improved acceptance of negative emotions and a more helpful emotional response to stress (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005; Ford et al., 2018).
One meta-review of research studies suggests that journaling may be a more effective treatment for anxiety in women than men (yet both groups have a positive effect) and that doing so for longer than 30 days may maximize mental wellbeing benefits (Sohal et al., 2022).
Journaling for Depression
Research suggests that expressive writing and gratitude journaling can reduce symptoms of depression, providing an effective intervention for clients receiving treatment in therapy.
As with anxiety, such interventions also appeared more effective when lasting longer than 30 days. While benefits may not be as great as for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), journaling still appears to be a valuable intervention (Sohal et al. , 2022).
Journaling for Stress Management
Journaling can support coping and reduce the impact of stressful events – potentially avoiding burnout and chronic anxiety. Studies link writing privately about stressful events and capturing thoughts and emotions on paper with decreased mental distress.
When journaling for stress management, processing our emotions in written form may even increase the likelihood that we reach out for social support. This, in turn, leads to emotional healing and improved resilience to stress (WebMD.com, 2021).
Journaling for Reflection
When stressed or consumed by negative thoughts, it’s difficult to view our situation objectively. Writing in a journal can help us create the space and distance needed to reflect on what has happened, where we are, and what is ahead.
Journaling may create sufficient cognitive defusion–looking at thoughts rather than being in them–to create the separation needed to accept our feelings and commit to the changes we need to make (Tartakovsky, 2022).
Journaling for Recovery
Research suggests that journaling, particularly expressive writing, can help those experiencing or recovering from the emotional trauma associated with PTSD (Sohal et al., 2022).
Another innovative approach combined journaling with visualization and appeared to offer lasting support to war veterans (Mims, 2015).
Other findings confirm journaling as a valuable and effective intervention for recovery from addiction.
A 2022 paper highlighted the ability of journaling to support the recovery of women in residential treatment for substance use disorders. Results showed that the intervention “helped participants to recognize what was positive about recovery, to achieve meaningful short-term goals, and to experience a sense of optimism and pride in their accomplishments” (Krentzman, Hoeppner, Hoeppner, & Barnett, 2022, p. 1).
How to Journal for Optimal Mental Health
Despite the clear benefits of journaling for easing distress, we are often less willing to capture how we feel on paper when we are struggling the most.
After all, it’s not always pleasant. We are revisiting thoughts and emotions that we may have been avoiding. In fact, we may feel sad, upset, guilty, or anxious immediately after time spent writing. And yet, in the long term, journaling offers us better psychological and physical health (Newman, 2020).
The following guidelines should ease the first-timer into the process and make it less daunting (Newman, 2020; WebMD.com, 2021; Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005):
Guidance for mental health practitioners working with clients:
- Expressive writing can be set as homework, between, or immediately before or after sessions.
- Encourage the client to find somewhere quiet and peaceful, away from distractions.
- Set a goal of writing three or four times a week – potentially on consecutive days.
- Carve out 30 minutes–even during a busy day–with 20 for writing and 10 for reflection and composing.
- Let the client choose what they want to write about, for example, a stressful or traumatic event.
- Do not impose a structure on their writing – encourage them to choose their own format.
- Clarify that what the client writes is private; it will only be read if they choose to share.
- Do not judge what they capture and choose to offer up for discussion – and keep feedback to a minimum.
Guidance for the client:
- Pick the time of day that suits you best to write in the journal; setting a regular time is helpful but accept that it may be necessary to be flexible.
- Start by expressing your feelings, allowing yourself time to name each one. Then move on to observing your thoughts and any patterns of thinking that might characterize you.
- Start small. Begin by writing for only a few minutes on a subject of your choice – perhaps the day’s events or something that has been troubling you.
- Create and express what you want from life and how you feel. There are no rules, and there is no wrong way of doing this.
- Do not worry about spelling and punctuation – no one is here to judge you.
- Choose a medium that suits you. Write on paper if you prefer; use a computer; or record your spoken thoughts.
- Accept that, at times, you may feel upset as you write. And that’s ok. Take a break if you need to. While this process will not fix all your problems, it will help you learn more about yourself.
