Posted in Bullet journaling, lifestyle, mental health, Planning and journaling, wellbeing

Monday Matters: Journalling for Wellbeing

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

If you have been following my blog for a while now, you will have seen from some of my previous posts that I’ve been a fan of journalling for a while now and really enjoy using both my bullet journal (BuJo) for planning and recording and my Traveler’s notebook journals for creative memory keeping. In today’s Monday Matters, I’m going to give a brief introduction to journalling, describe some of the ways it can support your mental health and wellbeing and provide you with some different types of journalling that you might want to try.

What is a journal?

A journal is a safe and private space for you to record your thoughts, feelings and reflections on life. It’s a place where you can write daily or just occasionally, when you feel the urge. You can produce a few short lines or a couple of pages depending on the type of journaling you want to do and what you’d like to get from it. There are no rules to follow and so it is a great way of letting your guard down and expressing yourself in any way you choose. Many people decide to share their journal with others – as you can see on Instagram or Pinterest, but this is completely optional and something you should only do if you feel comfortable or if you find it beneficial in some way.

There are many different kinds of journal that you may want to keep and you can either choose to have several on the go at once or keep it simple with one space to write something each day. There are also lots of dedicated books and booklets available for purchase if you want one with a structured framework in which to write but I personally prefer to create my own using a blank notebook. Here’s a list of some of the most commonly kept journals:

  • dream journal – a space to write down what you dream about and then think about what each specific one might mean
  • travel journal – a book in which to write about all of the places you’ve been, adventures you’ve had, people you’ve met on your travels, places you want to go in the future etc.
  • specific timeframe journal e.g. a record of a holiday, baby’s first year, wedding planning etc
  • reading journal – a record of the books read, your rating and your thoughts on them
  • garden / nature journal – details about your garden e.g. new plants, plans and layouts, nature spots etc
  • gratitude journal – a place to record one or two lines about things you are grateful for or a list of things you are thankful for each day
  • progress journal – a place to document your achievements in a particular area of your life e.g. yoga practice, work you’ve done towards your goals etc.
  • project journal – if you are working on a particular project, you might record how you are getting on e.g. photos of a house renovation or photos and words relating to decluttering a particular area of your home
  • creative journal – a scrapbook / junk journal style where you stick in tickets, receipts, leaflets etc and record your life experiences, adding decorative papers, stickers, stamped images etc
  • personal development – a record of how you have grown as a person, for example, a Level 10 life assessment followed by ways in which you have made progress in the different areas in order to work towards a better life

If you keep a bullet journal, you may even decide to create dedicated pages within your monthly spreads. For example, I draw up a 2 lines a day gratitude journal each month which comes after my cover page and monthly calendar.

What are the benefits of keeping a journal for good mental health and wellbeing?

Regular journalling can greatly improve your quality of life and various studies have proven it to be wonderful for your wellbeing due to the positive impacts it has on your physical and mental health. Some of the main benefits include:

Reduction of anxiety, stress and depression Journalling helps in a number of ways. The physical process of writing can be good for calming your mind and soothing your emotions as it is a meditative kind of activity. Writing can also boost your mood and put you in a more positive mindset – gratitude journalling is particularly great for this as it focuses your attention on appreciating the small things in your life that make things better. Getting all of your thoughts and feelings on paper can also help you rationalise and process all of the things that are going on for you at the moment. As you write, you may think of alternative ways of looking at things or find some solutions to your problems. You can even write a love letter to yourself where you identify difficulties that you are currently facing and offer kindness and compassion to yourself.

Improved self awareness Journalling can really help you get to know yourself better. Learning what makes you tick has been shown to help you deal with life’s ups and downs and can make you more much more resilient in the face of difficulties. It can also enable you to spot patterns and recognise any traps you may fall into on a regular basis.

Better cognition Regularly writing in a journal has been shown to boost our cognition. Cognitive skills include attention, memory, organising information, learning and solving problems. Also, if you engage in a reflective style of journalling which helps you process negative emotions and thoughts, you are creating room in your mind to explore your creativity and engage in more positive activities.

Reach your full potential Many people like to keep a journal to establish, track and achieve their short and long term goals and writing things down can be a great way of checking in with yourself to see how you are progressing.

Nightly journaling can provide an opportunity to reflect on how you feel your day has gone, any issues you had and how you dealt with them (whether in a good way or less than helpful way!), what you are looking forward to tomorrow and anything which is worrying you. This can help you make progress in both your personal and professional life and also encourages you to celebrate your achievements no matter how small.

