Paper Thoughts

Bullet Journaling: Aiming for a Better Life

What is a Bullet Journal? 

It’s a little hard to summarize what a bullet journal (BuJu) is in just a few sentences. It is a planner, a journal, a tracker, and an organizer all in one. It is a system that is tailored to you and your life; bullet journal is whatever you make it. If you have some creativity in you and want to be organized, this system is for you. The best part is, setting up your bullet journal takes 5 minutes and then you are ready to go!

What supplies do I need to Bullet Journal? 

  • pens/pencils
  • notebook

Really all you need to start bullet journaling is a notebook and a pen or pencil. Some like to get a bit fancier though. I prefer using a binder so that I can add printed pages and move pages around. I also like using pretty colored pens. Stickers, stencils and bookmarks can also be fun to use. Use whatever works best for you!

How does it work?

One of the main purposes of the bullet journal is to help you remember to get things done. To do this, we use a system called “task migration.” That is a fancy way of saying that if you don’t get a task from your “to do” list done today, move it over to tomorrow so that you don’t forget! To help us quickly figure out what our bullet journal is telling us, we use a Key.


A key is a quick way to help you know what is in your journal. It is made up of symbols that represent something. Here is what my key looks like:


The task list is one of the things that makes a bullet journal unique. It isn’t just your regular old “to do” list. I know when I have something on my “to do” list and I don’t get to it, I can feel a little guilty. With this system you can simply “migrate” your task to the next week/month by placing an arrow next to it and then moving it to the next week/month page where you can get to it. This way you can keep track of tasks even when you can’t get to them right away.

Index/Table of Contents:

Just like in a textbook at school, the Index/Table of Contents tells you where in your bullet journal to find things. Don’t forget to number the pages in your bullet journal to help you find things! Here is what my Index looks like:

Ideas for Pages

So let’s put this all together and see what a page from your bullet journal might look like. Don’t forget to decorate it! Because I like to plan things out week by week, here is what a page from my journal looks like.

What else can I include?

There are a ton of other things you can include in your bullet journal. One really good thing to include is a mood tracker. There are lots of different ways to track your mood in your bullet journal, but this one is my favorite. You just fill in the color you are feeling for each day of the month. At the end of the year you will have a rainbow of moods!

There are a ton of other things you can include in your journal too.

  • a tracker for what you eat
  • a tracker for how you sleep 
  • a tracker for when you exercise 
  • a tracker how much water you drink 
  • a trackers what books you read
  • a list of what movies you want to see 
  • a journal of the dreams you have 
  • a list of things that help you relax 
  • a “bucket list” 
  • a list of important people/contact numbers 
  • favorite recipes
  • meal planning 
  • trackers for goals you have for yourself
  • a “traditional” journal section

Where can I find more resources and ideas for bullet journaling?

Pinterest is a great place to find resources on bullet journaling. There are lots of free printable sheets available. Youtube also has a ton of tutorials on bullet journaling. Just search “bullet journal” or “buju” for tons of ideas!

And here are 2 free PDFs of bullet journal pages!

What happens when you want to journal, but things get in the way?

A lot of us like the idea of journaling. We think about journaling and know it’s a great idea, maybe we go out and buy a cool journal (or get one from Paper Thoughts!). Maybe we get a special colored pen or a pencil with a neat design, or we gather our art supplies. We are going to do it! We’re going to journal!

And we do!

For a little bit…
And then we don’t.

We know we’ve got a lot of stuff running around in our heads it would be helpful to get out. We know it feels good to get it out. We know it’s healthy to get it out.

But we get lost. We forget. We get distracted. We just don’t have the energy.
Then we say “journaling just doesn’t work for me.”
But maybe we’re just not doing it in a way that really works for us.

How do you make journaling work for you?

1. Figure out the way that works best for you.

If you don’t enjoy writing, art journaling might be a better choice. If you don’t enjoy hand-writing, an e-journal or online blog might be for you. If neither of those work for you, try video journaling or vlogging. A journal, a sketchbook, a computer, a phone, an app; find what works best for you.

2. Come up with a routine.

If you feel like you want to, you can set a schedule for yourself. You can build journaling in to your routine. Personally I like to journal right before bed because it helps me sleep. But maybe you like journaling about your dreams so you want to journal when you first wake up. Or maybe you journal as soon as you get home from school so you can get all your thoughts and feeling from the day out. Find a time that makes the most sense for you.

3. Use journal prompts

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out where to start when journaling. If you’re looking for a starting point, check out our resources page for a ton of journal prompts. There are lots of different topics to choose from. Each topic has 10 questions to get you thinking and journaling.

