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Bullet Journaling for Mental Health

Monday, December 11, 2017 3:39 PM

A new age of journaling is here, thanks to bullet journaling, a trendy organizational method that touts itself as the analog system for the digital age. How does it work? You start with a blank notebook and pencil – colored if you’re the creative type. You create a key section, an index section, a future log and the monthly and daily sections. Using symbols, you can organize your lists, goals, tasks and loftier life pursuits in a notebook that has no boundaries on space, unlike a traditional monthly planner with preset boxes.


Its cult following has Pinterest and Instagram pages devoted to it. Many of them have taken it one step further by incorporating artistic doodles and drawings on their pages good enough to be framed.

Research suggests that drawing improves memory because it uses a combination of skills. Plus, the act of putting pen to paper engages a different part of your brain in a way that typing doesn’t – it forces you to slow down and leads you to mindfulness, said NorthShore Psychologist, Lara Jakobsons, MD.

Whether you prefer bullet or traditional journaling, the benefits can be profound, said Dr. Jakobsons. They include:

  • Helps organize and prioritize life tasks, thoughts and feelings
  • Helps identify stressors and then one can identify solutions to problems
  • Can help process and release emotions and intrusive or avoidant thoughts
  • Can help gain insight and confidence
  • Help us see situation from other points of view, decrease our reactivity to others, and promote empathy

Here are tips for getting started:

  • Try to write daily at least a few minutes.
  • Be accepting and nonjudgmental of your attempts, focusing more on getting words on paper.
  • Journaling doesn’t have to follow a certain structure or format, just let the pencil flow!
  • Some people prefer to keep a gratitude journal for one thing per day they are grateful for.
  • Others write down negative thoughts to “throw away” & help clear our mind.
  • Experiment with tying journaling into your daily routine at a certain time or after a certain daily activity – like eating breakfast, riding the train home or eating dinner.

If journaling to problem solve or express negative emotions, follow these ideas:

  • Try to write a few sentences about a problem or negative emotions that need to be expressed.
  • Try to take a step back. Look at the facts in the situation and try to examine the feelings, thinking patterns, and your behaviors.
  • Can the problem be solved? Is there anything productive I can do?
  • Is there anything I can learn from this problem or situation?
  • Can I turn this situation into one growth or a new perspective?