Posted in art, bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, lifestyle, Planning and journaling

Setting up my Bullet Journal for June 2022: Summer Fruits theme

Hi all, hope you are well. Today I’m going to share my bullet journal spreads for June. I’ve chosen a theme that I did a couple of years previously in 2020, but this time, I’ve hand drawn all of the fruits straight into my notebook, rather than create stickers from my own illustrations. I hope you enjoy looking at my pages for this month.

Front cover

For my front cover I wrote the ‘hello June’ title in the centre of the page and then added a range of fruits in different colours. Lightly sketched pencil drawings were filled with Tombow ATB brush pens and Crayola Supertips, then outlined using a Pigma Micron Fineliner in 01. Detail was added using the same fineliner and a sepia 0.5 UniPin for the decoration on the pineapple.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative blog

Positive message for the month

On the previous page I created a TV series spread but I made a huge mistake with the title, so I covered it over by sticking on a simple message I printed from a website. Unfortunately I can’t credit the person who created it as I’m unable to find it online again and I didn’t save it to my computer!

Monthly Calendar Pages

My calendar pages are my usual six by six dot boxes. I find that there’s just enough space for me to record a couple of events or gym bookings each day. As you can see from the above pages, I made a bit of a mess with the banana so this time I printed one from Google images and traced it! I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a big improvement.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative Blog

TV series record

This is a page that I started doing from last year. It’s a simple record of all of the different TV series we’ve watched, whether it’s a one off or part of a number of seasons and the particular genre. It’s great for referring back to so we can see all of the great stuff we’ve watched. We can also recommend series to family and friends.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative blog

Activity Tracker

I really enjoyed keeping a record of my walks and workouts last month so I’ve made a similar tracker for June. The only thing I’ve changed are the motivational messages and quote.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative blog

Final thoughts

I’m really pleased with how my pages for this month turned out and they’re certainly nice and colourful. Hopefully in the future, I’ll continue to be brave with drawing things and brush lettering straight into my notebook without practicing on paper first. Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of June.

Posted in Bipolar disorder, creativity, depression management, lifestyle, mental health, Mindfulness, wellbeing, wellness

Monday Matters: Wheel Of Wellness – Intellectual

In today’s Monday Matters I’ll be considering the intellectual element of the Wheel Of Wellness. This segment is all about keeping your brain active, exploring creativity and finding different ways to expand your knowledge and skills in various areas. It also includes finding ways to challenge yourself and ensuring you do activities which stimulate each area of the brain e.g. speaking and listening, problem solving, fine motor tasks and using and developing your skills of observation etc.

What do we mean by intellectual?

Sometimes when we use the term intellectual, we’re referring to individuals who come across as ‘brainy’, clever or highly educated as demonstrated by their thought processes, reflections, use of vocabulary, problem solving and factual knowledge etc. However, the term can also refer to ways in which you can stimulate your mind.

Today’s blog post is not about trying to develop a superior intellect or the knowledge of a Mastermind contestant, but more about keeping the different areas of your brain active and becoming a lifelong learner. Good mental fitness is very beneficial for your general health and wellbeing, and, as you get older, it can help to prevent signs of dementia or, at the very least, slow down cognitive decline.

Great ways to keep your brain active and expand your mind

Puzzles The term puzzle might make you think of a box of pieces that you join together to make a picture but a jigsaw is just one type of puzzle. In fact, the term is used to defined any activity that requires mental effort and has a definite ending. This can include paper puzzles such as crosswords, wordsearches, spot the difference and sudoku, board games such as Cluedo and Scrabble, guessing games such as I spy and charades and online games such as Candy Crush, Word Cookies and my favourite Angry Birds 2! Puzzling takes lots of concentration and mental effort which is great for improving both your physical and mental health. Here’s 5 benefits for you:

  • improves your problem solving skills which can then be applied at home or work
  • a wonderful stress reliever
  • reduces your risk of mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s
  • slows mental aging
  • a good form of entertainment and can be great fun!

