Monthly Set Up: how journaling can help your mental health*
I decided to set up my monthly spread for April a little differently as it is such a strange time in the world and I wanted to include more journal techniques that would benefit my mental health.
It has long been reported that journaling can have incredible benefits mentally. I myself have found it amazingly therapeutic in times of sadness. Simply articulating your thoughts and feelings through the medium of written word can be calming in and of itself – enabling you to detangle your thoughts in the same way you might if you talked things through with a friend or therapist. But there are also many other ways in which you can use your journal to promote positive mental and physical well-being, and through the framework of my monthly set up for April I will point you in the direction of a few techniques that I have found immensely helpful over the years.
Firstly, I’d like to show you how I used an artistic journaling technique called ‘Dutch Doors’. This is a technique I have wanted to try for a very long time but have never quite had the courage – it uses up more pages than a regular monthly overview so if I didn’t like how it looked it would waste a large chunk of my journal. The idea is that you cut out sections of the page so that details from pages behind it peep through. Here I used the technique to allow me to incorporate multiple pages beneath my monthly header ‘April’. I’m really happy with how it turned out so I’ll definitely be trying this technique again soon.
Within my monthly overview I have included four pages: a calendar, a habit tracker, a gratitude log, goals for the month and a reflections page.
It felt a little strange to draw out a calendar because I have no events or work schedule to fill in the dates! I usually work part time in a clothing shop but due to the pandemic the shop has been forced to close and I am out of work. On the upside this means more time to read great books, write my blog and journal.
Nonetheless it would feel odd not to include a calendar in my monthly overview because it is such an integral part! I made sure to distract myself from the lack of exciting events coming up by pairing it with cute and colourful artwork. As the month unfolds I will put in key moments that I’ve enjoyed, or goals that I have reached, into the calendar to fill it all up and remind myself that even in this quiet and unusual time there is still joy to be found and there are still experiences to be had.
The habit tracker is one of the most popularly used features of a bullet journal because it promotes positive change in your life and motivates you to sustain a healthy routine. I have chosen to use it throughout this period of isolation to make sure I am continuing to exercise and nurture my creative skills – this will, in turn, promote happiness and a sense of purpose. You can also include your habit tracker in your weekly spreads if you prefer – for some people it can be daunting to track it for the whole month on one page! Make the technique work for you.
I’m going to be tracking my new daily yoga routine which I have found amazingly calming, my phone calls and Skype calls with friends and family, my trips outdoors and my engagement with my creative hobbies. But pick whatever habits you want to encourage yourself to persevere with!
The next section I have included is my ‘gratitude log’. I used to include a daily gratitude log in my old journals but found I was not strict enough with myself to write one every day. Here I have left enough space to acknowledge wonderful things I am grateful for during the month of April, but have not limited myself to writing ‘one thing a day’. This way if I don’t remember or have time to journal I won’t be leaving a gap. It should warm my heart to re-read it at the end of the month and will allow me to keep perspective during this difficult time.
I have been kind to myself when setting my goals this month because my main focus is keeping a healthy headspace. Any creative work I achieve alongside this is going to be a lovely bonus!
I’ve tried to set quite loose goals so that I won’t feel demotivated if by the end of the month I haven’t reached particular targets. However I still wanted to include a goals page because it helps me stay focused and motivated.
As each month rolls into the next I usually try to devote a page to reflecting on where I am at in my life, what the month just gone held for me and what I hope to achieve or strive for in the month to follow. Here I wrote about how strange a time we are all having. I think it helps to write this stuff out and acknowledge that it’s ok if you’re not feeling 100%. I love looking back at old monthly reflections in my journal to see how far I’ve come and give myself a pat on the back for life’s little achievements.
I have not included a mood tracker because, in all honesty, they do not work for me. I find it very hard to attribute one mood to a whole day – my mind is far more muddled and confused than this! But for many people they are a great visual way to track your mental wellbeing. Here is one of my favourites by talented artist @bujowithpau. You can draw any image you like, or simply use the little squares of your journal, and attribute one square to each day of the month. Using a colour code fill in each square with a colour to mark how you’re feeling that day. If this does not appeal to you you can also try writing down one sentence to sum up your mood for the day, or any intrusive thoughts you may have had. I have tried this technique in the past and found it to really centre me. But each to their own.
I hope that I’ve demonstrated how beneficial journaling can be if you are struggling with calming your thoughts. Now more than I ever I would encourage people to dive into journaling as a way to process the complex waves of emotions we are all experiencing at the moment.
Have a peaceful week and I’ll talk to you soon!
*Please note that I am transferring posts over from my old website, and this post was originally published April 2020