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My daily journal practice (journaling for anxiety)

Today I wanted to share a little bit about another hobby of mine (journaling)! Similarly to my art, it’s something I started doing more regularly during the pandemic. It’s been a year now since I first used my bullet journal, and in the process I developed a daily journaling practice that I’ve stuck to, so I thought I’d show what that looks like in case it could inspire others out there who want to get into it! I have found journaling to be a great way to manage anxiety, especially during the pandemic.

I’ve broken down what my journaling practice here, it’s something I try to do it every night.

  1. Gratitude

The first part of my routine is writing in my gratitude journal. I like to end each day with thinking about something that made me happy earlier in the day, and then I write down a sentence or two about it. I like to do this as it helps me focus on the positive and reminds me that there are always moments in the day that mean something and feel special. I started this practice in January 2020 when I came across this cute notebook in a dollar store…just a few months later, the pandemic happened and I ended up sticking to this little ritual because I like to acknowledge the things that I am grateful for, and on the days where I don’t feel so great, I can always look back and read what I wrote and that usually makes me feel better. It reminds me that everything we go through is temporary, and that we simply don’t know what tomorrow awaits.

2. Daily Writing

The next thing I like to do is write a little about the day, what happened, how I feel, etc. Like a daily check in basically. I don’t go over more than a page, I try to keep it short usually. I like to do this because it serves as an outlet for me and reduces some of that negative chatter I get before bedtime. I tend to overthink a lot, so writing helps me reflect on things and lets me step out a bit so I can view things more rationally.

3. Bullet Journaling

Finally, I like to use my bullet journal. There is a proper technique for this, but I basically use it to track down habits and a couple other things, and then when it comes to planning I use an actual planner, because I find it more practical that way. I try to focus more on the functionality aspect of bullet journaling rather than spend time making the spreads look pretty, although I like to have a few nice spreads in there too!

(The one I use can be found here: https://www.amazon.ca/Bullet-Journal-Cactus-Notebook-Dotted/dp/1546631348)

To track down habits, what I do is create a page for each month and then write the dates on top, and on the left I write a list of habits I want to do daily and then check off the ones I did. I also keep a spread for weekly and monthly habits. I like to do this because it keeps me organized and find that writing in a journal keeps me more accountable when it comes to working towards my goals, and it’s rewarding to see your progress. I also like to track my mood, and use this journal to record reading lists, movies I want to watch, dreams, and for tracking my cycle. There are so many uses for a bullet journal, and the best part is that you can customize it however you want!

So that’s what my journaling routine looks like. It may sound like a lot, but it takes me no more than 5-10 minutes, and I definitely think it’s worth it. I am glad that I committed to it for a year now, and during the process I tried many different forms of journaling and honed in on what worked best for me which is basically this routine that I’m sharing. Journaling really helped with my mental health, and while I think it’s best to reach out to friends or talk to someone, the pandemic has been isolating at times, and during those moments of isolation journaling and writing can be a really great outlet.

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My painting process and finding resilience during the pandemic

Like a lotus flower,

we too have the ability to rise from the mud,

bloom out of the darkness,

and radiate into this world.

This piece was inspired by the prompt of resilience. I chose to paint a lotus flower, because they symbolize transformation and enlightenment and thought it was well suited for the theme. Here’s what my painting process looked like:

1. Brainstorming/finding your reference photo

I start with brainstorming and sketching out ideas, (on paper) and then I browse online for reference photos. It’s easier to find your desired pose once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for in your head already. I usually stick with google images, Pinterest, Unsplash, and Pexels (Unsplash and Pexels has a great selection of free stock photos to use and I also usually use these two sites for design projects as well). Sometimes I’ll save photos on Instagram too, but I always make sure to ask permission from the photographer first before using their image as reference.

2. Tracing/sketching your image

For this particular painting, I traced my reference photo with an Apple Pencil using the app Procreate on my iPad Pro. I did a simple outline and then printed it out. This isn’t what I normally do, but for the sake of saving time, I thought it made more sense. After, I took the printed photo and placed it face down on the paper I was going to paint on. I used hot press watercolour paper, as I like the smooth surface and find it easier for layering. With the printed sketch face down on my watercolour paper, I took a pencil and sketched overtop of my outline leaving a faint imprint underneath, which I then cleaned up a bit using a mechanical pencil. I find it easier to get thin, clean lines using a mechanical pencil.

