I journal, but not like your childhood “Dear Diary” journal. I don’t pour my heart out about my deepest secrets or my newest celebrity crush. It’s not a recap of my entire day or about a fight with a friend. It’s much more than that. This is part of the “me time” that I strive for each night before bed. Journaling has helped me calm down from a crazy day, reflect on what I am grateful for, and is simply something I enjoy just for me.
I have journaled on and off for years and feel great when I complete it daily. It is something that is fluid and ever-changing to accommodate my needs and wants. My journals have grown into something that I cherish, look forward to, and rely on to maintain and balance my mental health. There is something that is just so aesthetically pleasing about some of the following journal entries, I have found the routine can reset my whole daily outlook.
I started bullet journaling a few years ago. Then, I took it a step further and added three items I was grateful for every night. This is something I often go back through to see what I wrote each night. It has been a huge focus when dealing with depression. It’s hard to believe, but it hasn’t always come easy. From the outside looking in, I have two amazing, healthy kiddos, a great husband, a close family, good job, etc. But, depression doesn’t discriminate, and even those who seem to have a good life are affected.
Taking a moment to recap what I am truly grateful for each day makes me really appreciate life’s little moments: my husband dancing in the kitchen with our daughter, or, my son snuggling up while reading books. These small moments are what I go to bed each night thinking about and that…that is something bigger than a journal.
I have always enjoyed the satisfaction of crossing an item off a list. Tracking habits offers the same satisfaction. I tend to do a month at a time and am always thinking of new items to include. My 2020 focus has been a healthier me, so I’ve included eliminating pop, meditating, fasting, drinking water, avoiding alcohol, getting 10k steps, and keeping up on exercise. I add other items such as cleaning up, limiting my kids screen time, and writing.
This can truly be anything you make of it. Each night, I color in the box if I completed the task. I know this sounds silly, but it helps. It’s like I am not only trying to achieve my goals, but I also look forward to how pretty it will look on paper. I’ll think throughout the day, I’m not going to have pop and then I’ll be able to track this habit. It’s just one extra step to make you stop and think about the items you want to change or improve upon.
Life Goal and Doodle Lists
Have I mentioned I enjoy making and crossing off items on a list? Now, I don’t make lists like groceries or what I’m hoping to get done this weekend in my journal. These lists are bigger than that. I make lists of how I plan on organizing my house or a summer bucket list for my daughter and I. Plus, I make it fun and colorful with doodles and designs. Again, I know this sounds silly, but it is a stress reliever and a great way to calm down at the end of a messy day. Seeing the end result through beautiful doodles and designs can really bring a sense of calm and collectedness.
This year, I bought a planner that isn’t as much as a bullet journal as it is a goal planner. I still use it very similarly, but have added in another layer. This planner is broken down by month and has a place to set my goals at the beginning of the month, a daily check-in (where I write what I’m grateful for) and then a monthly recap. There are aspects of my life that need to get better: I need to get healthier, I need to declutter areas in my house, I need to organize the kids’ rooms. These are tasks that are feasible. I want to run a 5K, that is a goal for 2020 and yes, it is feasible. It isn’t something I’m going to accomplish in the next few months so I’ve broken it down. The BIG goal is to run a 5k, the monthly/weekly tasks are to get on my treadmill four times a week. Make attainable goals and the better you get at reaching them, the better you’ll feel and then you can continue to strive for bigger goals each month.
There are many other ways to make journaling fun. I’ve gone from a bullet journal, to a gratitude journal, to a goal journal and I’ve enjoyed them all. I have incorporated a little from each type and utilize Pinterest to find more ideas. Pinterest is great when looking for something new to keep things fun and exciting. A few other tools I’ve used in the past are:
- Goal Weight: This is a fun way to track the pounds I lost by crossing the number off as I lose. I started at my current weight, have mini goals with rewards, and track the end goal weight.
- Year in Pixels: This is a fun way to see how I feel each day and can see trends or rough patches throughout the year.
- Depression Check-In: During hard times I check in with myself three times a day. I track where on a scale of 1-10 I am, at and once I hit five, I start working on my coping skills.
- Coping Skills: This is a list of items I know help boost my mood. I’ve suffered from severe depression, so I know when things are really, really bad, this is not a cure. I use this when I’m feeling down to prevent getting to that dark place. This list includes music to listen to, meditation, getting off the couch for 10 minutes, writing in my gratitude journal, making a cup of tea, texting a friend, snuggling with my kids, do a few stretches, walk outside for 15 minutes, and more.
- What Makes Me Happy: This is something similar to tracking three items I’m grateful for however, this is only one or two words.
There are so many ways you can utilize a journal—whether it’s more for fun, doodling, or to improve mental health. I have found it to be one of the best tools all around. Especially during these difficult times with extra anxiety, extra isolation, and extra stress. We need something to focus on, something to track our health and our goals for each day and each week. Self care is something that may be placed on the back burner but it is still crucial to care for ourselves to care for our whole families.