While I’d heard of bullet journals before, it was a post by Alys at Alys Journals that finally got me sufficiently motivated to give bullet journalling a try, and vacation seemed like a perfect time to take the plunge. What I realized as I was getting started was that it’s actually much how I used to journal in my early 20’s, and even how I still journal when I go on backpacking trips, so in that sense it came pretty easily.
A functional bullet journal
I am quite possibly the least artistic person ever, so my bullet journal isn’t pretty like others that I’ve seen. I’d like it to be pretty, but not only do I have no idea how to make it so, it’s a stretch for me to even draw basic shapes (I’m serious). I suppose I could try to copy other people’s work, but a) I’d just make a mess of it, and b) overall I think something simple and mostly text-based feels most right for me. Coloured pens and highlighters add some visual appeal.
BuJo vs. apps
I now have multiple tools (5 apps plus my bullet journal) to keep track of what’s going on in my life. I contemplated going 100% with the bullet journal, but there are just so many things I like to keep track of that could get pretty unwieldy to write it all on paper. Plus my memory is terrible so everything needs to go on my to-do list, and I’d need a whole briefcase to hold a year worth of that on paper.
I like that Pacifica (now Sanvello), the app I use for mood tracking, offers an extensive list of emotions to tack onto every mood entry, and this helps me capture a clearer picture of how I’m feeling than if I were to try to spontaneously come up with descriptions. I’ve included some things in the bullet journal that I’m also capturing in the apps, but I plan to use the apps for smaller day to day variations and go with bullet journalling for the most significant moods/physical symptoms/events/etc.
Fitting in some positive
With the bullet journal, I aim to focus on the positive, which is very much something I need right now. It’s a great way to create the structure to focus on being mindful of both the positive and the future. I opted to go for a small but pretty notebook that my parents got for me in Seville, Spain. I’ve given a title to every single page, so even if I’m tempted to get negative, there just isn’t room for it, aside from one page devoted to what didn’t go well and what I learned, and another devoted to tough stuff I need to just let go.
I have a section “365 days of gratitude”, with a line to fill out for every day of the year. Some of my page headings include:
- Things that make me smile
- Inspirational quotes
- Treatment plan
- Lies depression tells me
- Favourite little things
- The kindness of others
What I’m excited to find is how much good stuff I’ve already packed into my little baby bullet journal. I suspect by the end of this month it’s going to be nearly full, and I will have to start bullet journal version 2. I’m actually really looking forward to that, because I’m loving this whole bullet journalling adventure. But this isn’t the only journal project I delved into!
My vacation reading material included a Lonely Planet-published book entitled “101 Ways to Live Well“. I’ve essentially turned it into my self-care manual, scribbling and doodling all over it, adding anything I could think of and including ideas from a book about compassion that I’m reading. It’s now jam-packed with a mix of new and tried-and-true self-care strategies.
A fun “about me” journal
I also picked up the Me Journal: A Questionnaire Keepsake, a fun, cute little guided exploration of self that included a mix of questions, this-or-that choices, most and least favourite things, and list prompts. The questions wandered across a broad array of topics, touching on many different aspects of life. There were lists for the usual favourite s like books, tv shows, and movies, as well as with more unexpected prompts. I found that when going back through it a second and even a third time more ideas popped into my mind that I hadn’t thought of the first time around.
The biggest downside was that it didn’t have an index and wasn’t organized by topic/theme, so I’m going to have to write up my own index so I can refer back to my various lists.
All in all, I’m developing a nice little arsenal of tangible wellness ideas and tools, and one shelf of my nightstand is going to be devoted to the little wellness library I’ve put together, stocked with my bullet journal, self-care manual, and Me Journal, along with a travel dreams notebook that I started a few years back but haven’t pulled out for quite a while. It’s definitely time to start trying to dust off some old dreams and come up with some new ones.
This how-to guide on creating a bullet journal to support mental health is available free from the MH@H Store. My approach isn’t about artistry; it’s all about functionality.