The Ugly Bullet Journal: A Practical Organization System for Increased Mindfulness

I am a hot mess, but I used to be worse. A few years ago, I would miss the opportunity to renew my food stamps applications because I threw the notice on my desk and then just forgot about it, leaving me without food money for a month. I would miss work deadlines because I simply didn’t know what the date was and didn’t much care. I grocery-shopped haphazardly, so I never had all the ingredients I needed to make a meal and had to send my partner to the store every evening. Time seemed to pass by without me.

Around 2016, I came across the idea of a Bullet Journal while surfing the internet and instantly fell in love. I had always loved filling notebooks and binders with scribbles, and it seemed like this was the thing that would get my life on track– and I was right.

Other core features include:

  • An “Index” at the beginning of the book, which records page numbers and their contents. You allot yourself space for this from set-up, but you fill it in as you go.
  • Collections, which are lists that you can come back to and fill in as necessary. For example, I have a Collection of blog post ideas that I add to whenever I think of one.
  • A Future Log, in which you write events or to-do’s that are more than a month in the future.
  • Monthly pages, which are calendars with space for events.
  • Daily pages, which include to-do’s, notes, events, and inspiration.

Bullet Journaling seemed like the flexible answer to my problems, but there was one catch: everyone’s Bullet Journals were beautiful and I have no artistic skill whatsoever. Instagram-famous Bullet Journalers do full watercolor paintings on their pages and seem to have access to endless stationery supplies. I don’t even have the motor skills to draw a straight line, let alone do calligraphy or even make sketches.

It took me a full year, but I finally got the courage to make an Ugly Bullet Journal. I take a lined notebook and a black pen and I write. I make lists. I number the pages and add to the index. I cross things out with enthusiasm and rip the pages. It works for me.

My point here is that if you want to make a beautiful Bullet Journal, you’re more than welcome– but don’t be so intimidated that you feel like you have to. An Ugly Bullet Journal is just as indispensable.

What does this have to do with mental health? The central function of my Ugly Bullet Journal is to keep my mental health in line, and organization is a key piece of eliminating unnecessary stress.

In addition to the basic Bullet Journal functions, here are some ideas for pages you can include to promote positive mental health:

  • Daily affirmations.
  • A food log if you have trouble eating regularly or nutritionally.
  • Gratitude statements.
  • A log of your moods and symptoms. (This can be really helpful helping you be specific when you describe problems to doctors.)
  • A description of your morning routine so you can make sure you cover everything every day.
  • Notes about medications you’re trying to help you and your doctors make decisions about your treatment.
  • Habit-tracker graphs to promote healthy habits.
  • A water-drinking log.
  • A running list of thoughts to bring up with your therapist so you don’t draw a blank when you sit down with them.
  • Summations of your therapy appointments so you can retain the wisdom you gain and remember the topics you address.
  • Workbook activities.
  • DBT notes.

How do you use journaling to support your mental health? Let us know in the comments below!

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