On Tuesday, I discussed some of the many benefits of starting a bullet journal and how to go about doing so. The reason I love my bullet journal (or BuJo) so much is because not only does it help organize my life, but it helps make sense of the crazy chaos in my head. It keeps me on a schedule, keeps me on track—daily, emotionally, physically, you name it, allows me to vent, is my emergency plan, and that’s only the beginning! Listed below are 15 Phenomenal Reasons Why Bullet Journaling Will Benefit Your Mental Health
1. Brain Dump
You know that anxious feeling when you have a million things you should be doing spinning around in your head, but maybe your anxiety or depression or hallucinations or pain or disability is holding you back from being able to actually complete them? Write them down. In your bullet journal, under “task list.” This is called a brain dump. It allows you to get everything that’s rolling around in your brain down on paper, in an organized but easy manner, where you know you can find it later. This frees up your brain from that paralyzing anxiety (I realize this is not the only cause of anxiety, but we’ll tackle things one at a time 🙂 and allows you to migrate these activities to other days or months when you feel ready to tackle separating that massive to-do list into more manageable lists.
2. Write Out Routines
I write out my morning and nighttime routines in my BuJo. This is because waking up and going to bed should be structured times that instruct your body clearly “I’m waking up now” or “I’m going to sleep.” Sleep is crucial to good mental health, and something that sufferers of mental illness constantly struggle with. Getting on a consistent sleep schedule and maintaining morning and night routines is key to ensuring proper sleep. Also, my routines include the things that are important to me, such as exercise, visualization, meditation, eating a healthy breakfast, journaling, etc. That way I make sure all these things happen; and I know how much time my routines will take so I can create a realistic daily schedule. These same principles can be applied to any other routines such as cleaning, office, kids’ homework/bed/bath, and many more!
3. BuJos Get You In The Habit Of A Schedule
If you suffer from mental illness or poor mental health, you know that getting on a schedule with set routines can sound like torture. Yes, I’m not going to lie—it will likely be hard at first. And there will probably be days that you don’t meet your goal; but that’s okay. You get to start over the next day and try again. Always try again. It will eventually get easier as your body adjusts to being on a schedule and doing the same things at the same times until soon it doesn’t require so much effort. The BuJo starts this process by listing our regular tasks, plus daily and even monthly tasks, events, and goals. As French novelist Gustave Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
4. Yearly & Monthly Inspiration/Focus Pages
When you create you journal, you can create an overall inspiration or focus for the journal, which I did using stickers, quotes, and designs on the page next to my index. I look at it every time I add something to the index, but I like to re-focus myself every month. Because of this, I create a fresh inspiration page every month. A great mental health boost is creating these inspiration pages using quotes, stickers, stamps, designs, etc. while visualizing yourself living the life that you are inspired by and capturing on the page.
5. Overall Life Goals
Clear life goals are necessary in order to evaluate what parts of your life are working and what you need to work on so that you are living the best life you possibly can. These goals will differ from person to person. I picked 10 overall categories (again, these categories will be different for every person and the “Live 10” concept will be it’s own upcoming post in the next few weeks!) and listed the general concepts that I included in each category. Then I evaluated where I thought I was on a scale of 1-10 in each category: I didn’t score higher than a 4 in anything. So don’t judge where you are; look at the progress you can make! If you want to continue on with this concept, as I did, you can write down specific goals to get your creative juices flowing (I chose ten goals per category) on ways you can improve your satisfaction in those categories
6. Pick 3 Goals Per Month To Focus On
As 10 Goals is a lot to focus on at once, I pick 3 per month to focus on and recommend that you do the same (or 2, or 4… whatever number speaks to you, but keep it low). The key is really improving your life in ways other than just self-care, without overwhelming yourself with too many goals. The goals aren’t going anywhere, it’s just switching your focus. I’m often tempted to give myself more goals, but I know that if I have more than three, I won’t be able to fully focus on each goal everyday—which is my goal—so I find it’s better to (paraphrasing Ron Swanson) full-ass three goals, than half-ass more.
7. Health Tracker
Mental and Physical Health are intricately intertwined. Therefore, tracking your physical health is crucial. I keep track of my weight, measurements in inches (especially if losing or gaining weight…which you don’t always plan so it’s good to just do), diet, exercise plan, medication/diagnosis/treatment changes, overall well-being, and goals. REMEMBER- This is for YOU and YOUR DOCTOR. This is not something you should feel the need to lie on, or feel embarrassed about- no one will see this except you and your trusted medical providers!