If you are currently struggling with anxiety or depression, puzzles are a great way to distract yourself from negative thoughts, rumination and general worry about your problems. During my last period of depression, I used to dedicate a lot of time to doing jigsaws, wordsearches, arrow words and online games as it provided respite from thoughts that I wasn’t going to get better and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Learn to play a musical instrument There are so many benefits of learning to play a musical instrument that I could write a full blog post on it. According to my research, playing music uses both sides of the brain so you’re giving it a really good workout. Attentiveness, fine motor movements, memory and creativity are all required and as you get better at playing, you’ll become more confident, not just with regard to your instrument of choice, but also in general too. Setting and working towards goals and celebrating your achievements is bound to make you more positive and after a while, you will probably want to share you learning with others and impress them with your new skills – presenting a great opportunity to socialise with friends, family and even work colleagues.

In this month’s Happiful magazine, I also read that new research has found that learning a musical instrument (in the study they looked at the impact of piano practice) can protect against dementia in those over 60 as it strengthens white matter in the brain.

Read plenty of books, magazines and newspaper articles Being a regular reader is great exercise for the brain and both fiction and non-fiction have many benefits.

Fiction books can help improve your memory, vocabulary, empathy and emotional intelligence, analytical skills and tolerance of others. They can also be a huge source of pleasure and relaxation, alleviating stress and helping us to get a good night’s sleep.

Reading non-fiction books and articles (including blog posts) is a great way to improve your knowledge on a variety of topics which interest you. Whether you want to find out more about gardening, read about an interesting bird you spotted on a woodland walk, improve your understanding of a historical event or explore self help strategies for good mental health there are books and articles on every subject imaginable. And, if you join your local library, you can have access to a range of learning materials for free.

Many people also like to read a daily or weekly newspaper to keep themselves informed. Both the paper and online versions provide a source of global, national and local news, weather updates, the latest health and wellbeing advice, technological advances, entertainment and sports. You can even personalise the homepage on your computer so that news articles on particular topics appear first.

Learn a new skill Learning a new skill is a great way to fire up your brain. There are endless opportunities available for free online or you could try taking a class at your local college or doing a distance learning course. Here’s some examples which you might like to try:

  • flower arranging
  • photography
  • a foreign language
  • drawing
  • ceramics
  • watercolour painting
  • basic car repairs
  • Tai Chi
  • embroidery
  • good sleep hygiene
  • knitting
  • basic first aid
  • mindfulness
  • cooking on a budget
  • swimming
  • yoga
  • aromatherapy
  • Microsoft Office for beginners

As part of our course homework for last week, we were asked to have a go at learning something new. I chose something which I’ve been meaning to give a go for a long time which is developing the skills involved in creating wavy hair using a curling wand (which I purchased nearly a year ago and have barely tried out). My hairdresser showed me some of the basic techniques but it’s not so easy when you’re trying to do it on your own hair as you can’t see the back and you need to swap hands for each side meaning that for half of the styling process, you’re using your non-dominant hand for the wrapping. I found a few super helpful YouTube videos which used the same or a similar wand and have watched them a few times to get some tips. For next week’s session, I’m going to go to college with wavy hair to show off my new skill!

Try new things Trying something new is a great way to grow as a person. You might go to a restaurant you’ve never visited before, find a new recipe to have a go at, take a different fitness class, put on a different radio station, try listening to a different genre of music or go on a day trip to a place which a friend has recommended to you. You never know, you might discover a new favourite or create an amazing memory.

I took the opportunity to try out a new kind of exercise whilst I had access to all of the fitness classes for free. I’ve now discovered that I really enjoy doing pilates and although it’s a relatively gentle form of exercise, it’s great for toning your core muscles.

Ask questions This is something my husband and I do regularly as part of our thirst for new knowledge and greater understanding. For example, there are some swifts that come back every year and nest in one of the roofs we can see from our back bedroom. They’re fascinating birds and, being nature lovers, we always want to find out more about them. Some of the questions we’ve searched on Google this year include: When do swifts arrive in the UK? How many eggs do swifts have in a clutch? What do swift eggs look like? Do swifts pair for life?

You can also learn a lot from asking questions of friends, family, work colleagues and various acquaintances. You might want to get a different opinion or perspective or you might want to find out about something they seem to be somewhat of an expert in or at least know more about than you.

