An unhappy, anxious brain can be like an attic full of trapped thoughts. These ‘moths’ seek the light but they are confused and fragile, singeing their wings, bumping into each other, the walls and the ceiling.
The problem is, more often than not, by pinning them to paper and writing them down, the ‘moths’ either seem damaged and lifeless, are scary and overwhelming, or perhaps even worse, make us feel the source of our worries is insignificant and that we are just weak.
The biggest block to journaling, with its proven benefits for anxiety and depression, is that for many, our self-esteem protests at the arrogance of writing our thoughts down. Journaling should be great way to ‘ground you’, ‘to find Ubiety’ but who are we to put pen to paper, to mark a fresh new page with a stale old whinge? Stop feeling sorry for yourself brain, pull your socks up brain, you can have it all!
This was always my problem, so instead of writing a journal to organise my thoughts, I restricted myself to the far less intimidating and more humble, list. The issue is, that lists get lost. In fact, I’m sure there is another attic somewhere in a parallel universe, where all the lists are flapping around like moths, waiting to be found. A list, set free in the world can add to your anxiety, not reduce it. ’Where is that list? Where did I put it down’, ‘where the ****! is that list?’
Here lies the genius of bullet journaling, an analogue (translate pen to paper) system created by Ryder Carroll, a Designer based in New York. In his words, ‘the Bullet Journal is meant “to help you track the past, organise the present, and plan for the future.”
Or more simply put- keep one notebook, have an index, number your pages, write subjects for each time you start a list or make notes, list daily tasks and date them, index them and if you don’t complete a task, transfer it to the next day.
Aficionados of the Bullet journal will be cross with me for this over-simplification but the point is, it is beautifully simple and when you discover how good it is, it is a true head slap moment. This really has saved my brain, as the last two years have been a massive challenge- every day I use my bullet journal, I feel that I am taking back control and grounding my thoughts. Whether mind-mapping to understand the source of a specific anxiety, or jotting down ideas for work, I feel that I’m carefully looking after my ‘moths’ (or bats in the attic).
You can find out about how to make your own bullet journal here but don’t be intimidated. If like me, you just like to scrawl, you can keep your journal to writing only but if you are creative, you can personalise your journal with beautifully laid out pages, illustrations and even covers…
OR!!! Ta da, someone else can do it for you! The amazing women at the Positive Planner want to make it even easier for you to start planning and journaling. They don’t just provide you with a top-notch and visually beautiful template however, they fill their planners and bullet journals with lots of motivating goodness too. These Bath based mental health warriors are inspiring us all with their warts-and-all, honest accounts of their own journaling journeys.
Their mission is to empower everyone to make their mental health a priority. Yes, everyone! So ‘self-esteem’, I think you might need to buy a bigger hat, as there are lots of other people out there, with the similar problems as you. Journaling, with a little help from our friends, is a great way to mindfully get by!