We should explain to the client that expressive writing can sometimes lead to short-term distress despite the long-term benefits. Clients should be encouraged to stop writing if they find no benefits or the practice is too distressing (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005).
Getting Started – Journaling Prompts
The following provides a typical example of expressive writing instructions that can be modified and tailored to the situation and the needs of the client (modified from Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005, p. 338):
“For the next four days, I would like you to write down how you feel and think about your most traumatic experience or a significant emotional issue that has profoundly impacted you.
If you can, try to let go, capturing your deepest emotions and thoughts, including how you relate to those closest to you, your past, present, and future, and how you have been and would like to be. Feel free to carry one topic across multiple days or, if you prefer, choose a new one for each.
Your writing will remain confidential, so please do not worry about spelling, grammar, or style. You are not being judged so try to write honestly and openly.”
Specific and individual prompts can be helpful for clients if they are new to journaling or are struggling to get started. Begin by answering one or more of the following questions (Tartakovsky, 2022; Newman, 2020):
- How do the changes in your life make you feel? And how are you handling changes at work, at home, and in relationships?
- What are you most anxious or uncertain about? Where is that coming from, and how are you coping?
- What three things are you most grateful for today, or what three good things have happened to you today?
- What are your favorite memories from your own or your children’s lives?
- Name something you fear and why?
- What do you enjoy doing and why?
- How would you describe yourself from the perspective of someone close to you?
- What would your very best day look like and why?
- How would a difficult situation be handled if you were being your very best self?
- If you woke up tomorrow having everything you truly wanted, what would it look like?
Resources From PositivePsychology.com
We have many journaling resources available for therapists providing support to clients wanting to address mental health issues.
Gratitude often plays a large part in journaling. Why not download our free gratitude pack and try out the powerful tools contained within, including:
- Experiencing Awe
Feelings of awe can arise in response to experiences that appear vast (including landscapes, such as the sea, mountains, and night sky) and can profoundly impact our gratitude. Ask the client to recall a time when they experienced awe and to write about their experience in detail.
- Fostering admiration in couples
Maintaining fondness and respect in a relationship can help support the love within a couple. This exercise encourages positivity within the relationship and helps form a strong emotional bond.
Other free resources include:
- Gratitude Journal
Use this worksheet Gratitude Journal as a prompt to help clients capture those aspects of their lives for which they are most grateful.
- Self Esteem Journal for Adults
Use this sheet to note down meaningful daily activities and reflect on them to enhance client self-knowledge.
- Self-Love Journal
These ten self-love prompts encourage emotional expression, mood boosting, and de-stressing within the client.
More extensive versions of the following tools are available with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit©, but they are described briefly below:
- Journaling Through Grief in 40 Days
Losing someone special from our lives is one of the most distressing human experiences. Journaling through grief allows the individual to step back and reflect on what they have been going through from multiple perspectives.
The 40 days of journaling also provide a lasting record of their journey for later reflection.
- Strength journaling
Personal strengths can be reinforced and developed through attending to them and exploring the ways in which one has used them in real, everyday life.
Use the seven days of prompts to write about what has gone well and the strengths that may have played a role in the successful outcome.
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others manage stress without spending hours on research and session prep, this collection contains 17 validated stress management tools for practitioners. Use them to help others identify signs of burnout and create more balance in their lives.
A Take-Home Message
Journaling as an intervention has many benefits, supporting physical and mental wellbeing, resilience, and greater emotional awareness and understanding.
To begin with, clients may be uncertain regarding revisiting difficult emotions or situations. And yet, with support and confirmation that their innermost thoughts and feelings remain private, they will grow more confident in capturing their deepest thoughts and better able to manage their anxiety and stressful situations.
Journaling encourages space from negative or self-critical thinking, allowing the client to see that what they think and feel is not who they are but something they are experiencing.
Journaling allows the client to see that what they think and feel is not who they are but something they are experiencing. It provides a space where a client can view their negative or self-critical thinking as just that – thoughts.
With practice, journaling can help process emotions–even ones that have been avoided or held back–and lead to a better understanding of how to proceed.
