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Mental illnesses are very common. Statistics say 1 in 5 adults in America suffer from mental health concerns. Some mental illnesses are mild. Depression and anxiety probably fall between the most common mental health concerns. Some may have more significant battles. There are dozens of other mental health diseases and disorders.
My articles exist to help you, the reader, use your planners and bullet journals to improve your life. And if you struggle with your mental health, you also need to know that you’re not alone. Why?
This post is here as I have a mental illness. I want to share how bullet journals improved my mental health. If you have a mental illness, I hope you are able to use this information to help improve your situation.
My Story with Mental Illness
“When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars.”
Beautiful quote drawn by Fay in Instagram
I have anxiety and depression. I received my first diagnosis of anxiety when I was 11. In college, I developed depression. Since then, my battles with mental health have come and gone. Currently (in September 2017), I’m just on the tail end of a battle that originally stemmed from postpartum depression back in 2015.
I worry constantly about my ability to handle situations. It’s hard going out in public without feeling like everybody is talking about me behind my back.
Sometimes I don’t feel like doing anything. Nothing feels enjoyable. My schedule gets chaotic; I stay up late, I start missing work, and I cry randomly.
When I had my last recurrence, I went back to therapy to learn better coping mechanisms. I made very slow progress. Sometimes it felt like I took one step forward and three steps back. Even my own therapist knew I was at a stall.
So, she decided to try something different.
Introduction to Bullet Journals
My therapist introduced bullet journals in October of 2016.
Everything she told me was so intriguing, I jumped right in. I quickly fell down the rabbit hole of developing monthly and weekly spreads. I created many trackers. There were no bounds; I wanted to try anything to see a benefit.
While I chose to pursue using my bullet journal for personal endeavors beyond therapy assignments and mental health workbooks, it didn’t take long to notice an improvement in my mental health.
Over the course of about six months, I acquired many beneficial tools that eventually brought me to remission. But, I don’t want you to have to take that long to start seeing positive benefits!
How Bullet Journals Improve Mental Health
The bullet journal has been one of the most powerful tools in my bullet journal recovery.
A beautiful weekly spread example from wezz.bujo on Instagram.
This post exists you deserve to have these tips, ideas, and suggestions to improve your mental health. You may find similar benefits that I experienced, or you may find completely different ones! The neat part about bullet journals is that mileage does vary.
The reasons I mention in this article are benefits that people can find some identity with.
You Learn More About Your Patterns
One of the first things I implemented in my bullet journal was behavior trackers. I thought of literally any behavior I struggled with in the past during challenging times and stuck it in that tracker. Examples I tried in trackers included: taking a shower, taking medications, and fruit/vegetable consumption.
By monitoring these behaviors daily, it doesn’t take very long to see if there are any significant deficits occurring in certain parts of your daily living.
Behavior isn’t the only thing you can track. Other examples you can track relating to your mental health include mood, sleep, and fitness.
When you have data about your daily living, you can use it to make improvements down the road.
You Can Track Your Assignments More Easily
If you use a mental health workbook with your therapist or on your own, it’s a great place to log your homework.
One, your bullet journal looks harmless. It’s a notebook. But you can copy over the charts and instructions (you could even use a copier, print, and paste them if you want! Less work.). It’s almost easier to do the assignments in your bullet journal because it’s something you carry with you frequently.
Plus, I honestly don’t like to carry my workbook with me everywhere I go. While I’m not ashamed of my mental illness, I don’t want every person in the coffee shop to know I have anxiety.
If you choose to use your workbook solely for your assignments, you can still log and track details in your bullet journal that you need to put in your workbook later.
And if your workbook recommends implementing a new skill, it’s easy to put reminders in your bullet journal. If you want, you can even schedule when you’re going to try out the new skill!
It Serves as a Reference
Plenty of room to write down EVERYTHING!
“So, how was your week?” Is likely the first thing to come out of a therapist’s mouth in a session.
If you are anything like me, I struggle to remember what I ate yesterday for breakfast. I cringed knowing that each session I likely forgot something critical that my therapist should know about.
Bullet journals fixed this SIGNIFICANTLY. My weekly spreads feature significant amounts of room to write about each day. When challenges arose (which they did!), I had space to write them down.
Once I started my bullet journal, each week I brought it with to my sessions. The first thing I’d do is open it up and scan for problems from the prior week.
Let’s just say my progression no longer stalled once bullet journals came into the picture.
A slightly different take on a common quote: “If it’s broke, fix it.”
My personal vendetta against a lot of workbooks and structured planners is that when something changes, you may find that those systems aren’t as beneficial anymore.
But one of the BEST parts about the bullet journal system is that you can change it to fit your specific needs.
For example, I probably floated between three different mental health workbooks during my time in therapy. Not every chapter of every book was necessary for me.
By using my bullet journal to track which books I read and which assignments I needed to focus on, I was able to have a customized care plan tailored specifically to my needs. No more pounding my head against workbook chapters that weren’t relevant to my recovery.
Change is constant, but the bullet journal system allows you to adjust and flow with the change. If something doesn’t work anymore, create something new that does.
A Place to be Creative
Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye- Dorothy Parker
A gorgeous mandala drawn by Aimée on Instagram.
Creativity is my muse. If I don’t have a place to doodle or express myself, I start to struggle.
My bullet journals may appear over the top, but it’s relaxing. I find a lot of joy in doodling. It helps quiet my mind, which tends to be what gets me most in trouble with mental health (who else is a chronic over-thinker?).
And even if you don’t find enjoyment in the artistic aspect, there are other ways to be creative with your bullet journal. As I mentioned above, you have the opportunity to customize your bullet journal in any way you want.
You may find significant joy in creating your own versions of spreads and trackers. You may find inspiration, creativity, and ideas from others who bullet journal.
Do whatever inspires you.
“Get Through Each Day”- Sometimes just doing that is enough!
Beautiful quote from dibersbrain on Instagram!
Maintaining a bullet journal still takes work. If you don’t do the work, you will likely not see the same benefits I experienced.
This post in no way, shape, or form implies that your bullet journal will make you recover from your mental health disorders. Improve doesn’t mean ‘fix’. This post is focused on YOU using your bullet journal to aid with your mental health recovery.
It is ultimately up to YOU to determine the amount of work you are willing to put into your bullet journal.
I’d like to add a few parting resources that I found useful in the process of recovery.
- If you struggle doing things that you don’t feel like doing, I’d highly recommend utilizing this book. Called “The Happiness Trap“, this book written by Russ Harris provides excellent examples and sheds some serious truths on some topics related to your happiness and well-being. There’s even an illustrated version of this book that I adore!!!
- Make sure that you check out these tips on keeping a successful planner, so you have realistic expectations for keeping a bullet journal. (Everything noted in this article states ‘planner’, but the concepts are relevant to bullet journals, too.)
- Also, remember to keep it simple! If you over-complicate your bullet journal, it’s much harder to keep up.
Have you found using a bullet journal helps with your mental health? Have you experienced different benefits in your daily living? I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments!
If you feel it’s too personal to discuss in the comment section, but still want to reach out, that’s fine! Feel free to head to my Contact Me page and drop me a message! All information shared with me will stay safe and confidential.
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(Despite your best efforts, if you continue to have mental health challenges and currently not seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, please consider setting up an appointment with your primary medical provider to see how they can assist you with care. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call 911 or contact this helpline for additional assistance. From somebody who has struggled on this journey, you are not alone.
Please remember, I am not a mental health professional. While I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I am not medically trained nor can provide mental health assistance.)