Try out a new hobby New hobbies are great for enhancing your skill set. Also, they present new challenges which can be wonderful for boosting your confidence and self esteem. Here’s a few hobbies that might appeal:

  • birdwatching
  • geocaching
  • upcycling
  • origami
  • gardening
  • calligraphy
  • scrapbooking
  • martial arts
  • astronomy
  • archery
  • camping

Keep a ‘things I want to learn’ list in your bullet journal or notebook Every time you think of something you’d like to know more about, write it down so you don’t forget. It might not be top of your to do list right now, but making a note can be a good reference for the future. When you’re ready, you can then pick something out to focus on and set some learning goals.

Watch documentaries If you’re a visual or auditory learner, documentaries are a great source of education. You can find out about anything you’re interested in, including wildlife, nature, different cultures, living with particular health conditions, environmental issues, technology, crime, history, arts and media, science, religion and current affairs. In the UK, Panorama and Dispatches are popular documentary programmes which tackle the latest issues, whilst Horizon focuses on a variety of subjects related to science and philosophy. I also find anything that Sir David Attenborough narrates to be both fascinating to listen to and incredibly informative.

Get creative Every one of us has the potential to be creative as long as regularly find the time to develop our skills. You might think that creativity is all about making a piece of art work or writing a story or poem, but you can be creative in many different ways. Here’s some examples:

  • developing a new storage system for all of your cleaning supplies and tools at home
  • finding an alternative solution to a problem at work
  • create a capsule wardrobe for your holiday abroad
  • choose a colour scheme for your living room and have fun choosing complementary soft furnishings
  • learn how to make bread dough and then have fun turning pieces into different animals
  • try styling your hair in a different way
  • create a costume for a fancy dress party
  • take a landscape photo and then recreate the scene as a watercolour painting
  • choose a new theme for your bullet journal spreads and have a go at designing different pages for the month

Final words…

Although as adults there are things that we feel we must learn to get by in life and to progress in our jobs or career, we should also make time to learn about things that particularly interest us. I love trying out different art techniques and a few years ago (before COVID struck), I joined a beginner’s ceramics course. I had so much fun and met some lovely people there and, even though we were given specific assignments, e.g. to make a pinch pot, our creations were all completely different and unique to us. Quite a few of us signed up for the intermediate class too to develop our skills further and try out different techniques. It was so exciting to see our finished projects when they’d been glazed and fired and we all felt a huge sense of achievement by the end of the course.

I would be really interested to know if you consider yourself a lifelong learner and, if you do, what you’d like to find out about next, which kind of hobby appeals the most, or which skills you particularly want to develop in the future.

Posted in art, bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, fitness, lifestyle, Planning and journaling

Setting up my Bullet Journal for May: Geum flower theme

It’s the 1st of May and yesterday I finished creating my main spreads for the month in my bullet journal. Again, I decided to take inspiration from our garden and spent some time sitting with a coffee in the sunshine contemplating and idea creating. There’s lots of shades of green outside and we have a plethora of tulips in full bloom, but the flowers which caught my eye the most were the pretty and delicate geums. We have two varieties, one a semi double-headed variety in bright red called Mrs J Bradshaw and the other, a pretty orange called Totally Tangerine. I took photos of both with my new Samsung phone and was impressed with the quality of the camera. I loved the different shades of the second and decided to have a go at sketching a flower stem for my front cover. From there, I decided to create more simple flowers to use for my other pages. I hope you like my layouts and feel inspired to have a go at a floral theme in the future.

‘Totally Tangerine’ Geum looking beautiful in our garden

Front cover

Using the above photograph to help me, I sketched out the stem and flower head and added a bud and another stem. It took me a long while to get the sizing right as I needed the flower to be the focal point. I found drawing the leaves to be the most difficult bit and I’m not entirely happy with them but I eventually left them alone after erasing a few times too many! With the sketching complete, I inked in the flower using a 0.2 Pigma Micron in black. I debated whether to use watercolour paint or pencils to add the colour and in the end, I trialled both by photocopying the image onto watercolour paper and thick printer paper. The only problem was, printer ink isn’t waterproof like my Pigma pen ink so it bled into the orange watercolour paint – I thought it was such a good idea too!

