Let’s face it: the world is a giant mess right now. From reality show presidents to Flint, MI still not having clean water, the world is just a constant source of stress for all of us. Plus, we’ve each got our own problems and issues, including mental health issues peaking among Americans like anxiety, stress, and depression. Sometimes, when you’ve got a mix of all of the different problems, it can be hard to juggle everything going on in your own life. That’s where bullet journaling comes in. In my experience, bullet journaling is a great way to organize your entire life in a way that’s calming and exciting for you — because you’re the important part.
But what exactly is bullet journaling? Well, a bullet journal (or ‘bujo,’ for short) is essentially creating a personal planner however you’d like. It’s a mosh posh of everything you feel you need to get on paper – and it’s forgiving in its system in that you’re encouraged to fully customize it and use it in whichever ways you deem necessary. Some people create daily spreads to write down their everyday to-do lists, while some people use it to track what shows they’re watching and what books they’re reading. There’s no clear formula for what a bullet journal is or how exactly to do it, but it’s simple enough to follow. All you have to do is buy a journal of your choosing (make it personal to you and don’t let anyone tell you it’s the wrong kind) and decide how you want to split it up and organize it. It’s a great way to stay on top of your *ish*, whether that’s what needs to be done during a day/week/month or your goals for the next year. The possibilities are endless!
How Does it Help Anxiety?
Bullet journaling is a way to get all of your feelings down on a paper in a constructive and helpful way. But what’s the science behind it? Well, in a study conducted by the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2013, the effects of “expressive writing” were observed. 40 people either were engaged in writing about their deepest thoughts and feelings about an emotional event or were asked to write about a non-emotional event that took place. After journaling for 20 minutes a day for three days in a row, the participants who wrote about their emotions saw a significant decrease in mental health symptoms and issues. Journaling is a way to help you gain some clarity about your mental state and where you currently stand, as well as identifying your good and bad behaviors to help you explore how to improve them.
While regular journaling is used to express emotions, bullet journaling turns that stream of consciousness into something that can help you, too. Plus, let’s face it – not all of us have the time to write down all our innermost thoughts and feelings on the reg. Clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, PhD. says that the act of bullet journaling is a great resource to turn to in a time when you need something calming as well. ”When your life and emotions feel so out of control or chaotic, there is something immensely therapeutic about organizing it into a systematic structure like a bullet journal,” she told Buzzfeed. “You lay things out in an aesthetically pleasing way and already it feels more manageable. Like you can really tackle it and make it through. It feels luxurious, too. It’s like saying, ‘I’m worth it. I’m worth this notebook and the time it takes to turn it into something beautiful.’”
You Can Plan Out Your Day
According to a 2011 survey by psychologist and self-help author Robert Epstein, it was reported that 25% of our happiness depends on our ability to manage stress. He also argues that planning out the everyday things, and your stressors, is the way to eliminate that overpowering stressed-out feeling we all probably experience way too often. “Fighting stress before it even starts, planning things rather than letting them happen [is the best way to combat stress],” Epstein told TIME. “That means planning your day, your year and your life so that stress is minimized.” AKA using a bujo is basically a cure to those who are most commonly overwhelmed by their daily tasks.
There are tons of ways to plan your day. Some people will do daily spreads, which means they devote one whole page to one day. Others, however, prefer weekly spreads or even monthly spreads. It could mean tracking chores you need to do at home, projects you have at work or social events. You can make separate lists for each or put them all on one. You could also schedule things out hourly, but for some, the simple act of crossing things off a list (and not having to stick to an hourly plan), is more effective. Ultimately, it’s supposed to help you hold yourself accountable for getting what you need to done.
If you don’t get every single thing done that you planned for, don’t freak out. Instead, just move it to tomorrow’s list, or split it up into easier chunks over the following days. It’s usually a good thing to prioritize your items. Can vacuuming the apartment wait another day if it means finally getting your car inspected or finishing up that project at work that’s been stressing you out? Weighting and valuing your list items may make it all the simpler to realize what’s worth the stress – and what’s not.
You Can Keep an Eye on Your Moods or Triggers
Another benefit of bullet journaling is tracking moods or triggers. With anxiety, every good day is a victory, and every bad day is to be learned from. Plus, you never really know what will trigger your stress or when, so it can be good to keep track of it. Similarly to a habit tracker, a mood/trigger tracker is set up daily, weekly, or monthly depending on preference. There are tons of ways to track this. You can assign colors to feelings and make each day a different color depending on my mood for the day. If something triggers me, it’s important to write it down as soon as it happens, even if I don’t know exactly what it was. As with people with digestive issues keeping a food journal to track what they eat when they feel symptoms, the same can be done with mood disorders.
For some people, it may be difficult to track moods and triggers, so don’t be afraid to only track one. But mood and trigger tracking is a great way to learn from your anxiety and use your knowledge in the future, rather than letting it overwhelm you when you didn’t see it coming. Plus, once you start to track your moods and triggers, you’ll begin to notice patterns about what brought on your episode and what brought you out of it. That’s half the battle with anxiety and depression, knowing when it’s coming and if you can change your daily life in small ways to avoid it.
There’s a world of possibilities waiting for you in the world of bujo, and it’s up to you to get out of it what you want. If spending hours on crafting your bullet journal is calming and therapeutic, don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste of time. If you prefer the minimalist look that simply lets you write and track without any frivolities, follow your heart.