Art Journaling

For the diction disinclined.

Is writing just not for you, or is the thought of filling a page with just words and calendar spreads too daunting?  Try keeping an art journal instead.

An art journal is similar to a sketchbook, but different in its approach.  With an art journal, you want it to be a visual diary, a reflection of your life, your dreams, your feelings, your fears.  For example, you could include visuals of your hobbies or passions.  If you like gardening or plants, you can draw little representations of your plants, give them names, decorate with stickers.  Or maybe you had a really bad day, and you just want to splatter a couple of pages with some dark colors.  Whatever works for you, whatever allows you to unload, to relax, to express yourself, to reflect on your feelings or your life, is perfect for an art journal.

Another key difference between a sketchbook and an art journal is that you don’t have to be particularly artistically talented to keep an art journal.  While having a sketchbook means that you have to, well, sketch, an art journal can be anything you want it to be.  You can fill it with photos, polaroids, printed pictures, colorful washi tapes, aesthetic quotes, drawings and paintings and watercolors and sketches and scribbles – whatever suits your artistic fancy.  If you can’t draw, fill it with photos.  Print out titles in pretty fonts.  Line the borders of your pages with washi tape and stickers.  It’s up to you.  The journal is your canvas.At the end, you will have a visual record of your life.  But it also doesn’t need to be only visual.  If an entirely visual journal is just as daunting as an entirely written journal, combine them.  Write out something in the center and then draw or decorate in the margins.  Or draw and decorate the middle and then write in the margins.  Or mix it up throughout the entire page, turn the page on its side, write and draw on alternate pages, write something within your artwork. 

Just have fun with it.  Surprise yourself, and see what you can create.


Resources & Inspiration:

How to Combine Drawing and Writing into Deeply Personal Art Journals” from My Modern Met

How to Start an Art Journal” from Quiddity

Mindfulness Journaling

Get in touch with the present.

Thinking of ways to become more in touch with yourself during this quarantine? Sometimes it can be easy to get lost in the monotony of the “new normal” in quarantine, so some helpful and healthy mindfulness prompts can help bring to mind what made each day special. Mindfulness is about connecting the mind, soul, and body, so that you can be in the moment, rather than letting your thoughts drift off into anxious, dark places. By focusing on the present and bringing gratitude and gratefulness into each day, mindfulness can be extremely therapeutic. 

There are tons of mindfulness prompts that can be used while journaling that can help your juices start to flow. Many of these prompts ask questions like “What things am I most grateful for in my life,” “How am I impacting other people around me daily,” “Some areas that I’d like to improve in my life are…”. Clearly, a lot of these prompts dig into some areas that may not feel super comfortable, but by addressing them and putting them out on paper, they bring a sense of awareness and understanding. The thing that I like the most about mindfulness journaling is that it grounds me and helps me to understand myself better. If I am in a bad mood, sometimes mindfulness journaling can help me realize why I am feeling cranky, and it gives me the tools I need to improve my mood. 

If you are interested in diving deeper into the world of mindfulness journaling, there are many resources available online. My favorite mindfulness writer is Katie Dalebout, and I learn a lot about being mindful, grateful, and present through her podcast “Let it Out.” There are many mindfulness prompts available online as well, which can greatly help with starting the process.


Resources & Inspiration:

Katie Dalebout’s website

Why You Need a Mindful Journal Practice and Tips to Get You Started” from YogiApproved

10 Tips for Mindful Writing and Meditative Journaling” from DevelopGoodHabits

Mindful Journaling: 50 Unique Technique Topics and Writing Tips for Beginners” from Your Body The Temple

Special Edition: Quarantine Journaling

Journaling as a primary source document depicting turbulent times.

At this point in our journaling series, we’ve introduced the idea of journaling to your life and expounded upon its benefits as well as given you a couple ideas for formatting and content structure.  But some of you might be at a loss for what precisely to write about.

I was watching a webinar a few weeks ago that was talking about something totally unrelated.  It was a question and answer session with a group of authors of middle grade books.  One of the questions asked was something along the lines of “how will this time of quarantine and COVID-19 affect your writing?”  And one of the authors had an answer that honestly blew my mind a little bit.  She said that writing about this time was important, not just for authors like her, but for everyone, because those documents chronicling life during this period will someday become primary sources for students and historians in the future.

Maybe this is not as mind blowing for you as it was for me, but it’s a perspective that I never considered before, that we can actively become a part of history in this way just by writing down our experiences.  Historians are already beginning to compile primary source documents from regular people in order to gain a broader picture of what this time looks like in various parts of the world.  

Furthermore, we might feel like we’re stuck in this time of sickness and anxiety and isolation, but thinking about it in terms of history like this is, frankly, a little reassuring.  Humans have survived multiple pandemics before, just like we all learned as children in school; and while I don’t want to diminish the suffering and the death that many people are facing, and while we will certainly not come out of this unscathed, it is nevertheless comforting to know that we will be okay.

So if you’re looking for something to write about, write about your life.  Someday, your life will be important to many different people, and at the very least you’ll be able to look back and say, “I survived that.”


Resources & Inspiration:

The Quarantine Diaries” from The New York Times

Bullet Journaling

Formatting your journal for aesthetics or for function.

Welcome to our second installment in our series about journaling.  In this post, we’ll be talking about Bullet Journaling.