If your clients are not already doing so, task them with capturing how they think and feel in written form through either expressive writing or gratitude journaling. The client does not need to spend a great deal of time on it every day; even twenty minutes, three to four times a week, will have a positive and lasting effect.
Encourage them to reflect on what they have written later on, becoming better at understanding that difficult feelings will pass, and it is not the situation or specific stressors that cause us difficulty but our perception of them.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF) for free.
- Baikie, K., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346.
- Ford, B. Q., Lam, P., John, O. P., & Mauss, I. B. (2018). The psychological health benefits of accepting negative emotions and thoughts: Laboratory, diary, and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(6), 1075-1092.
- Forsyth, J. P., & Eifert, G. H. (2016). The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to Breaking Free from Anxiety, Phobias & Worry Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
- Fredrickson, B. (2010). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to release your inner optimist and thrive. Richmond: Oneworld.
- Krentzman, A. R., Hoeppner, B. B., Hoeppner, S. S., & Barnett, N. P. (2022). Development, feasibility, acceptability, and impact of a positive psychology journaling intervention to support addiction recovery. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1-19.
- Mims, R. (2015). Military veteran use of visual journaling during recovery. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 28(2), 99-111.
- Newman, K. (2020). How journaling can help you in hard times. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_journaling_can_help_you_in_hard_times
- Sohal, M., Singh, P., Dhillon, B. S., & Gill, H. S. (2022). Efficacy of journaling in the management of mental illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Family Medicine and Community Health, 10(1).
- Tartakovsky, M. (2022, February 22). 15 benefits of journaling and tips for getting started. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-journaling
- WebMD.com. (2021). How journaling can help ease anxiety and encourage healing. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-benefits-of-journaling
Activities were carried out according to the action plan. In educational institutions, a diagnosis of the risk of suicidal behavior of students, a survey on school bullying, was carried out.
Class hours on the topics of psychological health, classes with elements of training and psychology lessons have passed. Conversations were held on the topic: "Dangers around us." The students joined the campaign “Write a helpline in your diary!”, in which they learned about the work of emergency services and a children's helpline. With the students of the Ibresinskaya secondary school No. 1, the Ibresinskaya secondary school No. 2, the Novochurashevskaya secondary school, correctional and relaxation classes were held with children using the capabilities of the sensory room.
Preventive work has been intensified with children in need of special psychological and pedagogical assistance.
Literature exhibitions were held in the libraries of educational institutions, where students and teachers could find the necessary material for preparing and conducting conversations, round tables, discussions, class hours on the prevention of drug addiction, alcoholism, cruelty and violence, and the formation of a healthy lifestyle. April 8, 2022
On April 7, 2022, a school-wide parent meeting was held in the Novochurashevskaya secondary school of the Ibresinsky district.
From 1 to 8 April, schoolchildren took part in the Republican campaign dedicated to World Autism Awareness Day.
April 5, 2022, within the framework of the project "Time of Change", supported by the Presidential Grants Fund, implemented by the Diocesan Center "Unexpected Joy" in Alatyr, a preventive conversation was held with high school students of educational institutions of the Ibresinsky district.
In MBOU "Bolsheabakasinskaya OSH" in order to generalize the knowledge of children on a healthy lifestyle, a quiz "Health" was held with students. On April 5, students of grades 1-6 underwent diagnostics of interpersonal relationships using the "Two Houses" method. With students of grades 7-8, a training session “Know how to say NO!” in order to give the concept of what group pressure is, what it means to “make your own decision”.
April 7 with students in grades 1-4, the action "Flower field of mood" was held. Each student of each class during the day chose a circle of the color of their mood. Students of the 6th grade, in order to teach children the techniques and methods of relieving psycho-emotional stress, conducted the training "Learn to control yourself." The guys got acquainted with the concept of "self-control", "stress", "anti-stress", considered the consequences of bad and aggressive behavior.
In the foyer of the school, posters were placed on the stand with the names of the nominations “The Most Active”, “The Most Responsible”, “The Kindest”, “The Most Attentive”, “The Most Famous”. A sociological survey was conducted with students in grades 7-8 in order to study the characteristics of spending free time by minors and the orientation of their personality. An individual conversation was held with parents who are members of the Higher School of Education on the prevention of suicide in children and adolescents. 08.04. with students in grades 3-4, a survey "Internet addiction" was conducted.