Improved physical health Studies have found that regular journalling can decrease symptoms of long term health conditions such as asthma and arthritis. They also shown that it can boost your immune system, helping to reduce your chance of catching common illnesses such as a cold, and making your body better able to fight off any infections.

Are there any negative aspects to journalling?

For me, there’s just one and this is related to my perfectionist tendencies. Sometimes, I become overly concerned with aspects of writing such as cohesion, penmanship (handwriting, spacing etc), readability etc, which kind of detracts from the thoughts and emotions that I’m trying to get down on paper. Although I’m getting better at embracing the imperfections, this is still very much a work in progress. One way you can combat this is by writing down everything that’s in your head and enjoying the therapeutic effects, then destroying your pages by shredding them or hiding your writing by covering it with papers, thick layers of paint, pretty images etc,

Things to remember when you start journalling – some tips for beginners

No matter what kind of journal or journals you choose to keep, remember that it should be all about improving the quality of your life whether that’s making you more organised, relieving stress, having a creative outlet, recognising your achievements or any other of the wonderful benefits that come with a regular journalling practice. As a beginner, try to think about what you want to get out of keeping a journal. Do you want it to be all about reflection? Do you want it to be a record of your experiences and how you felt about them? Or do you want to focus on being more grateful and appreciative of the things you have in your life? Find your purpose and once you are clear on this, think about how you might present things.

There are many styles of journalling and there are no right and wrong answers. Some people write to just get everything out of their head in order to create some space – a popular method to create ‘morning pages‘ where you do some free writing first thing in the morning and fill a couple of pages without thinking about spelling, punctuation and grammar. However, this in not for everyone and not something I’ve tried. So one of the questions you might ask yourself is, do I want something that I can look back on for years to come or do I just want to focus on actually getting all of my thoughts and feelings out with no regard to what my pages look like as I’m not going to be looking at them again?

Also, when you first start, you might want to experiment in order to find your own journalling style or styles. In doing this, it may be tempting to spend hours perusing the internet looking at the work of others for inspiration and ideas. However, this can cause overwhelm and hightened stress levels before you even get going. Comparing yourself to other journallers can leave you feeling inadequate which is certainly not going to lead to good mental health and wellness! Also, you may be ‘wowed’ by everything you see online and end up buying every supply available – washi tapes, stamps and inks, watercolours, gouache, brush pens, gel pens stickers etc, when really, it’s probably better to start simple and choose a few basic supplies that suit your style e.g. a nice pen and some tape to stick in a few photos and maybe a couple of embellishments until you find what you like.

Of course, if your passion is the act of writing, you might just want to fill your pages with words and add only basic decoration in the form of a border or a cute sticker. Other journallers might prefer to create arty pages, adding decorative elements such as photos, sketches, watercolour, stickers, stamped images and so on, plus a few lines of text. Again, there’s no right or wrong answers – just do what you feel comfortable with.

Final words…

I hope you have enjoyed reading today’s post and it has whetted your appetite for a little journalling. Maybe you’re completely new to the idea or you’ve tried journalling in the past and would like to give it another go. Remember, start small and above all have fun with it as this is more likely to make it a habit you want to keep. You certainly won’t reap the wellbeing benefits if you do it only once or a couple of times, but if you journal as part of your daily or weekly routine, I’m sure you will soon see the benefits and want to continue. If you want to learn more about instilling new habits like journalling check out this post. Let me know in the comments if you are already a regular journaller and what impact it’s had on your life.

Posted in art, bullet journal, Bullet journaling, Planning and journaling, watercolour painting

Setting up my Bullet Journal for April: April showers theme

Hi everyone, hope you are all well and enjoying the warmer weather. This month, I’ve gone for an April showers theme featuring umbrellas and raindrops. Again, I had fun practising my drawing skills for the brollies and I also decided to get out my watercolours for the cover page using my Winsor & Newton Cotman paints for the large umbrella and my watercolour pencils for the tiny raindrops. I hope you enjoy looking at my spreads.

Cover page

For my cover page, I kept it simple with a single umbrella which I sketched in pencil onto hot pressed (smooth) watercolour paper and then inked using a Pigma micron pen in 02. I then wet some Cadmium Red deep straight out of the tube and used it for the top of the umbrella, applying the paint with a size 6 brush. After that had dried, I added a tiny amount of black to the mixture to create a darker contrasting hue for the underneath of the umbrella. By letting the first colour dry thoroughly, I avoided any colour bleeds when applying the darker colour. After leaving the umbrella to dry overnight to avoid any smudging, I drew the raindrops with the Pigma pen and then coloured them in with a dark blue watercolour pencil before using a small damp paintbrush (in size 0) to activate the paint. I was really careful not to lean on any of the wet paint as I didn’t want any issues like those I had with the calendar page as you will see next! The image was then scanned into my computer, pasted into a MS Publisher document and the month added.

