Can a Bullet Journal Help Your Mental Health?
This crafty journal helps my mental health— tips to get you started
I decided to start a bullet Journal two years ago after a pen pal recommended it to me. I’d seen the conversations about “BuJo” in online forums. After thirty years cross stitching and just as many years exploring all things crafty, I consider myself a “connoisseur of crafty”, and if there is a buzz about anything in the craft world, then I must investigate.
The Bullet Journal method was created by Ryder Carroll, a New York Times best-selling author. You can follow him on Medium at Ryder Carroll. While most people find the version of bullet journal that works for them, tweaking the style to suit their own needs, I encourage you to study the original method and try it first. Then, take the idea and roll with it in the direction that best suits your needs.
Is keeping a bullet journal the thing would appeal to your personality?
What are the benefits of starting your own Bullet Journal?
What Bujo can do for you…
* Bullet journaling is super ORGANIZE-Y. Seriously who doesn’t need a little bit of help keeping their schedule organized? Yes, I do keep a calendar in my cell phone, and I am not knocking our super-techy norm, but one day this week my phone wouldn’t charge and there was a brief moment of absolute panic. It helps to have a calendar in my cell phone but there’s something very special about writing an activity down that makes it real for me. I am often saying to someone that if I don’t write it down, it does not EXIST in my world.
* Bullet journaling appeals to your inner list-maker. Is there anything more satisfying than to check off a box on your to-do list? The feeling of accomplishment when you can scratch off an item from your to-do list will continuously feed your self-esteem, while the list-making itself will help you organize those racing or disorganized thoughts. If you are a list-maker like me, then get your pen (or in my case multiple pens, containers of markers, metallic, gels, etc.) ready! Because the bullet Journal is yours… designed by you and for you. Your list can be whatever font, length, or topic you choose. And it won’t get lost in the car, buried in the bottom of your purse, or misplaced in your stack of mail. And let’s face it, your phone already has UMPTEEN tasks going on and doesn’t give you that nostalgic, smell-the-paper experience.
* Bullet journaling helps you take a look at your life and set goals. Your bullet journal combines several things in one place to help you compartmentalize, and look over your life stats according to YOU…not according to likes, comments, and the often unkind online community. It is an organizer, a tracker for anything that you would like to keep track of, a creative outlet, a reference tool for all sorts of important information that you want to keep track of, a dream journal, A Prayer Journal, a mental health tool, a scrapbook, a memory keeper… the list goes on. It a place to organize both your life and your thoughts into one awesome place where you can go to get your head together. It is helps you to achieve your goals and focus on your strengths. It is an excellent resource to use for self- improvement in any area of your life.
* Bullet journaling is, quite frankly, the cheapest hobby I have ever adopted. All you need is a blank journaling notebook of your choice and your favorite pen and you are all set! I would suggest a few other things… but I will get to that in a moment.
* Bullet journaling allows you to be your own best cheerleader. Encourage Yourself, be good to yourself, collect favorite scriptures and quotes all in one place. Does the color yellow make you happy? Do yellow! Whatever inspires you, fills you, and makes you do YOU more fully…embrace it in the pages of your Bujo.
* Bullet journaling is perfect for the obsessive mind. If you are a worrier or over-thinker this is the perfect hobby for you. It helps you to simplify things that you are mulling over and over into something that looks organized, neat, and efficient. I have often told my children that worrying is a symptom of mental boredom, and that getting creative is the perfect way to relieve that boredom. Worry is merely creativity gone wrong. Capture that mental energy in the pages of your Bujo and organize those wandering thoughts into charts, or doodles, or plans.
* Bullet journaling is easy and can be personalized to your taste. It can be as simple and minimalist as you want it to be, or it can get crafty, go all out and be covered in washi tape, polka dots and accordion style pull outs! (Warning here…looking up bullet journal page ideas on Pinterest is a WORMHOLE).
* Bullet journaling allows you to work on your handwriting, possibly learn some new fonts or doodles, or maybe learn to do calligraphy. It gives you an excuse to use those fun colored pens that you’ve been storing up in your desk drawer. (Another warning here, new pens can become an addiction!).
* Bullet journaling DOES NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT. And neither do you! This is YOUR LIFE IN PROGRESS so make your journal any way you want.
* It is created BY YOU… FOR YOU!!! THERE ARE NO RULES!!!
Does any of this appeal to you? Well it certainly does to me. It appeals to all of those little OCD corners of my brain that shout when something isn’t quite right and urges me to make a list, clean a room, organize a bookshelf or stay up all night jotting down ideas. It allows me to reign in my SQUIRRELY BRAIN and put it into little neat boxes that help me feel grounded. I am able to compare my sleep patterns to the patterns of my headaches, compare my exercise patterns to see if on those days I notate better sleep or happier mood, organizing my pen pals, and notate some of the harebrained ideas that bounce around in my head.
