I first started journalling a little over 2 months ago, and I’m still loving it. The small notebook I started with just didn’t have enough room to hold all that I wanted to cram in, so now I’ve got two notebooks on the go. I found it was easiest to do a lot of day-to-day tracking in the smartphone apps I was already using, so I settled on a monthly calendar with symbols coding for important things that I want an easy at-a-glance view of. These symbols look absolutely ridiculous because I can barely draw a straight line, but it’s working for me. The monthly calendar and my 365 days of gratitude section are in my first notebook, which just seemed easier to keep up than to transfer everything over to my second notebook. I also have pages for weekly summaries, including major events, goals, self-care, meditation topics, and challenges. I am very non-artistic, so I rely on coloured pens and stickers to bring some aesthetic value to the whole undertaking.
Initially I had intended to keep my journal pretty positive-focused, but as I’ve progressed I’ve ended up including a lot more related to the hard stuff I’m working on. I have pages set up with headings, and then add stuff to those pages as it comes along.
Positive-focused page headings and lists
- things that make me smile
- inspirational quotes
- self-care favorites
- the kindness of others
- my values
- favorite foods
- places I want to travel to
- great analogies
- favorite words
- things that make me feel beautiful/sexy/confident
Things to do with my illness
- current treatment plan
- treatment options to consider
- my treatment history
- my illness symptom history
- treatment provider visits
- essential elements that would be part of recovery
- what I’ve learned/gained from my illness
- skills I’m working on and outcomes of practicing them
- checking my misinterpretations
- insights from meditating on various topics
- recognizing the use of avoidance
- identifying cognitive distortions
It’s very different from the free-flow narrative style that I’ve sometimes used in the past, but I’m liking it. Every day I go through both of the journals I’ve got on the go to see where I might have things to add. An unexpected benefit of this has been that I get reminded each day of the work I’ve already done and the positive stuff I’ve come up with. I think there’s a lot of value in that, and this sort of structure works well for me.
Do you journal? And has your approach to journalling evolved over time?
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.