I have always struggled to make the intricate vision of a design I have in my head come to life – as the stress caused by my GCSE Art and Design proved to me – so I approached the idea of bullet journaling with caution. While I have always been adequate at copying images, and am a creative person at heart, drawing freehand is not my strong suit. This, alongside my impatience and perfectionism, seemed to offer two substantial deal breakers as to why bullet journaling wasn’t for me. Despite this, my interest was peaked by numerous mental health charities and news outlets suggesting the benefits of bullet journals.
Bullet journaling is a forgiving and customisable visual organisation system that is used to help a person manage their life. It allows people to get as creative as they wish while they plan, diarise, monitor, and track various aspects of their lives. An article recently shared by The Blurt Foundation – a mental health charity who dedicate their time to increasing the awareness and understanding of depression – explained the ways in which bullet journaling can be a surprisingly useful aid to our well-being. As I read through the article, I was incredibly impressed to hear how bullet journaling is able to help with identifying unhelpful thinking patterns, tracking moods, and even triggers. All of these tools, as well as creating spaces for therapy debriefs and notes, can have an immensely positive impact on a person’s mental health, allowing them to see, and subsequently monitor, the patterns which emerge across thinking and behaviour styles. As a person who is all too familiar with how mental health issues can seem so erratic and frantic, bullet journaling is a really fantastic tool that can help people understand the ways in which their brain works. Other ways in which this activity may benefit a person is by helping an individual to be re-acquainted with a positive perspective, or outlook, on their life that may have otherwise been suffering. Many bullet journals feature designated spaces for gratitude logs, goal/achievement spaces and plenty of room for to do lists – all of which help a person feel more focused, calm and collected.
As well as this, Bullet journaling is also very handy when it comes to monitoring your health as it provides practical ways of ensuring that your body is looked after, as well as your mind. Many people design their journals to feature sleep and exercise logs, graphs to measure their daily water intake, as well as including visual aids to remind themselves to take their medication. Then, of course, there is the more basic, and practical element of collating significant dates across each calendar month to remind the person bulleting about upcoming events, appointments and birthdays. For my bullet journal, for example, I try to vary the layout of each month to incorporate spaces where I can note all of these chores or errands – essentially, I like to lure myself into a false sense of security that I am a fully functioning adult who has their life together by using some fine liner pens and stickers… Basically, if you find it difficult to manage this whole ‘adulting’ malarkey, then bullet journaling may prove to be quite a handy, and nifty, little tool for you.
If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and starting a bullet journal, my advice is to be wary of Pinterest. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve taken so much inspiration from browsing through the bullet journal hashtag over summer, but it’s worth remembering that you shouldn’t be put off from starting your own journal at the first sight of the flawless layouts and designs you’ll inevitably come across when searching these posts. I still find myself very envious at the people whose bullet journals look so effortlessly pleasing, and have aesthetics that I only dream of being able to create. I started off using very simple templates for my pages, and as I’ve built up confidence begun experimenting more with fancy fonts, hand drawn illustrations, and stickers to make give my journal that personal Emily touch.
I’ve found bullet journaling very therapeutic so far: by being able to take time out of my day to work on a page design I’ve had, or to decorate a page from the day before, I find that I am able to have time to myself, where I feel calm and collected. (Unless I accidentally smudge something – which has happened a few times more than I care to admit…) Bullet journaling allows me to experience the sense of gratification and productivity that, as a high-functioning depressive, I constantly desire, but allows me to do so in a way that is genuinely enjoyable. It allows me to be productive, but towards something that I want to do for myself – not to satisfy the niggling thoughts that eat away at my brain that tell me without purpose or action, that I am lazy and a waste of space.
I’ve completely fallen in love with bullet journaling, as it is a hobby that also allows me to practice self-care. Taking some time to do a bit of doodling and drawing is something I always look forward to after a tough day. If you’re looking for an alternative from the dull (although admittedly functional) academic mid-year diaries hitting the shelves of W.H. Smiths, then I hope I have convinced you to explore – or consider, at the least – the idea of bullet journaling.