I have been putting off writing this post for a while now, though I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because it feels so personal, and it’s a scary subject for me to talk about openly. But mental health is an important part of anyone’s life, whether or not they struggle with mental illness. So I hope that, no matter your situation, you find something useful in this post.
I’d like to preface this by saying that I am not a medical professional or a mental health counsellor or anything like that. I’m just a person who has been dealing with my own personal issues for years, and I’ve developed some methods of coping in that time, one of which is bullet journaling.
If you’re wondering how a bullet journal can (potentially) help support good mental health, then keep reading!
One of the ways that bullet journaling helps me is that I use it to make lots of lists. Lists of things I’d like to do each day, each week, each month, or even in the next few years. I can make lists of projects, and then break them down into teeny tiny tasks that actually feel doable. Turning daunting projects into manageable to-do items makes me feel more productive and in turn, I feel better about myself. Plus it’s just satisfying to check things off!
Another way I use my bullet journal is for habit tracking. This is where I keep track of daily or regular habits that I want to do because I know they make me feel good. Things like doing yoga, reading, writing, drinking lots of water, that sort of thing. But the great thing is that it is customizable, so you can track whatever it is that makes you feel good. And again, it’s great to fill in those little boxes when you complete something! (Not that I’m very consistent, as you can see. Heh.)
I also like to use a mood tracker, where I colour-code various moods I might have overall each day—e.g. mine are great, okay, meh, stressed, and depressed (but you can obviously choose your own)—because it allows me to go back and see my actual moods for the month rather than my perceived mood. I have a tendency to only remember when I felt bad, and I forget that most days I’m pretty okay (or meh). Knowing that I am not doing as poorly as I think I am actually makes me feel better about my progress.
Some people like to keep a gratitude journal, but for me I just write down the highlight of each day, which is similar. (I just feel that I can’t genuinely say that I’m “grateful” for many things, so I’d rather go with “highlight,” but that’s a personal preference.) What it does is it forces me to think of something good every day, even if it was a pretty crappy day.
For instance, recently I spent a day lying on the couch watching Gilmore Girls for the 2,780,239th time because I felt so awful, but I was still able to write down a highlight: that I got to watch Gilmore Girls, which I love. It forces me to take on a bit of a positive mindset at least once a day.
The nice thing about the bullet journal system is that it is flexible; you can get as creative as you like with it. Sometimes I like to decorate, and sometimes I like to keep it simple, but I can go back and forth depending on what I want that day. For some, however, it is a great creative outlet—they can draw, paint, use stickers, use colours, anything!
Having a creative outlet is really important for me and my mental health. Even on days when I am feeling very low creativity, if I can make a cute header for a certain day then I feel like I am still exercising my creative muscle, to some extent.
Now, I’m not saying that every day is sunshine and rainbows because I use a bullet journal. But since I started using it regularly, tracking every day, I’ve noticed an improvement. I mean, yes, I am currently writing this during one of my lowest couple of weeks in the past few months, but I blame that on December, not on my bullet journal. Without the journal, I’d probably be doing worse.
Bullet journaling isn’t necessarily for everyone, and it’s not guaranteed to help with anything, but it may be worth trying if you haven’t already. All you need is a notebook and a pen.
Let me know in the comments how you like to use your bullet journal, if you have one!