In case you missed it, I wrote a blog earlier, “Planning With Intentionality,” giving an introduction to the bullet journal, as well as some basics for starting one. It is essentially a do-it-yourself planner, but it can be used for much more than simply planning. The bullet journal can be an incredibly useful tool for tracking and improving mental health. And all you need to create a bullet journal is a pen and a notebook.
One thing that many people include in their bullet journals is a tracker. Some have daily trackers, weekly trackers, or monthly trackers, depending on their preference. I laid out an example of a monthly tracker. This can be used to track behaviors, emotions, and even symptoms. In my example, I tried to emulate what the tracker of someone who struggles with depression might look like. As with everything else in the bullet journal, you may decide what you would like to track and what you want your tracker to look like. The value of the tracker when it comes to mental health is being able to not only reflect on your emotions during the day, but also to see the bigger picture after tracking for several days or weeks. You may notice that you felt more negative emotions on days when you did not practice self-care, or that you did not go to work when you felt especially sad and lethargic. It also enables you to track whether your symptoms are increasing or decreasing, and what behaviors or other factors may contribute to these changes.
A twist on the tracker that could also be useful is a symptom-tracking graph. I used anxiety as an example, but again this is highly customizable. The idea is that you would scale your level of anxiety (or sadness, anger, etc.) during the day from 1-10, and track it on the graph, drawing lines between points. On days with particularly high or low points, you may write a brief note reflecting on what may have contributed to the increase or decrease in your anxiety that particular day. As with the tracker, this can provide you with a new perspective on what your patterns are throughout a given time period, and also help you indicate what triggers your anxiety and what effectively alleviates or prevents it.
The third sample layout is relatively simple: a gratitude log. As simple as it may sound, this can be a very powerful tool for increasing positivity in your life. Taking time at the beginning or end of your day to reflect on and write down two or three things that you were grateful for that day can help foster a habit of gratitude and of positivity. After practicing this habit for several days or weeks, you may notice yourself taking note of things to write down later. This means that you are looking for and taking note of positive things in your life rather than negative! If you struggle with depression or even just pessimism or negativity, I would encourage you to try this practice for at least a few weeks.
These are just a few examples of ways you can use a bullet journal to increase your self-awareness, self-care, and understanding of your particular mental health struggles. If you are seeing a counselor, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional, I would encourage you to share this with them! They may be able to help you pick up on patterns you missed, and the information is just as valuable for them to be able to understand you better. If you want more ideas, this article is a good place to start, or you can always find inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram.
Laura Lanier is an LPC Intern under supervision by Christy Graham, LPCS. Her work focuses on adolescents and adults. She has discounts for college students and a flexible schedule. Call her for an appointment or simply just for pointers on how to use Bullet Journals. 940-222-8703 ext 705. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.