Posted in art, Bullet journaling, compassion, mental health, Planning and journaling, watercolour painting, wellbeing

Monday Matters: Creating a ‘Words Of Encouragement’ spread to help you get through tough times

This month, I moved into a new bullet journal – a gorgeous handcrafted linen notebook from Notebook Therapy. The journal is completely blank so I set up the usual index, future log and grid spacing cheat sheet. Then I decided that I wanted to create a spread which was full of messages of support and encouragement to help me whilst I’m struggling with my mental health. The idea is that I read all of the positive content each morning a bit like you would a list of affirmations. It took me quite a while to make but I’m really pleased with how it turned out so I thought I’d share the results on here and talk a little about the process.

Creating the background

A watercolour wash

I wanted something bright and cheerful for the background so I decided to create a wet on wet variegated wash using just two of my Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour tubes – cadmium red and gamboge yellow hue. I used an A5 piece of Aquafine smooth paper and taped the edges down so I got nice clean lines. After coating the paper with water, I swished the first colour back and forth from the top to the bottom, leaving gaps between the paint strokes. I then did the same with the second, filling in the gaps but also sweeping over the first colour slightly so that they nicely blended together. I was really pleased with the effect I achieved. When the paint was dry, I removed the tape and then scanned the piece in using my printer/scanner. I then printed it off twice, trimmed the papers so that they would fit perfectly in my bullet journal and stuck them in using double sided tape.

Finding the supportive messages

When I’d created my backgrounds and stuck them in, it was time to find some messages to stick on the pages. I spent a while thinking about what I’m struggling with at the moment and some words of positivity that I could focus on. So, for example, I’m being really hard on myself and self critical so I chose a ‘be kind to yourself’ message and a quote about being enough. Most of the images were found online by typing them into an image search (a lot of them are actually phone wallpapers cropped to size). I also got a few from a Tim Holtz Small Talk idea-ology sticker book but you could just as easily type onto plain paper and cut and stick them. I created a MS Publisher document to add the images to and cropped them and altered the size until they would all fit into the double page spread. I then printed them onto an A4 sticker sheet to make it easier to stick them in but you could easily use an A4 sheet of paper and cut them out using a paper trimmer.

What you choose to put in your spread or board would depend on the particular difficulties you’re facing. For example, you might need some confidence boosters, help with dealing with anxiety, messages to encourage you to manage your depression or some little reminders about positive body image and loving the skin you’re in. Here’s some ideas to get you started:

Confidence boosting – You’ve got this. You’re more powerful than you think. Inhale confidence. Exhale doubt. Believe in yourself. Self confidence is a super power. Once you start believing in yourself magic starts happening. I can and I will.

For dealing with anxiety – Everything is going to be alright. I can’t control everything and that’s okay. I am stronger than my struggles. Just breathe. My anxiety does not control me.

Managing depression – I am strong. I can get through this. Life is tough but so are you. Keep going. I’m enough. Stay positive. Choose to be grateful. Think positive and positive things will happen. Everything’s going to be okay.

Body positivity – Happy, beautiful and strong. Your body loves you. Love it back. My body. My goals. My happiness. Be kind to your body. All bodies are good bodies.

Final words

I made a spread in my bullet journal because it’s somewhere I look every day. However, if you’re not into bullet journaling, you could just as easily create a board out of a piece of coloured card to go up on your wall or some other place to look each morning. As an alternative to searching online, you might choose to use post it notes to write messages to yourself or cut small pieces of paper and use brightly coloured pens for your reminders. The most important thing is to make sure you look at what you’ve made frequently so you can try to take on board the supportive statements.

I hope you have found today’s post interesting and it’s inspired you to have a go at creating a similar ‘Words of encouragement’ spread. Let me know in the comments what you think you would benefit from telling yourself each day.

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 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.

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

Setting up my Bullet Journal for August: birthday themed month

It’s my birthday next month and I will be sharing my special day with my niece, Lexi. On the 3rd August, I’m going to be 43 (and still thinking and behaving like a kid) and Lexi will be 9 years old (and probably feeling really grown up). So, for August, I chose to do a Happy Birthday theme and include cakes, presents, balloons and banners in my decor. Here are my spreads for next month:

Cover page

As I’m still developing my drawing skills, I was keen to have a go at a hand-drawn birthday cake so I took to Google and found a simple cake tutorial. It was really easy to follow even for a beginner like me. The tutorial came with a YouTube video but on this occasion, I just followed the pictorial and written instructions. I also added bunting and a banner as well as the word August in brush lettering, then finished it off with some party popper paper ribbon pieces (I’m sure they have a name but I can’t think what it is!). The banner is painted using some Winsor & Newton watercolour and the rest of the illustrations are coloured in using my Tombow ABT brush pens.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Month at a glance

