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Tips for Bullet Journaling and Mental Health

BY Emma Simmonds

Emma Simmonds, owner, designer and chief maker of positivity at hand-letterer Nurture and Cheer, tells us her story about how creativity and especially Bullet Journaling supports her mental health.


We've been humongous fans of Emma, the creative genius behind Nurture & Cheer, and what she does with our Positive Bullet Diary for yonks! But there's more behind the fabulous spreads and designs she creates than just how pretty they look. She's been using creativity to support her mental health for many years so we just had to ask her to tell us a little more.

Here's her story along along with some fab tips on how to get started with bullet journaling and some lovely pics of what she creates to perhaps inspire you to put pen, pencil and washi tape to paper too!



A golden thread through life of using creativity for mental health

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve found comfort in creating. I first discovered how creativity could help my mental health when I was in Sixth Form; a close family member was terminally ill, and my Art A-Level provided me with an escape from everything else that was going on. Locking myself away in my bedroom with paints, pencils, and some music in the background gave me the break that I needed.

Creativity became a source of comfort for me again in 2015, this time supporting me through issues with my physical health following a diagnosis for Crohn's. My body was struggling, and constantly changing due to the various cocktails of medications and treatments, and that in turn impacted my mental health. My symptoms meant I struggled to leave the house, and thus I turned to sewing, painting, and hand lettering to keep my spirits up.



The start of Bullet Journaling

At the start of 2019, I started my first bullet journal. I was now a Mum to a one year old, working full time, and sadly, again experiencing a close relative being ill. Finding time for ‘me’ was hard, but each weekend, I’d take some time to sit in a room on my own and work on a simple spread for the week ahead. I used paints, pens, pencil, and even collage to create a theme, often inspired by specific events or the time of year.

Over the past 18 months, my journaling has been more adaptive. Sometimes it’s not creative at all, and I just focus on getting everything in my head down on paper as quickly as possible. Other times it’s taking that time to shut myself away with a cup of tea and create something visual, and this is when my bullet journal really comes into play.


Working with The Positive Bullet Diary

I’ve used The Positive Bullet Diary for all of my bullet journaling, and I’m now onto my third book. It’s the perfect intro into journaling as the basic structure is there, you can focus purely on the creativity and making it look fab! 




I use bullet journaling as much of a creative outlet as a tool for organisation. It’s a chance to experiment with new tools and techniques. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and sometimes things won’t turn out quite as you hoped. The next week is a fresh page and a chance to do something different.

On the days when I’m struggling with my mental health, I find a simple yet repetitive design to be the perfect answer. Something as simple as colouring in a grid or making lots of lines, it doesn’t require too much mentally, yet it really helps me check out for some time. I also like collaging for similar reasons. I try to look through images for magazines for images that make me smile, or quotes that inspire me. 



How to get started with Bullet Journaling

Starting a new notebook or diary can be daunting, and you may think ‘where do I start?’ There is no right or wrong answer, however if you are looking for ideas, these are my favourite types of bullet journal spreads:

  • Weekly layouts – perfect for keeping you organised each week.
  • Lists – these can be practical (e.g. shopping lists) or more fun. I often write lists of books I’d like to read or things I’d like to watch, ticking them off as I complete them.
  • 10 things – I like to use these on the days I’m struggling with my mental health, for example ten things I love, ten ideas for self-care, or ten things I am grateful for.
  • Bucket lists – I often create these at the start of a season or a holiday, making a list of all the things I want to do. I often get my daughter involved too, asking her to contribute her ideas!
  • Scrapbooks – If we’ve had a nice trip or day out, I’ll stick some photos in my diary, along with a list of all our positive memories.
  • Vision boards – Another great idea for those harder days. Spend some time with a load of old magazines and cut out images/words/illustrations that you are drawn to, and use them to create a mini vision board. 




Top Tools for Journaling

You don’t need lots of tools or a huge stationery stash to get going with Bullet Journaling, I have been known to borrow my daughter’s pencils and crayons for creating my colourful spreads. However, if you are looking to treat yourself to some new stationery, these are the tools I’d recommend.

Washi tape - he easiest way to brighten up your bullet journal spread. I quite often use a washi tape design as the starting point for my design, colouring in the rest of the pages to match.

Coloured Brush Pens – If you ask me to recommend a pen for bullet journaling, it will always be a Tombow Dual Brush pen. Use the fine tip for outlines and small doodles, and the brush tip for creating thicker lines and beautiful brush lettering.

Black Brush Pen – I like to use a smaller black brush pen for lettering headings, it looks fab when you letter over a coloured background. The Tombow Fudenosuke pens are great for creating gorgeous lettering.

Small ruler – If you’re a perfectionist, a small 15cm ruler will definitely come in handy for creating super-straight lines.

Pencil and Rubber – I rarely letter straight into my diary, and tend to roughly sketch out my design lightly first in pencil. 

Double-sided tape/glue stick – for creating those inspirational collages and vision boards.

Old magazines/wrapping paper – I have a box of old wrapping paper, magazine cuttings, bits of ribbon etc that I use for collaging. 



If Emma's inspired you to get started with Bullet Journaling, you can find all the stationery tools to help you get started in our Positive Planner Shop! From The Positive Bullet Diary and Tombow pens, through to different kinds of washi tape and coloured pencils, we've got you covered! 🙂 



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