The Bullet Journal was invented by Ryder Carroll, a digital designer, as a method of organizing his life.  The thought process went as follows:  Many of us have multiple different journals, although we might not think of them as such.  From planners and calendars to bill planners and budget spreadsheets to sticky notes with grocery lists and movies to watch – all of these in some combination of physical and digital forms – many people have the information of their life spread out everywhere, and thus can find nothing when they need it.  Carroll’s Bullet Journaling system combines all of these into one.

Now, his system for doing this is quite rigid.  On his website, the link to which you can find below, he outlines exactly how you should format your journal to match his method.  But since it’s inception, the Bullet Journaling system adopted by many people has expanded to fit the needs of the individual.  So in essence, the Bullet Journal boils down to this:

A Bullet Journal is just an empty journal, preferably dotted or grid, that you can do whatever you want with.  It sounds vague, and I hear you saying “isn’t that just any normal journal?”  But what makes Bullet Journaling special is that it is all about these things called “spreads.”  The basic concept of a spread is that it is a formatted page that you draw out for yourself.  Some spreads are calendars – yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily – that you draw out freehand and fill in with tasks, goals, events, or accomplishment.  Some are mood trackers, where you mark down how you felt each day – good for keeping on top of your mental health.  Some are habit trackers that are designed so that you can keep up with good habits or attempt to break bad ones.  To-do Lists, Finance Trackers, Expense Trackers, Gratitude Logs, Brain Dumps, Mind Maps, Bucket Lists, Book/Reading Trackers, Watch Lists, Weight Loss Trackers – all are examples of different spreads that people who keep bullet journals utilize in order to cut down their many journals into one.

There are tons of ideas floating around on the internet, from web pages listing various spread ideas to try to Pinterest photos of the most beautiful, aesthetically pleasing spreads you’ll ever see in your life.  The fun part is that all these spreads are designed by you for you.  It can be as creative or as minimalist or as practical as you want it to be.  And, even better, all of the journals that we’ll be discussing throughout this journaling series can be formatted as a spread in a Bullet Journal, if you’re up for giving it a try.


Resources & Inspiration:

Ryder Carroll’s website (the Learn page that talks about his system)

Can Bullet Journaling Save You?” from The New Yorker

Minimal bullet journal setup »  for productivity + mindfulness”, video by Pick Up Limes on YouTube

My 2019 Bullet Journal Flip Through”, video by AmandaRachLee on YouTube

Leuchtturm1917 Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook (Black)

Compoco Journals

Journaling Intro: Get the juices flowing!

Journaling methods for mental health.  

Welcome to the beginning of our new series on journaling!  Journaling is a practice we stereotypically associate with kids and preteens who complain about their parents and gush about their crushes and chat about school in a diary with “DO NOT READ” scribbled in all caps over the front cover – which is a perfectly valid and fun form of journaling, don’t get me wrong!  But in fact, many people from the young to the old have picked up journaling as a form of creative and personal expression, and there are studies that show the benefits of journaling for our health.  Not only that, but journaling can come in many more shapes and sizes than you might think.  Throughout this series on journaling, we will present to you some of these journaling methods in hopes that you might find one that strikes your fancy.

For this first installment, we will discuss the most basic form of journaling:  regular, old-fashioned diary journaling.  I think you probably all understand what this entails, and many of you might have even had this type of journal when you were young, but some of you might not know just how beneficial it can be for your mental and physical health.  Below, we have a couple links to resources talking about this, but to keep it short and simple:  a journal is a place where you can write down your thoughts and feelings in a safe, judgment-free space so that you can examine them and better understand them, which can help you manage stress, anxiety, and depression.  And as a consequence, lowering your stress, anxiety, and depression has been proven to have wide-ranging physical health benefits.

If this sounds appealing to you, we have a challenge for you this week…

**Take 5 minutes or less (or more!) every day for a week to just write.  You can write in a physical notebook or in a digital Word or Google doc – whatever’s easiest for you.  But don’t worry if you miss a day!  The point of this exercise is to reduce stress, not add to it.  You can write about anything, even just one sentence or one phrase will do.  What did you do today?  What did you accomplish?  What do you want to accomplish tomorrow?  If you didn’t do anything that day, that’s okay.  You are allowed to have those days.  We all have them.  Instead, write about what television shows or movies you watched, or what music you’re really into right now, or how you felt that day.  If you really, truly can’t come up with anything, go for my mother’s default in conversation:  How was the weather?**

Normally, if you can start with one sentence, it’s easier to move on to two, then three, then more.  And by the end of the week, you’ll have a record of how the week went for you.  Did you have a bad week?  Were you tired or bored or down a lot?  Looking back at this record might help you see why you had such a bad week and come up with strategies for making the next week better.  Or maybe you had a wonderful week, picking up a new hobby that you’re finding you really love, spending a lot of happy, quality time with your family, and so on.  You’ll be able to look back at those times a year from now and remember the happiness that you felt.  If you continued with the new hobby, maybe you’ll be a year into it and be able to look back and see the exact date that you started.  It’s like a mini time capsule just for you and your life.

If this method of diary journaling seems too vague or too boring to be of any use or interest to you, or maybe you find part-way through the week that it just isn’t working for you, keep an eye out for our next installments where we will be giving you some ideas for more different types of journaling.  We’ll be talking about Bullet Journaling, Mindfulness Journaling, Dream Journaling, Art Journaling, Micro Journaling, and more.  The most important thing to keep in mind throughout this whole series is:  Does this work for you?


Resources & Inspiration:  

Journaling for Mental Health” from the University of Rochester Medical Center

Journaling isn’t just good for mental health.  It might also help your physical health.” from NBC News

how i finally started journaling *and actually enjoying it*” video from ‘bestmess’ on YouTube