Monthly calendar

For my calendar, I wrote April on dot grid paper and then cut it out to stick in as the header. The calendar is my usual six dots x six dots grid drawn with a 0.3 Pigma pen. The umbrellas are hand-drawn and coloured in with my watercolour pencils and then wetted to activate the paint. The raindrops were also done in the same way. As you can see, there are a few smudges, one from some Tombow ink and the other from accidentally dripping water on a couple of the raindrops. I’ve tried to cover them over with my white gel pen but I’m still not happy with it!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Another two double page Spring collage!

I enjoyed creating the other collages so much that I decided to do another one. Again, the photos are from Google Images. The paper backgrounds are from a paper pack I got from The Range and the hearts and flowers are cut with mini punches from Hobbycraft. Some stickers and ephemera completed the spreads nicely! The pages are such a joy to look at and I’m so pleased with how they turned out.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative
Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Yoga session tracker

This is where I record the session I followed on YouTube or the e-book sequence I followed. I also write in my yoga journal but I find writing in here gives me an at a glance record so I can be sure to have focused on stretching different parts of my body throughout the month. Again, I got smudges of Tombow elsewhere – the joys of being a leftie!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

TBR and reading information spread

Again, I wanted to do a spread which shows the books I plan to read over the next couple of months. I also have an extra novel that I’m not going to get around to by the end of March too but I’d already done the spread so I shall read it in a few months time.

The benefits of reading fiction spider diagram was useful for reminding me about the benefits of reading for pleasure and also gave me the idea of writing this blog post. I’ve also done a bit of journalling about my reading and the books on my virtual TBR pile. I think it’s nice to include colour versions of the covers in my BuJo because, as I think I’ve said before, you don’t get to see them on the Paperwhite version of Kindle.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

2 lines a day gratitude

A simple spread where I record at least three things a day for which I am grateful. I did this last month too and really enjoyed filling it in each evening.

That’s most of my spreads that I thought you might like to see this month. I have really got into using my bullet journal again now that my mental health has improved. I would love to know what theme you have chosen and, as usual, if you’ve shared your spreads on your blog, don’t forget to include a link so that other readers can have a nosey as well as me!

Happy bullet journalling!

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.

Posted in lifestyle, Planning and journaling, wellbeing, yoga

Creating a yoga journal to support your daily practice

This month, I decided to start a yoga journal to record my sessions and reflect on the progress I’m making and how it is helping to develop me mentally and physically. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while as I’ve been doing yoga almost every day for over a year now. Today, I’m sharing the benefits of the journal and what I include in mine. I’m also going to show my actual journal and some of the contents, as I’m really loving using it and thought you might like to see how much I write.

Why keep a yoga journal?

I’ve only been keeping my journal for a week but so far I’m finding it really helpful. Here’s some of the main benefits I’ve found so far:

  • it’s a wonderful creative outlet – I really enjoy writing and I love any opportunity to get my thoughts and feelings down on paper, if you feel the same, why not have a go!
  • it’s helping me become more in tune with my emotions by reflecting on how I feel before and after my practice – sometimes I discover I’m frustrated because I feel like I haven’t achieved enough in my day, but then after my session, my concerns have melted away
  • it’s great for accountability
  • I’m becoming more aware of my progress – it’s helped me realise that there are poses I can now do more easily than when I started a year ago were much more challenging
  • I’m connecting more deeply with my practice by reflecting on it regularly

What equipment do I need to get started?

All you’ll need is a notebook (or some space in your BuJo if you prefer to plan and journal all in one place), a nice pen (I’m using a Muji gel pen in 0.38 as I prefer a smaller nib) and some scheduled time in your day to get writing (for my post of creating and sticking to new habits click here). I’m also using some small sheets of sticker paper to put in images of poses I’ve been practising so I have a visual reminder of the correct form and any modifications or variations for less advanced students – this is completely optional though and just my preference.

My journal is quite small at 4 x 6 inches and the lined pages are relatively thin. I already had this notebook in my stash and, as it’s so pretty, I enjoy looking at the covers each day. The paper isn’t the best quality but it’s just fine for notemaking and adding images of asanas that are new to me or that I need to modify with various equipment. Also, I’m a fan of hoarding pretty little notebooks rather than actually using them so this was the perfect opportunity to use one of my supplies!

My cute notebook – a bargain from TKMaxx a couple of years back!

What should I include in my yoga journal?

Here’s my ideas of what to include if you fancy starting your own journal for your yoga. It might also spark prompts for other form of exercise or mindfulness practises that you engage in on a regular basis.