8. Budget & Savings Graphs
Working out a budget and sticking to it is crucial. Financial management is difficult for many people- then throw a mental illness or poor mental health on top of that and you have a severely problematic situation on your hands. I know that financial management is incredibly hard for my husband and I, so we definitely focus on living on a budget. It’s written in my BuJo and every time that payday comes, I check to make sure we’re on budget and adjust as necessary. I also have short-term savings graphs in my bullet journal for expenses and trips that we’re planning for. We have a special short-term savings account that is separate from our regular savings account where we keep this money. If your bank offers this, I highly recommend obtaining a short-term savings account for these types of shorter-term savings, as it keeps it away from your regular savings.
9. Useful Collections
There are an unlimited number of collections that could help those with mental illness, because everyone likes to explore new places, music, recipes, books, etc. However, there are a few extra collections that can specifically benefit mental health. I have coping skills and possible triggers listed in my Bullet Journal. Though you may feel like you know both of these, sometimes you may be in a state where you need to see a list of coping skills because you are so depressed or anxious you cannot think of them on your own; or you need to see the trigger list to think “Oh, this is a trigger. I wrote this when I was not manic/angry/depressed/etc” and it makes it easier to treat it as such. There are other collections that could be useful to you such as support people, emergency phone numbers, ways to meet people, treatments/medications & responses, and/or mantras/affirmations.
10. Psych Care Plan: Emergency Kit Supplement
I believe that everyone that has a SPMI (significant, persistent mental illness) should have a psychiatric care plan, and as part of that an emergency kit. The Psych Care Plan is a whole different blog post, but the important thing to note for the Bullet Journal is the emergency supplement that can be contained within. As the emergency kit is normally a separate kit to address a variety of needs (coping skills for different emotions, safety, phone numbers, hydration, nutrition, comfort, instructions for loved ones, copy of advanced directives, and more), your BuJo can contain your first step: Your immediate self-care plan. Since the goal is to incorporate your BuJo into your life and you are likely to have that on you in a psych emergency or when you feel yourself start to deteriorate, you can write out clear instructions to yourself to calm down, keep yourself safe, and get you help.
11. Task Trackers
People drool over task trackers in Bullet Journals. This is usually when people get hooked if they’re not already (and I left it for number 11?!) because just look how easy it is to track those daily habits. I have been amazed how much I’ve improved on my daily habits from when I first started tracking them in July to only a few months later, now in October. Below, I show how to track daily habits (on the monthly grid), weekly or bi-weekly habits (on the quarterly grid), and monthly habits (on the half-a-yearly grid). By no means do you have to do all three of these, but if you find you need all three kinds, I wanted you to have an example of how to set up all of them.
12. Symptom Tracker
This is likely the single most helpful part of my Bullet Journal for my doctors. My psychiatrist, my therapist, my primary care doctor, myself- everyone loves this section! Sometimes it’s a pain to fill out, especially if you forget to do it at the end of the night, but holy cow does it hold useful information! I have four categories on mine: medicine, physical, behavior, and psychological. I’ve never been able to see such a clear correlation between my physical symptoms and my psychological symptoms until I began this medical tracker, and it’s extremely interesting to know which behaviors effect how I’m feeling. It also reinforces the necessity of medications as you can look back and clearly see how any breaks in meds in the past have impacted your behavior, feelings, and life.
When creating your key, you can use increased signifiers to make sure that you have a balanced day. Whatever your priorities are, you can assign signifiers to those (i.e. marriage/love, friends, workout, relaxation, self-care) to assure that they are being represented in your week on a regular basis. Your important signifiers may be different, take time to make these personal to you! Bonus Idea: Use highlighters to color days based on high/moderate/low productivity, happiness, etc.
14. Daily Gratitude
Your brain is a muscle that can be trained, just like any other muscle in the body. Retraining your brain to think more positively may not solve all your problems, but it is clinically proven to decrease depression and help creatively overcome problems. A great way to start down this brain retrain path is gratitude journaling! Everyday, write down two things that you are grateful for- this can be anything from being grateful that the sun rose this morning, to the strawberry smoothie you had this afternoon. Be grateful for the big things, and the little things. A grateful mind is a happy mind. You can choose to do this on your daily logs, or make special monthly pages for monthly gratitude as I do. The reason I do this is so that when I’m feeling down, one of my tools is being able to look back over my monthly lists of gratitude and remember all the things that I, personally, feel happy about.
15. It’s All In One Place!
The beauty of a Bullet Journal is that it’s self-contained. Everything I’ve included above (and in my original post) is all in one beautiful notebook. It holds your calendar, your to-do lists, your journal entries, your collections, your trackers, your inspirations, and your 15 keys to better mental health—all in one place!!
Are you ready to begin your own Bullet Journal? Check out my Bullet Journal Resources for great Bullet Journal supplies to help get you started!