May 2022 front cover Geum theme

Calendar pages / Month at a glance

The calendar layout is my usual 6×6 dot boxes drawn using a Pigma Micron in 03 with the numbers done using a Pilot V5 Hi-Techpoint 0.5 pen in black. The brush letter May was created using a mid-green Faber-Castell Pitt Artist brush pen which I found easier to use than the Tombow ABT for this size lettering. I have no idea where I got the washi tape from but it was a great purchase as it goes with just about everything!

For the flowers, I changed to a face on view of the heads which was much simpler to draw in a larger number to fill the spaces around the calendar. My only real disappointment with these pages was due to way the spine was glued as it created an ugly crease on my title spread which spoiled the look somewhat. So far I’ve been happy with my dot grid notebook from Notebook Therapy but just a few pages do not lay flat without super annoying creasing.

May 2022 month at a glance

Fitness – Activity Tracker

Last month, I drew up a spread which documented the kinds of workouts I was doing each day. I mentioned then, that in the future I might like to record my workout times so I can see how many active minutes I’m cramming in each day. I did a quick search on Google and discovered some simple, colourful and helpful spreads on this blog. I adapted one of them by making a double page layout with my own exercise types and a larger scale for the minutes of exercise (in April, my highest total was 148 minutes in one day but I’m going to add a plus sign on the end if I go over 130). The extra space also meant that I could include a motivational saying at the bottom. Although this one is quite American in its choice of words (the ‘cute’ bit), it’s particularly pertinent as, by the time I’ve finished a gym session or a cardio class, my face is all red and sweaty and my hair has become a frizzy mess – not a good look!

Fitness tracker / workout record

By the end of the month, I’ll be able to see how I spent my active time in a bright and colourful visual representation of all of my workouts. I’ll also be able to see how regularly I’m doing each form of exercise.

Final words…

That’s all of my initial spreads for the month of May – just 3 at the moment but I’m contemplated adding a weekly food diary so I can assess my eating as well as how active I’ve been each day. This will probably be just a very simple record of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks so it’s not really something to share.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my pages for May. I’m looking forward to seeing other Bujo themes and have already watched quite a few plan with me videos on YouTube (I like to cast them to the TV screen in our living room so that I get a nice big view). Let me know in the comments if you have any special plans for this month or if you are working on something particular – I love to hear what everyone is up to!

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, fitness, goal setting, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions

Setting up my Bullet Journal for April: Honey Bee Theme

Hi all, I hope you’re doing really well and enjoying the Springtime with its (slightly) warmer weather, bright and cheerful daffodil displays on verges and in gardens, morning bird song and emerging butterflies and bees appreciating the sight of the first flowers. In today’s post, I’ll be sharing my bullet journal pages for April in which I had great fun creating bright and colourful bee themed spreads. I’ve seen quite a few insects over the last few weeks including ladybirds, butterflies and bees and I love to watch them exploring our garden so this is where my inspiration came from for the upcoming month. I’m really pleased with how the pages turned out and I hope you enjoy looking at them too. I’ve provided minimal explanation but if you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer them.

Cover page

Now I’m feeling better, I’ve gone back to creating cover pages for each month and decorating all of the spreads. This one uses two different yellow colours of Tombow dual tip pens (055 and 985) and a Crayola Supertip. The hexagons were drawn using a Helix stencil so it didn’t take me too long to do lots and colour them in. As I’m not too great at drawing, I went for a cute cartoon style bee!

Monthly Calendar

This is my usual layout with 6×6 boxes which leaves plenty of space for decor around the edges. I also added some flowers to go with the bees and honeycomb, filling in a few bits of white space nicely.

Workout log

As one of my current goals is to work on toning by body, I decided to keep a record of all of my different workouts. At the moment, I’m doing cardio at the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, plus one session a week using the strength and muscle toning weight machines. I’m also continuing to do yoga five days a week and have put myself on the waiting list for Iyengar yoga and Pilates at the wellness centre (it’s proving to be really hard to get onto the classes as they’re so popular).

I’ve created a small calendar spread which is big enough to record multiple workouts per day. I’m going to add a coloured dot each time I do a particular workout. In May, I might also track the time I spent doing each activity but for now I’m just going to log each kind of exercise I do.

Body Tracker

Earlier this week, I mentioned I was using the SMART goal framework, to help me come up with detailed plans of my current goals. As well as measuring my weight to see how many pounds I’ve lost each month, I’m also going to take my body measurements regularly so I can see progress in this area too.

