Operation Brightside: The Art of Journaling Towards a Positive State of Mind

Hello, reader, and welcome back to another week of Operation Brightside! This week, we’ll be diving into my personal favorite form of positive power: journaling. I’ve had journals for as long as I can remember, yet no matter how many times I begged for a new one whilst traversing the aisles of Barnes & Noble, I never managed to completely fill a whole book up. To be honest, I’ve only ever successfully stuffed a journal cover-to-cover one time in my life—and I’m super proud of myself for it! 

That being said, journaling can be extremely therapeutic. There’s something about putting a pen to paper and allowing your thoughts to pour out onto the page that clears the mind and opens the heart. Over the course of the past year, I’ve tried to journal every single day. By doing this, I’ve noticed a significant increase in the effectiveness of my anxiety management. Is my anxiety cured? No way. But journaling helps me to organize my thoughts when I’m feeling anxious. I’ve also noticed that I have a lower frequency of panic attacks when I journal daily.

So, how does one begin to journal? Opening a book and seeing a blank page can be overwhelming. How do you know what to write? Do you decorate the pages? Do you make a checklist? Do you create a bullet journal? The answer is that all of this is completely up to you!

I find that color-coordinating my journal is what works best for me. My favorite notebooks to use are the Moleskin dotted notebooks, although the ruled and graph options are great too. When I first committed to journaling, I armed myself with a black Moleskin notebook, a set of beginner calligraphy pens, and some adorable washi tape. 

My color-coordinating system works as such: dark colors represent days I’m feeling anxious/depressed/upset, and bright colors represent days of positivity. Pink grew to express days I felt particularly in love, while yellow and orange continue to show me that I was radiating happiness. Blue exudes calm emotions, while dark purple is more indicative of a tough day. I find this system helpful, because I can look back through my journal and see a physical representation of my mental health status over time, without limiting myself to the confines of an anxiety tracker. Another bonus? It will show you that the bad times are, in fact, far fewer in quantity than the good ones. 

This system may not work for everyone, and that’s okay! I know many people that gravitate towards bullet journaling; however, I’m a bit too controlling for this system. I tried it once and ended up having a panic attack because I messed up too many of the charts and decorations. If you’re prone to getting frustrated over little slip-ups, I don’t recommend it. If you’re artistic and need more organization in your life, I do! 

It can be daunting to figure out what you want to say when you journal. While I tend to be able to pour my emotions out on the page, I also have a few practices in place for days when I just don’t know what to say. Describing your day in as much or as little detail as you want can be a helpful place to start, as this practice can often remind you of different emotions you experienced throughout the day. Often times, when I do this, it will get my emotional gears turning. Soon enough, I’ll have penned all of my frustrations and fears on the page. 

I also love making lists that remind me how to focus on the positive. Some of my favorite lists to consistently turn to include: the people I’m grateful for, my favorite moments in the past (insert unit of time), the experiences in life I’m grateful for, the five things I’m most looking forward to in the future, and “one good thing” (this is a daily practice, in which you write one good thing that happened that day). 

Lastly, when in doubt, doodle it out! It can be difficult to focus your brain on the tough parts of life, so I often find myself doodling things that make me happy. It’s calming for the brain, while also productive. I love drawing characters from video games, as well as my pets! Draw whatever moves you, whatever you’re looking forward to, or whatever you find beautiful. There’s always something bright and positive to focus on, if you try hard enough.

I know that it can be stressful to try and incorporate journaling into a busy college schedule, but I promise you that it is worth it. Try and journal once a week, as a start, and gradually work yourself up to whatever amount of time works best for you and your brain. By giving your mind the time to be one with itself, you’ll actually rid your brain of some of that stress and worry.

Now, go forth and journal this week! And remember: there is always a brightside…


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