The Creative Journaling Hack To Improve Your Mental Health

Photo: Getty Images/Layla Bird
I look forward to lighter journal entries this year. Truth be told, I stopped writing entries after a while, because penning "Dear diary, looks like we had another national tragedy today," started to bum me out. Journaling for your mental health can be such a proactive practice, but when your day-to-day is stressful, rigid event-logging becomes a joyless process. It's why this year we might want to embrace a drawing journal instead.

What's a drawing journal, you ask? Exactly what it sounds like, friend; a drawing journal is a freestyle notebook where you can draw your thoughts and intentions in a more flow-oriented way. "When we doodle, we engage the creative right brain rather than the logical left brain," says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear.  "Especially when topics feel serious, writing tends to be geared towards decision-making and problem-solving."

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And not that there aren't problems to solve, but we could all use a little mental and visual break from text, right? Picking up a a notebook with blank pages or a dot-laden bullet journal can allow you to map out how you feel, instead of always needing to find the words. It's wholesome expression, and you don't need to be an artist to do it.

"Doodling can help the mind bypass the often-stressful tendency to dive into self-criticism, comparison, or loft goal-setting," says Dr. Manly. "By letting the mind focus on creative energy, doodling unleashes the often-empathic, supportive inner self.  Your mental health can truly benefit when you allow the creative—yet grow-oriented—part of the self be your guide."

Interested? We have a few options to get you started on a zen-inducing practice. And hey, maybe next year we can return to words.

7 beautiful options for your next drawing journal

1. Ride Above It, $27

Photo: Papier

I find this whimsical balloon print to be, dare I say it, uplifting? Papier has some of the most beautiful notebooks out there, and I'm earnestly very charmed by the naturally sketchy (good sketchy, not "u up?" sketchy) feel of this bullet journal.

Shop now: Ride Above It, $27

2. Dotted Journal by Scribbles That Matter, $27

Photo: Amazon

Get out your finest fine-point markers, because Scribbles That Matter is constructed to support you drawing out your feels. They have sturdy, zero-bleed paper with test pages for stubborn ink. This is ideal if you want a freeform 2021 planner as well. It features a key page and index that'll help keep you organized and not one but two bookmarks. Perfect if you want a section for work and a section for play.

Shop now: Dotted Journal by Scribbles That Matter, $27

3. Personalized Bullet Journal, $20

Photo: Etsy

If you want something minimalist that still has personal flair, maybe commission one of these best-selling bullet journals from Etsy. They have a range of colorways, a lightweight-yet-sturdy construction, and can be customized with your name and a cute title for the ideas you're going to pour in there.

Shop now: Personalized Bullet Journal, $20

4. Coloring Book for Self Care and Mental Health, $14

Photo: Etsy

Adorable! This has a combination of illustrations you can go Crayola hard on, plus some prompts to clear your mind out. If you love adult coloring books and you're looking for something #pure, I suggest this.

Shop now: Coloring Book for Self-Care and Mental Health, $14

5. Cherry Blossoms Journal - Blank Journal, $24

Photo: Etsy

Unlike a lot of notebooks, this journal has completely blank, unlined pages. I highly recommend it if you've only done structured, composition "dear diary" style journaling thus far. Last year I experimented with blank pages and it's made me adopt a more abstract, freeform approach to journaling. Bonus: the cherry blossoms are beautiful and remind me of happier spring days ahead.

Shop now: Cherry Blossoms Journal - Blank Journal, $24

6. Pine Green Moon and Stars, $50

Photo: Papier

Another elevated offering from Papier that is simply fun yet sophisticated. You have the option to play with the shades of the upcycled leather and metallic foil, but I just find the forest green and gold combo to be quite fetching.

Shop now: Pine Green Moon and Stars, $50

7. Premium Dotted Journal / Bullet Dot Grid Notebook, $20

Photo: Amazon

Finally, I see this notebook as a union of all the other book's great qualities. It's a bullet journal with metallic foil edges, two bookmarks, and a gorgeous floral cover that doesn't skew towards basic. The best part? There's a little slot for your pen, so you'll never have to scramble through your tote bag for a spare one (me, always).

Shop now: Premium Dotted Journal / Bullet Dot Grid Notebook, $20

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