Missing spreads

I’ve chosen not to include a gratitude log and yoga session tracker for April as they’re time consuming to set up and I want to focus on my gym workouts and improving my fitness levels. When I’m well (not too high and not feeling low), I tend to spend time reflecting on what I’m grateful for anyway so I figured it’s okay to take a little break from writing things down. Also, I can see which online yoga workouts I’ve done recently by checking my YouTube history. It won’t be as easy to see the variety of sessions, to make sure they’re well balanced, but it will still give me some idea of what I’ve done. I can always put them back in place in May if I miss filling them in.

Final words…

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my BuJo spreads for April. They’re certainly bright and colourful and better to look at than today’s grey skies and snow showers! Let me know in the comments what theme you’ve chosen for the upcoming month and if you’ve shared your pages on your blog, I’ll be sure to check them out.

Posted in art, creativity, lifestyle, mental health, Planning and journaling, watercolour painting

Currently… life update March 2021

I haven’t done one of these updates for a while (it was last March in fact!) so thought I might spend an hour or two composing one this afternoon. There have been quite a few changes since the last one so here goes:

Currently adjusting…

to a new mental health diagnosis. Yesterday, I had an appointment with the mental health team and psychiatrist to discuss issues that I had been having for an almost six month period. Basically, last year, I met with the team as I thought I had cyclothymic disorder which is a mild form of bipolar. However, it felt nothing like a mild illness, with me being very depressed since mid September 2021 and only getting better a few weeks ago. My appointment lasted two hours and it was really helpful as I had a long chat with a member of the team and then a video call with the psychiatrist who is working from home. I’ve now been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and will be embarking on a completely new treatment plan which doesn’t involve anti-depressants – one of which I’ve been on for over 20 years! So now, I have a new condition to read up on and get my head around. Well, I say a new condition, but really I’ve had it for around 24 years and have only just been correctly diagnosed.

Currently buying…

nothing but the essentials. I have so many clothes, accessories and crafty bits and bobs that I really don’t need anything but food, drink and a few toiletries right now. In fact, I’m about to embark on a huge declutter of stuff as the wardrobe is fit to burst and my craft room has enough materials to last a lifetime and beyond.

Currently enjoying…

seeing glimpses of Spring. Things are starting to pop up in the garden, the birds are singing and the weather is starting to improve – today I went out without my coat on for the third time this year! Although I hate too much sunshine with having very fair skin, I love putting on my sunglasses and going out for relaxing walks or spending time in the garden. when the weather gets milder.

Currently learning…

all about productivity and organising stuff using a very popular method. Although I’ve not read the book, I’ve been able to use information from various infographics and YouTube videos to learn about the Getting Things Done Method by David Allen. I’m hoping to implement the main ideas shortly to help me get super organised and work efficiently throughout the week so I have the weekends totally free to spend time with my husband or on personal projects. If you want to learn the basics, I recommend you check out this YouTube channel as Emma provides a series of videos which talk you through GTD and shares real examples of how she follows the principles.

Currently making…

watercolour paintings to be used as designs for greetings cards. It all started when I couldn’t find a nice card for my dad for his birthday so I created a variegated watercolour wash using some of his favourite colours and then added some gold paint flecks to give it some sparkle. Then I started looking at tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest, had a go at some of them, and now I’m hooked on making my own unique cards. I even made my own envelopes using the We R Memory Keepers 1,2, 3 punch board!

Currently pinning…

a range of watercolour tutorials to give me ideas for cards and front cover designs for my monthly bullet journal set ups. I’m now using a Scribbles That Matter journal so the pages are nice and thick, although often I do the painting on hot pressed watercolour paper and then scan, print and stick it in. If you want to see some of my pins, you can check my Pinterest here.

So, that’s a mini update on me and my life currently. I hope you enjoyed reading about what I’m up to. I might do life updates more regularly in future, particularly if my new treatment plan for Bipolar 2 helps to keep me well. And if anyone reading has Bipolar disorder and writes about how it affects them in their blog, I would really love it if you dropped the link in the comments so I can check out your experiences and see if I can pick up any tips on managing the condition. Until next time, keep safe and well.