My monthly calendar has the same structure as usual with 6 by 6 dot boxes. Although I don’t have things to write each day, I do like to have plenty of room for when I do make entries so have stuck with doing a two page spread. I’ve also just started a distance learning course run by my local college, Mental Health Level 2, and so I have assessment deadlines to meet each week so I’ve recorded when I have to submit evidence of my learning. Again, I’ve decorated the spread with birthday related items.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Exercise logs

I’ve kept my steps tracker the same but will be using colours from my palette for the month. I’ve changed up my log of different workouts for this month, so instead of a calendar style that I did in May, June and July where I recorded the minutes I spent on each workout, this time I’m going to be creating bars which show how many workout minutes I’ve done each day and what type of exercises I’ve done. This will help me to see how active I’ve been on a particular day. Another change, is that I’ve split up fat burning and cardio as this is shown on my Fitbit tracker and so is easy to record. This will enable me to see when I worked a little harder during my walks and my Zumba workouts. I’ve included an example I made on MS Word to show how it will look when it’s filled in.

In hindsight, I wish I’d done the key on the right hand page to make it easier to use but it’s done now and I’ll be able to alter it next month if I choose to use a similar spread.

The Get Fit stickers are actually a shiny gold colour but they look black in the photograph above so I took the bottom of the page at a different angle.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Habit Tracking

For August, I’ve also decided to go back to using a habit tracker. I previously used one but tracked so many things on it, I’ve found it really overwhelming to fill in and often got behind. This time, I’m just tracking six things which should make it a bit easier to keep up with. I want to make sure I study regularly as there are a lot of reading materials for my course and written activities to complete. I also want to make time to meditate each day. I currently do a mindfulness meditation set up by my local recovery college but this is only twice a week so I want to use my Calm App and my Fitbit App where I have a premium membership trial on the go. I have free trials on both of them and I’m currently not making the most of them so hopefully the tracker will help me.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

The rest of the habits are related to my Etsy shop, my blog and creativity. I want to make sure I do some blogging and shop work each day so I wanted to track when I do blog related research, reading, post writing and checking out blogs of the people I’m following. I also want to squeeze in a little creative task most days such as drawing, painting, journalling and papercrafting.

As I’m a leftie, I got absolutely covered in Tombow ink whilst working on my spreads and managed to smear some on the bottom of the habits page. I tried to cover it up using white gel pen, Tippex and my white Posca paint marker but it didn’t really work. The mark will annoy me for the whole of the month. Maybe I should have included a habit where I try to embrace imperfection in my spreads!

That’s all of my spreads for this month. I hope they have inspired you to get creative in your bullet journal. Let me know what your theme is for August and if you’ve featured your pages in your blog I will definitely go check them out.

Happy bullet journaling!

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

Monday Matters: 8 wonderful ways to practise self love and some supportive BuJo spreads for you to create

There are lots of articles around at the moment about reaching out and being kind and supportive towards other people but it also really important to be good to yourself too. Self love is essential to our mental health and wellbeing and it should also be made a priority if we want to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Today’s Monday Matters post features a collection of eight ways in which you can practise self love and includes some ideas for bullet journal spreads with this focus in mind.

Start and end the day in the right way

No matter how busy you are, try to find the time to check in with yourself first thing in the morning and last thing before you wind down for bed. Tell yourself something positive before you start your day. Look in the mirror, and say something encouraging, for example, “you are awesome and don’t you forget it!”, “let’s do this!”, “today is going to be a great day” – I guarantee it will make you smile. In the evening, when reflecting on your day, think of something you did well that makes you proud – better still write it down in your bullet journal so you can look back at it some other time. Celebrate your wins whether big or small.

Stop comparing yourself to others

You are completely unique. There’s no one on earth that is quite like you, so stop comparing yourself with other people and appreciate how special you are and be grateful for everything you have. Take time to think about all of your qualities and if you find yourself struggling and in need of some help, ask your friends and love ones to tell you what they like about you. And remember, what you see on social media, is just the best snippets of someone’s life, an edited version that doesn’t show their bad hair days, the massive mistakes they made in their bullet journal before they developed their IG worthy spread, the times when they could barely drag themselves out of bed and the days when everything went wrong and they could have cried and probably did.

Practise self care

In my Wellness Recovery Action Plan series, I talked about making a long list of all of the things that you can do that you enjoy and that make you feel good. I came up with a list of over 100 activities including painting my nails, going out for dinner, looking at photos from happy times, flying a kite and going for a walk along the beach. Some of the ideas take minutes, whilst others are great for an hour or an afternoon of ‘me time’. I try to make sure I do at least 1 thing of my list each day and often do several. It’s not self indulgent, it’s just one of the ways I look after myself and keep myself mentally well.