  • date and time
  • length of session
  • class / home practise?
  • video / book / ebook or just practising from memory of different asanas?
  • how did I feel before?
  • which asanas did I do?
  • what equipment did I use and how did it help me?
  • which of the asanas did I find difficult?
  • what do I want to work on next time?
  • how do I feel after?

I’ve added these suggestions to the front of my journal so I can turn to the page for ideas. I don’t necessarily answer all of the questions each time but it reminds me of things that I can include if I want to.

Here’s a few example pages from this week:

Prompts on back of front cover and first page. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative
More journalling page examples. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

I hope you have enjoyed reading my ideas for creating a yoga journal and that my post has encouraged you to start your own to record your fitness journey. Let me know in the comments if you already track your progress in some way or if you are thinking about setting up your own yoga journal.

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, gardening, Planning and journaling, productivity, TN journaling

Spring is coming! Pretty, practical and creative journal spreads you must try

Spring officially starts on Saturday 20th March but there are already so many signs that the season is on its way. It’s a pretty chilly 3 degrees here in Sunderland today (warm coat and scarf weather), but last weekend, the temperatures rose to highs of 13 and it felt like Summer had arrived (never mind Spring) when my husband and I took a coastal walk in the bright sunshine and under cloudless blue skies! The warmer conditions have meant that lots of things are starting to pop up in the garden including early flowerers such as daffodils and tulips. One of our regular hedgehog visitors has even been tempted out of hibernation which is pretty early in comparison to previous years. There might still be lots of worries with regard to Covid around at the moment, but I think its super important to celebrate the small stuff and remind ourselves that there’s still lots to be grateful for right now and plenty to look forward to in the not too distant future. With that in mind, today I’m sharing some practical and pretty journal spreads, for your BuJo or your TN inserts, that I’ve created this week and really encourage you to try.

Spring flowers collage spread

This bright and colourful collage spread was created using pictures printed from Google images following a search for early Spring blooming flowers. They depict shrubs and bulbs which we actually have in our garden but most of which are not yet out. I copied the text in the left hand corner of page one of the double spread from an article which I found on the Woodland Trust website as I thought it was particularly fitting for the theme. The stickers are some I had left over from the Blooming Lovely collection and I discovered I had matching washi tape in my stash too. Both of these pages make me feel happy every time I look at them and I revisit it most days.

A pretty quote page

This was a free printable from https://www.bluemountain.com/blog/ I’ve printed it twice and put one copy in my bullet journal and a slightly larger version on the wall in my craft room. I found the quote by typing ‘spring quotes and sayings’. There’s lots to choose from and as long as you’re just printing them for personal rather than commercial use, you can add them to any of your journals or a prominent place in your home!

Garden jobs for Spring

This spread is purely practical, although I did add a few cute stickers! My husband and I sat down and listed some garden jobs that we would like to get done this month as a useful reference to see what needs doing and to see how much we’ve achieved. There’s not much on it yet, but by the end of the month, I reckon the list will be much longer (hopefully with lots crossed off!).

Time spent in nature

I love to document days out which my husband and I enjoy and, even though we’re limited to the local area at the moment, due to lockdown, we still go out for a walk each day. Last weekend, as I said earlier, it was really warm so we headed to our local coast. It was really busy there but as we’d had lots of sunshine, the grass was dry enough to walk on and it was easy to keep socially distant from others. I took a screenshot of the temperature on my phone as we couldn’t believe how warm it was for the end of February!

Shoots and leaves

There’s lots starting to emerge in the garden and so I took my phone out there and snapped a few signs of growth. It’s exciting to see things popping up even if some of them are weeds! The photos aren’t wonderful as I wanted them to just be quick pics but it will be good to compare how things look now with how they look in a few month’s time.

Plant and flower factfiles

This is something I started doing as part of last year’s garden related spreads. Basically, it’s just info from the plastic card you get stuck in the pots when you buy a plant or details which are included on the seeds or bulbs packet. It’s handy to know the exact variety you have and what they will look like when they come into bloom. Also, doing a little sketch of them is quite relaxing and therapeutic too! I messed up the lettering on the page so have stuck a piece on I cut from a page at the back of my journal. IRL, you can’t see it as badly as you can at the bottom of the header as you can in the photo.

Final words…

I hope you are tempted to have a go at at least one of these spreads – I guarantee they will make you smile when you look back over them if you do. I would love it if you would take the time to add your thoughts or your own ideas in the comments below. And, as always, if you’ve created any Spring spreads and shared them online, leave the link and I’ll be sure to check them out.