Journaling: Some Thoughts, Some Ideas

Julia Mary shares her thoughts on journaling, with a particular focus on its use as a tool for mental health. Julia is a Drama graduate from Portsmouth and all round creative dabbler, at the current time, as theatre is now the least accessible way she can express herself.

I am a sucker for stationary. 

Why am I wandering up and down WHSmith, stroking smooth covers and flipping through pages of journals on their shelves? It’s not as though I don’t have any already. There are A4s, A5s and refills all from my college and university days left piled up, or probably hiding in my bags at home.

Is it a sensory thing? Maybe I like looking at the inside. But for what exactly? Lined paper, wider spaced lines, grids, illustrations, quotes, the material itself? 

How about I bend it to see if it retains shape? I could check to see if anyone is in the same aisle and inhale its new papery smell. Still, it doesn’t disguise the fact that we’ve probably got so many with unwritten pages at home. I can tell you, each one can be up-cycled and reallocated for tasks in life to suit you. 

Maybe it’s a shop for something greater. More creative. A journal with a specific purpose in mind. Personally, I have been getting into the habit of categorising my thought patterns into physical manifestations. I have about four or five so far. A notepad or journal for each. I’m not going to get into suggesting ideas for new work stationary, courses, shopping lists or travel. We’ve heard these ones before, they are boring (and to be honest, I haven’t stepped a foot out of my local area for a number of years now, so I am stumped on travel experience). And neither will I go into the importance of journaling*. 

This is just some inspiration for fresher ideas on what else you can do with those spare notepads and journals. I know fully well, you can get apps for many of these ideas. But how many times after becoming a new subscription do you forget you even have your apps, or even realise you need some storage freed up again? Sometimes, you just can’t beat a hard physical copy in your hands. 

1. Mood tracker for your mental health

First and foremost, this is probably the reason people journal in the first place. Journaling for mental health is regarded mostly as an effective coping strategy and mind relaxer. I do personally think it would be a mistake to allocate times and dates, or force yourself to journal your mood every single day. It becomes monotonous, boring and more like work. We all know that when something becomes work, it is less enjoyable or satisfying. I like to use a mood tracker when I feel I have something to say, whether I am feeling good or bad. It’s that friend that can be there for you without the human obligation weighing on your shoulder of feeling you have to give something back. 

2. Bucket lists, dreams and goals

Having things like this written down helps to clarify which of your wishes are most accessible, affordable and whether or not you have the time and the real drive for it at the current time. But it’s there in print for the future, in case you would like to re-review it.

3. Finances and budgeting

You could probably save this for the bucket lists. Sometimes even for day-to-day and monthly essentials.

4. Sleep patterns, dreams and nightmares

Now I have not been so creative with this one, as I have purchased a sleep tracker* from WHSmith myself. This is mainly for keeping a record of how well rested you are and addressing your nighttime routine habits for improving sleep quality. It does not however always allow you the freedom to deeply write out the events in your dreams. It really depends on how good your memory is of your dreams and nightmares after waking up. Recording and researching your subconscious is a handy tool for your own personal development, if that’s what you want. If you are more artistically inclined, many of your recordings may lead you to create sculptures, paintings or even short fiction and poetry, to reflect that dream.

5. Reading diary

Write your own book reviews. One of the best ways to remember what you read is to engage with the material. Write out your thoughts, questions, plot holes in mind, where you think the story will go, your favourite quotes and lines. This is perfect if you desire to keep books clean of annotations.  

6. Or purely quotations

Bear in mind you could find quotations from all varieties of media that resonate on a personal level. I have one of these myself. Even little mental health diagrams or drawings taken from social media pages. Not long after I started this, author of The Midnight Library, Matt Haig recently published The Comfort Book.* Do grab yourself a copy or write your own like I have, if you are feeling a little creative. 

7. Collage

Your visual interests, inspirations. Okay, basically a scrapbook or mood board. You can find so many images to get started off from the aesthetic side of the internet. From time to time, I enjoy visualising the perfect living or dining room from cutting out magazine furniture. I even used to cut out makeup looks to reference or copy when I was younger. Maybe the odd outfit from fashion mags if I wanted to be really specific. This probably sounds like a very teenager thing to do, but sometimes you can really admit appreciating something to yourself from afar, without actually owning or living it yourself. Alternatively, you can also doodle these things for yourself. 

8. Wine diary (or anything alcoholic)

Of course! There is nothing else to say except that if I started doing this, I wouldn’t be standing in front of the fridges in any convenient stores trying to decide for twenty minutes what I might purchase.  I’ll already have a record of what I do or don’t like from experience by then.

Of course, like I have already mentioned, it may even be easier to combine some of these subject matters into fewer journals if you don’t have very many. Alternatively, leave them on your front porch for passersby to collect for free. Or give them up to your zoomer cousin starting university (yes I’m sorry, time really does fly and we are getting older).

It all boils down to personal development. And the different areas in your life you feel needs improving.

But if you’re already working on getting creative with your journal, or even thinking up newer ideas not mentioned, great job! 

What are you going to do with those spare sticky post-its now…?

*10 Reasons Why You Need to Start Journaling Now

*My Sleep Tracker

The Comfort Book, Matt Haig

You can follow Julia on Instagram

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