Anyone who is remotely interested in mental health or wellbeing cannot have failed to notice the meteoric rise of bullet journalling and mindfulness planners – and I’m in two minds about it.
From The Happiness Planner to the plethora of other notepads, books and pads available, they’re everywhere.
On the face of it, this sort of thing is absolutely made for me. An aesthetically pleasing, purposeful method for organising thought? TAKE MY MONEY.
And yet… there’s something about it that just doesn’t quite work for me.
In favour of the mindfulness planner
Let’s start with the most obvious thing. Devoting time for self-reflection and growth is a great exercise
– just in principle alone.
Keeping track of your thoughts, feelings, successes and key learnings isn’t just productive, it’s empowering. You’re giving yourself the chance to make actual, positive change. You’re encouraging a sense of self-awareness and gratitude. By noting things down, you can spot patterns in your behaviour and day-to-day life, capitalise on your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
What could be more valuable than that?
Many mindfulness planners and journals often prompt you to practise gratitude. That is, writing down three good things that happened today, ways that you’re better off than others, and so on. Studies have shown that this can have a lasting, positive effect on mood – increasing happiness by up to 25% and even helping you sleep better.
With all that in mind, there’s a strong argument for taking up self-reflection as a daily exercise right away, right?
Against the mindfulness planner
As with anything, it’s not for everyone. The format I often see these planners, books and journals in just doesn’t work for me. I say that as someone who LOVES stationery, and kept a free-form journal for upwards of 10 years. So, what is it that irks me?
Aside from the occasionally saccharine, inspirational quotes the planners are often peppered with, the often rigid structures don’t appeal to me at all. I like completeness, so it really bothers me if I come to fill something out that asks me ‘what I’m excited about’ or ‘someone who inspired me today’ if actually, that is not how I feel AT ALL.
I’m a pretty pessimistic person, so seeing the silver linings isn’t always easy. If prompted, I can generally find them, but if I have to look too hard to find the positive it feels a little inauthentic. Perhaps today was just not my day. You know what? That happens and it’s totally fine. Still, there’s something about that lack of completeness in not responding to the optimistic prompt that makes me feel like I didn’t truly commit or by committing, it’s not authentically ‘me’.
Aside from that, given the fact I can analyse the way I handled a particular conversation 700 different ways in as many seconds, the intense introspection and self-analysis is not something that always appeals my anxious side. Am I doing this right? What if I can’t answer that? What if I don’t spot any patterns that can alter my behaviour and ultimately make An Enlightened Person™?
Who knew a piece of paper could create such pressure?
So, what’s the verdict?
Of course, that’s just my take on a rather niche subject (I have to question where I get my ideas from sometimes, honestly).
Some of you may have already lived your lives happily enough up to this point without a bullet journal – you keep at it!
For those of you who actively partake in this kind of self-reflection, this piece is not intended to make you feel bad about that. You do you! The fact that I sporadically word-vomit ideas on a scruffy refill pad doesn’t make me a more superior person. If anything, I admire your commitment to self-growth – and the research is certainly more on your side than mine.
Whichever way you look at it, this rise in mindfulness, self-reflection and awareness has to be a good thing. Whether you choose to use an app like Bliss, a beautiful journal or a scrap of paper to jot things down when you feel like it because you can’t take the pressure 😉