How to Journal for Mental Health (To Stay Focused on Work)

This time, I'm going to share some of my experiences on how I journal for my mental clarity and stay focused on my work. This article will less likely be a ‘how-to article’ rather, it will be more about my personal experiences that will help you to get started with.

I'm going to keep this as concise and succinct as possible. I really enjoy the idea of bullet journaling but I don't enjoy how complicated and time-consuming it can often end up becoming.

The idea of tracking habits and tracking patterns is really powerful but it needs to be simple, or else it becomes unsustainable and overwhelming.

With that being said I did write an article on how I started journaling that many of you guys seemed to enjoy and since then I've further refined things and added and removed elements as I saw fit.

How to track emotional wellbeing and habits

The method that I'm going to be sharing with you guys is built around this idea of trying to track emotional wellbeing and habits.

I feel like I need to see things clearly so that I can assess where I'm at in my life. My thinking when approaching this topic and developing this for myself has been what exactly differentiates writing something down physically versus digitally.

That's something that I encourage you to think about for yourself because we all operate differently.

The main differences that I can quantify are that typing or deleting things on my phone or on my computer is a lot faster. So there's a speed advantage, but precisely for that reason writing things down seems to carry more importance.

It's kind of like I'm forcing myself to take an additional moment to think things through or consider them more deeply. That's another valuable thing to think about when developing your own organizational or journaling methods.

So with that being said. Here's how I journal to stay on top of my life.

How I journal for my mental clarity

I would suggest sitting down somewhere comfortable with a hot drink, a playlist of mild songs that you enjoy listening to, while doing this.

That's what I do, because this is ideal to do in the morning, and let's face it. And sometimes it's a bit difficult to get things going. So, the more inviting it is, I think the better.

Here's how you can journal daily if you're looking for new material.

So to give a brief overview, there are only three parts to my Write-up today.

  1. The daily tracker,
  2. My weekly reviews, and
  3. A monthly reset process

I've gone ahead and gotten rid of anything else because I don't want to bloat my journaling process here or make it any longer or more cumbersome than it needs to be.

That does include even my daily to-do list, which I know create and maintain on 'Todoist'

And that's a clear example, in my opinion of using the digital speed advantage to do certain things a lot more quickly. So let’s dive into things. Shall we.

This is going to be really easy, I promise. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to set up, honestly. And I'm just going to explain my thinking behind everything.

1. The Daily Tracker

Starting with the daily tracker, this is something I started doing a little over a year ago and this is such a powerful way to visually see consistency when it comes to habits.

Essentially what I'm doing here is at the beginning of each month I list off the days. And then the habits that I feel are important and valuable for me to focus on, and build, or maintain.

The cool thing about this is I do find that those habits evolve and change as time goes on, and I'm going to come back to that in a moment.

I do handwrite the journal out because I find that it is so much more satisfying to markdown whenever I've done habits physically rather than digitally checking something off. Every day or two, I update my progress.

A couple of examples of habits I've been regularly trying to focus more time on are exercise, cold showers, meditation, time reading, that kind of thing It can be whatever you want!

Now one of the interesting things that I think that this very quickly reveals is how unrealistic you can be with yourself. So for example, in the past, I have set the goal of waking up at 5 am or 6 am and that's just a really tough one for me to follow through on and do consistently. And it might not make sense, for me.

It turns out that I am very creatively productive sometimes at night. So, it might not make complete sense for me to do that.

It's way easier to, come to conclusions and assess things when I can see it all laid out before me more than just forcing yourself into being some sort of idealized version of yourself.

I think this is about being honest, and seeing who you are, and what you're actually doing.

And so, with all of the information that I'm gathering by doing this, I might adjust the habits that I want to focus on, next month.

The other part of my daily tracker is a new addition that I recently made inspired by one of my main objectives in 2021, which is to establish more stability in my life. And one of the very specific examples that I gave was, more consistent sleep. I know that this is going to be huge for me and many of you surely.

And I also know that tracking things is probably the best way to better assess the whole situation and begin to establish more stability.

So that's what I'm doing nowadays, I'm tracking when I officially turn off the lights and then in bed, ending the day.

And when I officially get out of bed, and am starting the day. To be honest, I am not very good at this.