3. Painting

Next is the fun part: painting! For this particular piece, I used a mix of my set of Finetec watercolours and some student quality watercolour paints by the brand Angora. I usually end up using whichever paints I have handy…of course better quality paints produce better results, but you don’t necessarily need to spend lots of money when you’re starting out. My approach is more intuitive than it is technical, and I believe the best way to learn is through lots of experimentation. I also normally stick with two brushes when I paint, one medium sized one and a smaller one for details, they’re both rounded brushes, and I like how you can get a variety of strokes with them. One ‘rule’ I do stick to is that I always go from light to dark when painting, and find that it’s always better to leave more white space, as you can add more colour later, but can’t do the reverse and take away colour once it’s on your page. It’s very easy to overwork watercolours, so that’s something I try to look out for. For this piece for example, I left the negative space and it still reads as a boxing ring, so you don’t necessarily have to always take the most literal approach and fill the whole page if you don’t want to. After all, the aim with painting should be whatever you make of it, I don’t think you need to go hyper realistic in order for your art to be considered ‘good’.

4. Taking photos of my artwork/editing (for when I’m posting online)

Most importantly, I like to make sure that I’m taking my photos in is nicely lit room. I use my Nikon camera for this, the range of lens is 18mm to 140mm, and I set it on 35mm (which is slightly zoomed in) so that I get rid of the fish eye effect. To photograph my artwork, I normally place it on a wall or on the ground/my desk, while making sure that the lighting is even when taking the photo. After, I bring it over to Photoshop, and the first thing I do is adjust levels (Command + L) and make sure that the sliders are within the white part. Then, I’ll usually clean up the illustration by making the background white, and to do this I’ll select my illustration using the lasso tool (L) and delete on the part I want to erase. (But before that I hit Command+Shift+I to inverse my selection before deleting it.) I’ll also use the eraser tool (E) to clean up some parts if required. Sometimes I’ll adjust the brightness and contrast, but I usually already achieve that by using levels, and don’t want my illustration to appear overly edited, so I tend to keep editing to a minimum! Finally, I’ll upload the photo to a grid preview app for Instagram to see what it would look like (there’s a lot of free ones on the App Store) and then post it to the ‘gram.

My summer, experience with the pandemic, and what has helped me in times of uncertainty:

A little update…

I didn’t finish this article earlier so I’m writing it now, at the end of Summer. It’s been a really strange year to say the least. I had a knee injury right after having a full course load of online School…that was back in April, and it’s still bugging me now. Running and biking has always been something I looked forward to, especially after the months of rain and being stuck indoors. I realized that I can’t always rely on my exercise routine to feel better, and that I have taken it for granted. I am very thankful for the fact that I have other outlets, like writing and painting. And of course talking to friends always helps, but it’s harder when you can’t see them in person. I won’t go into too much detail, but basically one thing that has helped me is shifting focus to what is within my control rather than dwelling on the things I can’t change…it’s important to accept the situation you’re in and acknowledge realistically how much you are able to do. Oh and I also had to take an online stats course…so that was rough. But I like to believe that if I’ve survived months of isolation, insomnia, an online class in the summer, chronic pain and then Covid at the end of Summer to finish it off, I could make it through anything. 😂 At least this has made me more resilient, and at a certain point it almost becomes funny…I suppose humour is some what of a coping mechanism but it helps and I can’t wait for things to return to normal again, whatever that will look like. And I don’t want to give the impression that my Summer was all bad, either. Because it was full of many unexpected and wonderful moments. I joined my family for a trip on the island, and even though I was gone for a few days, the time I spent in nature was so restorative, and I forgot how powerful a change in scenery can be. Afterwards, we went on another trip to see my cousins wedding in Calgary, so that was really nice and the drive back through the Rockies was very scenic, we were lucky to have dodged the wildfires as we headed home.

Anyways, I’ve had to adapt now due to my injury and I’m focusing more on other outlets, like painting, journaling and making youtube videos. There is so much going on in the world and having some sort of routine that you can stick to seriously helps, it’s nice when you have a constant in your life amidst all this craziness! Also, I found that reducing time spent on social media, and being more intentional with it has helped. I will go into more detail about journaling in my next post, as I specifically break down what my daily journaling practice looks like. Having a positive mindset really helps, not in a way that’s forced, but simply redirecting my attention to what is going well rather than what isn’t, and finding gratitude in the little moments has made a huge difference for me!

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