You never know when those ideas may come to fruition!!
So with that as a brief introduction to Bullet journaling, here are a few notes about how you can get started with your Bullet Journal.
° Step 1: Get a notebook. You can use a plain journal with no lines on the pages, a gridded journal with a dot grid (which seems to be popular in the bullet journaling community), or a plain old spiral notebook that’s been sitting in the back of your desk for three years. It doesn’t matter what journal you choose to use as long as it’s one that you like! If you choose to carry it with you, as a lot of people do, keep in mind the size of your bullet journal and the weight so that it will fit in your purse or your pocket or your computer bag/book bag. (My first Bujo was a vintage Journal given to me many many years ago by my mother and it is covered in a floral fabric.)
° Step 2: Writing supplies! Collect your favorite pens in the house and get them all into one place. I have all of mine in one of those $1 baskets from the Dollar Store with a couple of organized sections in it. I have them sorted by regular pens, gel, metallic markers, highlighters and markers and fountain pens. Some markers, colored pencils or fountain pens may bleed through your Bujo pages so you may want to use a test page in the back of your Bullet Journal. Use this space to write with each utensil before you use it to make sure that it does not bleed through the paper too much and it looks satisfying to you on the paper. I keep my pens together because if you set up a color guide on any of your pages, you will want to make sure you stay consistent with the colors of pens that you are using throughout that “spread”. Some people create an elaborate color scheme and then later minimize it to use less colors. The good thing is if you don’t like the way you’re doing something, YOU CAN CHANGE IT!! If you absolutely lose your mind over mistakes then you may want to have a pencil and eraser to map out your pages before you put them in ink. Also if you are a Washi tape junkie… this is the thing for you!! Other supplies include a small ruler for making straight lines, clear tape if you need it for attaching little inspirational card, etc. I would suggest some stencil sheets. I have some left over from scrapbooking days and I use them on nearly every page.
° Step 3: Create an index in the front of your Journal. You will want to notate every entry that you make into your book and what page those entries are on so that they can be found quickly. ( If your Journal does not have numbered Pages, then you will want to number them.)
° Step 4 Create a key. There is a way to use the standard original symbols that are recommended for bullet journaling, however I just made up my own. Put a key in the front of your book so that you can reference it and pretty soon you will remember all of your symbols and colors and dots and you’ll know what it means. This gives you a way to prioritize your notes, find things quicker, and relocate to-do items to other days if you need to carry them over.
° Step 5: Create a year at a glance page if you choose. If you think it would be helpful you may do that in the beginning of your book. You will want to create month at a glance pages, and I would just do the month you are entering… don’t skip ahead and do a bunch of months at one time. That way you have the option to change your format if you like. Make sure to leave space for notes and to-do lists. I did not do a year at a glance but I just went straight into some collection pages and then my month at a glance page and weeks at a glance pages.
A spread refers to a two-page spread with a theme that spans both pages.
A collection usually refers to a spread that “collects” a certain topic. For example, I always do a Books collection, where I list the books I read as I complete them, or a list of favorite authors and books I’d like to read.
These are the pages you will use to stay organized in all of your activities and keep up with your to-do list for each day, possibly your dinner menu list, and shopping list for each month and week. There are many, many ways for you to set up your calendar. I did Google searches and look through Pinterest and Instagram and found lots of ideas on how to do this. If you are not a super busy person and don’t have many appointments, you can do a monthly spread and then just have fun with customized pages. Mine is a lot less appointment oriented and a lot more personal growth oriented.
° Step 6 Get creative with your pages. Are you a shopping fanatic but can’t remember what you buy and where you buy it? Make a shopping page! Are you a pen pal-er and want to keep up with your pen pals? Make a pen pal tracker! Make a page to track your exercise program or smoking cessation program. Make a page to brainstorm ideas for birthday presents for your spouse. Make a sleep tracker page to track how much sleep you are getting and how well you slept. Create a mood tracker system with cute little doodled emojis! The possibilities are endless. My favorite spreads are my books to read spread, gratitude Journal, prayer list, and helpful scriptures for areas I am trying to improve in my life. This is called a collection. It is a certain topic that you make a page on that you are collecting information about or listing about Etc.
Make a Brain Dump page!! This is exactly what it sounds like. On those days you have too much running around in your mind, dump it out on your Brain Dump page. The good thing is you can make as many of those pages as you would like!
If you decide to try a Bullet Journal for yourself, there are some wonderful BuJo communities out there that you can join and meet other people on this journey. They are a great resource for ideas and inspiration, and you can meet some wonderful friends. I wish you the best on your journey!
Get creative and Bujo your life.