Forgive yourself

Things can and will go wrong for you at times and you will make mistakes. You might do something that makes you feel really embarrassed or you might say something unkind to a friend or loved one in the heat of the moment. Accept that you are only human and that no-one is perfect, including you. Show the same kind of compassion to yourself as you would to someone else who got something wrong or is ashamed of their behaviour. The best thing to do is forgive yourself and then reflect on and learn from your mistakes in a kind way that enables you to use them to help you grow as a person.

Watch how you talk to yourself either out loud or in your head

On the subject of being kind and considerate towards yourself, be mindful of your inner critic. We can say some pretty awful things to ourselves at times, for example, I often find things slipping from my mouth such as ‘you idiot’, ‘I don’t believe you’ve just done that!’, well that was a stupid thing to do wasn’t it’ – and I bet I’m not alone? If you find yourself being downright horrible to yourself at times, think about how you could be more supportive and encouraging or what you would say to a friend or loved one in the same situation. A key technique used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT for short) is to spend time focusing on (and writing down) your critical thoughts, reframing them or analysing how much you really believe them. If you find yourself being really unkind and negative towards yourself this will most certainly have a negative impact on your self esteem and self worth. It may even be helpful in the future to think about finding a professional who can work with you to develop strategies that you can employ for making changes.

Look after your body

Pay special attention to what you need and treat your body in the way it deserves. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day and eat food that makes you feel good such as plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Create a good skincare routine for your face and body and have a make up free day at least once of twice a week to keep your skin looking young and healthy. And if your body is craving rest or a change of scene, listen to it and give it what it needs. Encourage yourself to have a lie in, enjoy an afternoon nap, go for a nature walk, have a relaxing bath or simply go and sit outside in the sunshine and do absolutely nothing.

Explore your creative side

Spending some time being creative is a wonderful way to express yourself. There are so many different ways to do this such as drawing, painting, journalling, poetry or even some interior decoration (when was the last time you treated yourself to some new cushions or a few pretty ornaments to display on a shelf?). There’s no right or wrong way to be creative so leave your inner critic behind, immerse yourself in whatever it is you’ve chosen to do and really enjoy the process. You might surprise yourself with the results too!

Examine your relationships

We all deserve to be surrounded by people who love and care for us so think about the quality of each of your loving relationships and friendships. Does the person accept you for who you are? Are they they for you in good times and bad? When you see or speak to them, do they make you feel happy and alive or completely drained and stressed out? Do they meet you half way or are you always the one that reaches out to them? Are they happy for you when you meet a goal or achieve something new? Do they really listen when you have something to say or do they turn the conversation back to themselves?

Recognise those people who you feel don’t have your best interests at heart or make you feel less than great when you see or speak to them. You might not be able to remove some of them from your life completely (especially if they’re a family member or a work colleague) but you can try to limit the time you spend with them or work on changing your approach to dealing with them, e.g. setting firmer boundaries and learning to say no.

Bullet Journal Self Love Spread ideas

  1. Things I love about myself

Spend some quiet time sitting and thinking about what makes you special and what your best qualities are. Try to come up with things related to your appearance, your relationships with others, your work ethic and your skills.

I really enjoyed creating this spread and it made me see that there are so many things that I love about myself. And of course, friends and family are likely to love these things about you too.

A simple spread using Tombow dual brush pens and a 0.3 pigment liner

2. Self love motivational messages

For this spread, I took to Google and typed in phrases such as ‘self love’, ‘self kindness’ and ‘self care’. I then clicked on images and selected a range that were visually appealing to resize and paste into an MS Word document. To make it easier to build my spread, I printed the pages on A4 sticker paper ready to cut out and stick in. I also tried to have a basic colour scheme of purples, pinks and greens to create a cohesive look. I found so many wonderful short texts and images that I was able to do two double page spreads which are so beautiful to look at. I added a few stickers and a little bit of washi to the blank spaces to complete the look. I’m so pleased with how they turned out and I’m sure I will find myself visiting the pages regularly.

Self care ideas

This is the kind of list I’ve created before as part of my Wellness Recovery Action Plan but I thought I’d do a similar one in my bullet journal with slightly less ideas so that it would all fit on a single page. Most of the ideas are completely free or cost very little (except maybe the retail therapy if I see lots of nice things!).

An amazing resource for self love encouragement

If you loved the ‘self-love hedgehog’ in my bullet journal spread, you absolutely need to check out the amazing website https://chibird.com/ where you can find many more self love, mental health and wellness related graphics. The website owner Jacqueline Chen’s art work in so wonderful and just looking through the resources can be part of your self love practice. She’s even produced a book which you can pick up on Amazon.

Final thoughts

Well done for taking the time to read this blog post as it shows you think self love is important! I hope it’s given you some fresh new ideas on how to be compassionate towards yourself in ways that you would be to others that you love. Let me know in the comments what the first thing is that you’re going to do this month to be all kinds of lovely to yourself.