Hello, my name is Steve Watts and I have been involved in education and training my whole adult life. I began working as a teacher in schools in Northumberland in 1981, joining the University of Sunderland in 1995, where I was involved in training teachers.

In 2020 I took up a new position at Durham University where I am teaching on a course about special educational needs, as well as supporting students who are training to be teachers.

In the summer of 2019, I left the University of Sunderland in order to take time out of working to set up my own business as a coach, mentor and consultant.

I had just co-authored a book for Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) and wanted to turn the ideas I had written about in the book into my life long passion to run my own business so that I could help, coach, mentor and support people to realise their goals.

As part of that new business idea I wanted to share my passion for journal writing. I had experienced a mental health episode in 2000 and journaling had helped me get through it. I am confident it can help other people too, so I wrote this course for Sunderland Recovery College.

It appeared in the Spring Prospectus with face to face sessions scheduled to begin Easter 2020, but as we know the pandemic meant we could not run them.

Believing that journaling is important, we looked at other ways to share the course and came up with the idea of an on-line course that you can study in your own time at your own pace. We are delighted to offer this course to you now …

The Benefits of Writing a Journal

‘Journaling on an evening helps me to sort through the events of the day and make sure I end it well, focussing on the positives.’

Being locked down presents many challenges, but it also offers opportunities. One such opportunity is the time to start a journal. Journals come in many forms and when we are able to return to the College and attend classes I will be running weekly sessions on journaling for wellbeing that you can attend.

Just before we were locked down in March, I had started a journaling for wellbeing course for people at Grace House which I have continued via Zoom. One type of journal which has proved popular and has research evidence to support its benefits is the Gratitude Journal. The main benefit of gratitude journals is that they help to focus on the positive, which is important at any time, but particularly so during this pandemic.

Some people like to complete their gratitude journals in the morning, whilst others prefer to complete them at the end of the day. Such journals do not need to be lengthy pages of writing, but instead just a few bullet points completed each day which over time change our mindsets because the focus on what we are grateful for increases our awareness and positivity.

One service user at Grace House called Emily (not her real name) has agreed to let me share her experiences of completing a journal. The journal that Emily uses is based on a morning focus and evening reflection (you can see an example below). What Emily likes about this particular structured journal is that it gives her focus for the day, so she can plan activities which she divides into something she can do with her son, something she can do with her husband and something she can do for herself. As Emily commented ‘I think writing some aims down in the morning gives me something to look forward to and helps me to put some structure into my day.’ She goes on to confirm that ‘I think that it’s going to be beneficial whilst I am off work, as it’s hard to be motivated and think of new ways to spend the day at home.’

Such is the benefit of this morning focus for Emily that she is already looking into the future and considering the benefits once ‘lock down’ is lifted. ‘When things go back to normal,’ Emily told me, ‘I am interested to see how it might benefit me during the working week.’ Emily confided that she tends to write the working week off as being too busy and looks forward to the weekend to do things, but she thinks ‘it will be good to focus on fitting my three goals into everyday life and see if it helps me to use my time better.’

Emily also likes to reflect at the end of the day and record family activities, time she has spent with her son and so on. What Emily has noticed is that the things she is grateful for do not change very much, they are fairly constant. To some extent during the restrictions we are currently experiencing this is to be expected since we haven’t been able to go very far, meet many people or do very much, but equally it shows consistency in Emily’s life, the constants that she is grateful for. Emily mentioned to me that she likes to journal in the evening because it helps her ‘to sort through the events of the day and make sure I will end it well, focussing on the positives.’

Completing the journal twice a day by responding to the prompts in bullet point format requires no more than five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night, but what Emily is noticing is that the bullet points don’t necessarily give sufficient detail for her to look back on, so she is considering providing more detail in her evening reflections. I hope that Emily’s example and the positive benefits she’s experienced, will encourage you to start this course and find out more about journaling, the many ways in which we can journal and its benefits …

Writing and Mental Health

Writing is a creative way to improve mental health. However, like most medicines, it should be taken regularly, though it doesn’t have to take hours to do.

Having up to 20 quiet minutes every day for mindful writing will help ease your anxiety, calm down your thoughts and emotions, and bring peace to your mind.

Writing is:

  • an effective mindfulness technique that can help you concentrate on one thing and completely free your mind from other stuff that bothers you and overcrowds your mind.

  • a way of improving emotional intelligence that can help you improve your emotional intelligence and be aware the next time a certain situation might cause anxiety or simply annoy you.

  • a way of clearing space in your head - to help you learn how to let go of situations that bother you and free your mind from distracting thoughts.

Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.

(Natalie Goldberg)


Morning Exercise

Complete this exercise in the morning:

Seeing my parents/a good night’s sleep/going for a bike ride with my children etc



What would make today, a great day?

I get some time in the garden/I help my neighbour/ I get a chance to read with my children etc



I am

a helpful person because I look after my neighbour


Evening Exercise

Complete this exercise in the evening:

The three best things that have happened today are

I listened to my kids read

I got my neighbour’s shopping

I got some time to myself in the garden


Please check out our course Journaling ( for Mental Health)

FREE Journaling Course

Get Started Straightaway!

Sunderland Recovery College is very pleased to provide you with the following Journaling for Mental Health Course in conjunction with Steve Watts Coaching.

Steve has produced this course in a way that makes it easy for you to get started journaling. Simply click the button below to get started on your Journaling Journey!