It's a lot harder than you would think when you don't have an imposed external schedule like: going to school or a stable job. I am certain, that many of the freelancers among you can relate to this.

But again the point of this isn't to beat yourself up, and try to suddenly be perfect. Currently, I'm just assessing the situation and trying to bring as much curiosity to this as possible, almost as if I were doing a little experiment.

And I'm a very visual person. So, this is helpful in getting a clearer picture on what I'm doing exactly. I do think that I've seen some improvement since starting this. From the simple fact that I'm taking a little more time to track it, and be mindful about this. I just want to better understand things by seeing it.

And I will add, that just the act of tracking things has helped improve the situation. There is one really tricky piece to this puzzle that I haven't quite found yet. I'd appreciate your suggestions if you have any.

But I haven't found a way to enjoy the productivity of mornings, and the creativity of evenings and nights, late nights.

It's kind of like I have to pick one or the other. It seems like the Spanish have come the closest of anybody with their siestas which let them, I guess, stay up later and wake up earlier, and they just sort of catch up a bit in the middle of the day.

But I have a hard time napping as a general rule. So yeah, I would love to hear your thoughts.

2. The Weekly Tracker

The Weekly Tracker

Part 2 is a weekly tracker that I use to review how the last week went. I find this a lot more useful than doing a daily review, which doesn't feel like enough time to sort of assessing things.

It's easier for me to take things in week-long chunks. The idea behind this is that I'm journaling, on my emotional wellbeing. Sure there is some level of attention placed on productivity, but not that much; it's more than anything this is about how I'm doing emotionally, because, at the end of the day, that ends up impacting everything.

This part is very important to me because it's an opportunity to pause and reflect and get more perspective on where I'm at in life. I don't want to make giant blanket statements here but I think society does not place enough of an emphasis on pausing and reflecting on things.

It's not exciting, it's not sexy, but it's so helpful in having clarity on how to move forward.

And it's also super easy to skip over, which is why I think it doesn't happen more often.

What this ends up looking like is sitting down for maybe 5 minutes, on a Sunday evening, or a Monday morning and thinking about how the week went in the general sense.

Doing these weekly check-ups or check-ins, helps to get a sense of trends that are taking place in your life which if you think about it is super powerful.

Because you can pick up on red-flags or where you're veering off-course, early on.

So for example, I have long suspected that I'm affected by the weather. And that in wintertime the amount of darkness and I guess generally the lack of light, has an impact on me.

I've noticed that it can be kind of difficult for me to get out of bed, and start the day and that might require certain solutions, like, light therapy or maybe I have a vitamin deficiency.

But whatever the case, taking this time to kind of journal and actually think about it, is what brought this to my attention.

3. The Month Tracker

Month Tracker

Finally, I do something similar at the end of each month.

Often referring to the weekly reviews that I did and sort of taking them all together and thinking back on how things went overall.

So there's one page for that, and then one page for laying out where I want to place my focus in the coming month.

Some might call this goal setting; I think this is a little bit different because it's not so outcome-oriented.

I'm making a huge effort on trying to just focus on systems and processes. That is where the process starts over again.

So that's it, very simple, and offers a lot of benefits, in my opinion.

Especially when combined with a gratitude journal, or something along those lines. If I had to boil it down, this is about seeing emotional and habitual trends that are taking place in my life. And I don't spend more than ten minutes on any given day

These are powerful insights to have, and there isn't an app out there that I feel makes me reflect in the way that this journaling method does. Maybe I'm old fashioned - I don't know - but that's where I'm at.

I hope this helps. Are you may be interested in more journaling or organizational inspiration, or ideas. You can read this article on traveler’s notebook.

Final Thoughts

How much have I grown?" Oh my gosh, like, you will be able to look back at your journal and see your growth. Like, yeah, I want that for you, man.

And if I didn't journal, I would have no catalog of that growth from last year to this year. I would have nothing. I wouldn't even know. So I promise you it is worth it! It is worth it!

So, if you need any help with your journal practice, or on how to journal for mental health, please comment below. I would love to help you and get you started.

More, give you some more tips or advice. Journaling can make your mind calm and help you to focus on your work, surely.

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