In MBOU "Klimovskaya secondary school" with first-graders, a lesson "Let's do good" was held. Primary school students took part in the drawing competition "What is happiness?" Each child in the picture depicted his vision of happiness. With students of the 7th grade, a training session "My self-esteem" was held. The children were interested in learning about their characteristics, capabilities, abilities, which are manifested differently at each age, enriched with new content at each stage of life. Passed the test-questionnaire "Determining the level of self-esteem." On April 6, 6th grade students discussed a very important topic: friendship between boys and girls. Is she in class? During the discussion, the guys came to the conclusion that the atmosphere in the classroom depends on each person personally, and a good climate in the classroom must not only be created, but also protected and preserved.
April 5 in the 4th grade of the MBOU "Chuvashtimyash secondary school" they held a class hour on the topic "Mental Health Day". We learned to perform self-regulation exercises, listened to a fairy tale about a gnome and his emotions. The final work was drawings, where the guys depicted their mood in the form of a smiley. In the 3rd grade there was a game sensorimotor training "Joy".
In MBOU "Ibresinskaya secondary school No. 2" together with a teacher-psychologist Kazanina E.V. students of the 1st "a" class made a "Walk in the spring forest". The remedial and developmental lesson was aimed at developing cognitive processes, creating a favorable psychological microclimate in the classroom, and developing the skills of working in a group and mutual assistance. In the 1st "b" class, the psychological game "Journey to Friendship Island" was held.
A class hour of psychic orientation was held with 5th grade students of MBOU "Aybech secondary school". In MBOU "Buinskaya secondary school" a conversation was held in the 8th grade, where definitions of such concepts as "bullying" and "bullying" were given, types of bullying were considered. For 9th grade students, a class hour was held on the topic "How to cope with stress before exams." What to do so that the stress before the exam does not take over the mind? The class teacher answered the graduates' questions and gave recommendations on “Increasing the stress resistance of the graduate's personality.
On April 5, within the framework of the week of mental health in the MBOU "Berezovskaya OOSh", a drawing competition "How beautiful this world is!" was held. among primary school students. In the 9th grade, a creative photo contest "I love life" and a psychological class hour on the topic: "My life values" were held. During the class hour, it was necessary to give concepts of life values, material and non-material, to identify these values, to determine how they affect human life and society as a whole.
April 22, 2022 On the basis of the MBOU "Ibresinskaya secondary school No. 1", a complex of field events will be held by the BEI CR "Center for Education and Comprehensive Support for Children" of the Ministry of Education of the CR to increase the stress resistance of school graduates at the stage of preparing and passing exams (USE, OGE).
Second mental health center opened in Moscow / News of the city / Moscow Website .
On the basis of the Moscow polyclinic No. 220, a mental health counseling center was opened. This is the second similar institution in the structure of the city health care. The center works at the address: Zamorenova street, house 27.
Here you can get free consultations of psychotherapists and medical psychologists.
The creation of the center is the next stage in the development of an outpatient care network for people with complaints of a psychological condition that do not require specialized treatment, said Moscow's chief psychiatrist Georgy Kostyuk.
The center's specialists use comprehensive treatment and prevention programs that do not require constant medical supervision of the patient. Employees of Design Bureau No. 1 named after N. A. Alekseeva will conduct individual and family consultations, group classes, psychodiagnostics and trainings.
Experts will help you solve communication problems, self-esteem, ability to cope with anger and anxiety. In addition, they will teach adaptive thinking and relaxation skills. You can contact the center to work with anxiety, various phobias, depressive mood, obsessive fears, hypochondriacal disorders and sleep disorders. There are also plans to hold lectures on mental health.
To get an initial appointment with a doctor, you need to make an appointment by phone: +7 495 530-10-91 or through the official website of the center. You can apply for help in person and without an appointment on weekdays from 08:00 to 20:00, on Saturday from 09:00 to 16:00. To do this, you will need a passport with a permanent residence permit in Moscow and a compulsory medical insurance policy.
The first mental health advisory center was opened this summer on the basis of city polyclinic No.