Life

Could starting a bullet journal ease your anxiety?

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published
Bullet journal for mental health

As part of Stylist’s Kindfulness Project, we are encouraging our readers to be more compassionate – to both themselves and others. Here, we examine how the #bujo trend will help you stay organised, and reduce your stress levels.

Our day-to-day lives are filled with appointments, and meetings, and lunch dates, and tasks, and shopping lists.  And, unsurprisingly, trying to stay on top of our packed schedules can leave us feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious – but there is a solution.

It's time to talk about the bullet journal.

How to make your own bullet journal

The bullet journal, lovingly dubbed the #bujo on Instagram and Pinterest, has sparked a trend for creative organisation methods.

Originally developed by digital product designer Ryder Carroll, all you need to make your own is a blank notebook, pen, and ruler

Using these, you then number the notebook’s pages, creating an index and jotting down all stray thoughts in short, bulleted statements.

These are then given symbols depending on what action they require (some are tasks, some are events, and some are thoughts), before being “migrated” to other parts of the notebook, such as a monthly planner.

Watch a basic bullet journal tutorial below:

Can a bullet journal improve your mental health?

It looks like a lot of work, but it's proven to be very worthwhile.

Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, known to many as the author of The Organised Mind, explained to NY Mag that jotting things down in the bullet journal makes you far less likely to forget them.

Why? Because it is a form of “externalising your memory”.

Essentially, our mind can only pay attention to three or four things at once – so, by writing down all of those niggling ‘must-remember’ tasks, you’re freeing yourself for the rest of your more immediate needs.

However, while we can achieve the above using lists and bog-standard diaries, the complex nature of the bullet journal encourages you to do far more than just write things down; think charts, graphs, symbols, quotes, illustrations and other beautifying elements.

Through blending mindless doodles with deliberate tasks, the bullet journal helps you to mentally refresh, and, in the process, relieve anxiety levels.

Levitin explains: “The research tells us that if you can take time off from your workflow and let your mind wander — maybe doodle, listen to music, draw pictures, just stare out the window — those periods of inactivity are actually essential to having productive periods of activity.”

Experts at the University of Rochester Medical Centre agree, insisting that everyone should keep a journal of some kind, in a bid to boost and improve their mental health.

“Keeping a journal helps you establish order when your world feels like it’s in chaos,” they write on their website.

Adding that journaling helps to prioritise problems, and provide an opportunity for positive self-talk, they continue: “Look at your writing time as personal relaxation time, a time when you de-stress and wind down.

“Write in a place that’s relaxing and soothing—maybe with a lit candle and a cup of tea.

“Look forward to your journaling time, and know that you’re doing something good for your mind and body.”

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that there is no one organisational method that works for everyone; if the thought of list-making brings you out in hives, then it might be worth keeping a more simplistic ‘thought journal’ instead - as in, yes, a diary similar to the one kept by many teenagers.

This reaps all of the same mental health benefits provided by the bullet journal (self-reflection and analysis is key), albeit with less focus on time management and organisation.

Just choose the option that works best for you, and don’t put yourself under too much pressure.

Image: Estee Janssens

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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