Journalling has really taken off in the last few years.
If you search for journalling examples online, they range from the basic layouts right through to pristine, intricate designs that look entirely impossible to recreate.
The truth is, journalling can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. Some people enjoy journalling because they like creating aesthetically-pleasing designs. However, many people find the actual process of journalling, however simply laid out, an activity that produces benefits for their mental health.
A prominent part of journalling is trackers. Tracking our habits can help us to notice and trends or patterns that may occur, or help us to identify how our behaviours affect our mental health.
I think the main one here has to be the mood tracker.
You can design your mood tracker however you’d like. Some people implement a traffic light or another colour system to rate their moods. Some choose emojis. Some use a number spectrum. It’s totally up to you in terms of how you want it to look and how you can best interpret the trends.
Other trackers you might create could include:
- Hydration tracker
This one might not seem like an obvious way to support mental health, but dehydration can contribute to feeling physically unwell, which in turn can affect your mental health. Making sure you’re drinking enough water (plain, with squash, or whatever you want) helps to keep your body functioning well, and if you are physically well, this puts you in a better position to deal with overwhelming emotions, stress, anxiety, and so on.
- Medication tracker
Not everyone takes regular medication, but for those who do, ensuring you keep up-to-date with your pills is a good way to give them the best chance of being effective. Missing doses can affect their efficacy, and accidentally double-dosing can be potentially dangerous. If, like me, your brain needs a little help to do its job properly, making sure you are taking the correct meds at the correct time can really help to support your mental health.
- Exercise tracker
This one might be controversial, and I myself have been in the “don’t tell me to exercise when I feel like shit” club. However, some people (note, SOME) find that the endorphins released during exercise are really beneficial for their mental health. The exercise doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous; I personally enjoy doing a bit of Tai Chi from time-to-time. I don’t go to a class or anything, I just follow a short video on YouTube – literally five-to-ten minute sessions, and I have found that it improves my mood. Other ideas might be short walks, gentle swimming, or chairobics (exercises that you do sitting down). I know that yoga can be something of a curse-word in the mental health community, but even some gentle stretches can be helpful.
- Self-care tracker
I’ve written quite a few pieces about self-care, but I am still often guilty of forgetting to do self-care on a regular basis. Tracking the days that you do something as a form of self-care can help to remind you that hey, it’s been a week and you haven’t done any self-care, time to schedule something in.
There are many more trackers you could create, but my main point is that by tracking your habits, you can look back and see if there are any correlations between your habit-trackers and your mood-tracker.
Aside from trackers, your journal could include various other sections that may prove beneficial to your mental health.
Here are a few to consider…
Doodling is a simple way to get abstract thoughts and emotions out of your head and onto paper. Once it’s on the paper, it may be easier for you to reflect on and then let go. Further to this, doodling is also just a great way to express creativity. It doesn’t have to be neat or perfect or meaningful. I find that doodling random patterns and colouring them in is so therapeutic because it keeps me occupied but it doesn’t require a whole lot of brainpower. The end product doesn’t matter, it’s the process that helps me to relax.
Another idea is to have a page where you note down positive quotes or affirmations when you come across them, so when you need a pick-me-up, you can look back and get an instant positivity boost. They can also be useful if a friend is in need of some kind words to improve their mood!
Setting goals, short-term and long-term, can be really helpful for our mental health, as we can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment they provide. Goals can be anything from reading a paragraph of your favourite book or writing a haiku, to applying for a university degree or changing careers. Having short-term goals provide an immediate sense of accomplishment, whereas the longer-term goals give us something to work towards and helps us to look forward to our future.
Of course, another prominent area of journalling is scheduling; creating a weekly or monthly view across one or two pages, and using it to schedule your responsibilities, your appointments, your social activities, and so on. Keeping your schedule written down is beneficial for your mental health in a number of ways, such as:
- Reducing stress about forgetting things or double-booking yourself
- Allowing you to manage your time effectively and not overburdening yourself with too many commitments that could contribute to mental/emotional burnout
- Highlighting if any area of your life is overwhelming another area, or if an area is being inadvertently neglected. For example, when did you last meet your friend for a coffee? Looking at your schedule, maybe you have agreed to work an overwhelming or unmanageable amount of overtime and need to discuss your hours with your boss? Keeping an eye on how full your schedule is, and what it is full with, can help you to achieve a comfortable work/life balance, hence supporting your mental health.
Of course, there are a plethora of ways you can use your journal – the choice really is yours. If you try an idea and don’t enjoy it, try something else. Mix-and-match, try your own original ideas, take inspiration from others – just give it a go and see if you notice any benefits.
Do you journal? What do you include? Have you noticed any benefits for your mental health? Let me know in the comments.