4. Give yourself a reminder.

If you have a hard time remembering to journal, you can also set reminders for yourself. You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you to journal. You can also ask Siri or Cortana and they can remind you. Or go the old-fashioned route and leave a post-it note where you’ll see it.

5. Journal with a friend.

Sometimes it’s nice to sit next to someone and journal alongside them. It can be a great way to spend quality time together. It can also be a great way to stay accountable to your journaling. You can share what you wrote or not, whatever feels comfortable. It can also be fun to answer journal prompts with a friend to get to know them better.

Don’t have any friends who journal? Join us at our Journaling for Wellness Group at Montgomery Book Exchange from 6-8pm. Check out our facebook page for more info!

6. Or don’t do any of these things

You don’t have to do any of the things listed above if they don’t feel right to you.

It doesn’t matter if you journal every day, or once in a long while.

If you journal at all you’re an awesome journaler!

It doesn’t matter if your spelling and grammar is incorrect. It doesn’t matter if your art isn’t the prettiest. You don’t have to write pages and pages for a journal entry. You don’t have to create a masterpiece of art for art journaling. Write a few sentences, draw something small. Even 5 minutes spent expressing yourself is healing.

You can’t really be “bad” at journaling because there’s no wrong way to do it. Journaling is just for you. The only thing you might be doing “wrong” is stressing yourself out or being too hard on yourself about it.

If you’re expressing yourself, you’re journaling the right way!

How do you make a resolution that sticks long enough to really make a change in your life?

If you’re a human, you probably have some stuff that you’d like to change about your life. I know I definitely do. Every year we make resolutions, but usually after a month or so our momentum slows down. We stop going to the gym, forget our planners, mess up our room, text our ex and go back to our old ways. Change is HARD.
Here’s one method I’ve found really works in bringing about change.

1. Start big and work backwards to figure out what you want.

Sometimes we get stuck being “big thinkers” and have lots of ideas about what their future will look like. We might have trouble figuring out what we can do right now to get to that future. If this is you, think of goal setting like an upside down triangle. Start out really big and work your way backwards getting more specific goals as you go until you get to the “point.”

Here’s an example of what my goal chart might have looked like when I was in middle school. I started out really big with my future long term goals. Then I worked backwards until I got to something I can work on right now. The things we do now can have a big impact on the way things in our future.


Figure 1: Triangular Goal Chart. Level One – Find A job that I enjoy, helps others and allows me to support myself. Level Two – Become a social worker/therapist. Level Three: Go to college. Level Four: Finish high school with good grades so I can get into a good college. Level Five: Stay focused on my schoolwork. Level Six: Avoid drama

2. Figure out a plan of action to reach your goal.

Now that I have my goal of “avoiding drama,” I need to figure out how I’m going to do that. I have to come up with a plan of action to reach that/ It will be easier to avoid drama if I know how to do it. My action plan might look something like this:

action plan

Figure Two: Example of an Action Plan. 1. Set boundaries* with friends. 2. Think more positively about myself so what other people think won’t matter as much to me. 3. Find friends who will help me reach my goals. *Boundaries are the rules, limits, and guidelines present in a relationship that let others know what is and is not okay behavior

3. Brainstorm action steps.

Breaking it down even further, action steps help us to figure out exactly what we need to do to reach our goals. Try to be as specific as possible because that will make them easier to follow. Don’t forget, you’re brainstorming; just because you come up with an idea doesn’t mean it’s part of your plan. Maybe an idea pops in your head and you think “I’m not gonna do that!” Write it down anyway because writing it down could help you think of things you will do. Be creative, get wild and crazy! Here are some examples of how to brainstorm based on our example: 

  • A Web


Figure 3: Boundaries listed in web format. Only worry about myself. Block anyone who starts drama. Don’t listen to or spread rumors. Don’t skip class. Get off the phone when doing homework. Uninstall snapchat. Tell my friends I want to do well in school and that I don’t want to be involved in drama. Journal prompts on boundaries and communication.

  • A List

thinking positively

Figure 4: List of ways to think positively. Journal prompts. Write down 3 compliments about myself. Write down positive quotes. Write down positive song lyrics.

  • Bullet Points

supportive friends

Figure 5: Bullet pointed list of ways to find supportive friends. 1. ask my friends if they want to be involved in a study group, what their goals are so we can help each other, and if they will listen when I’m having a hard time. 2. Find new friends by joining a club at school, sitting at a new lunch table, or switching schools. 3.Get rid of friends who start drama.

4. Come Up with a Timeline.

Now that you have your goals and you’ve brainstormed action steps, it’s time to work out the details. Pick out a few action steps you’re going to commit to, come up with a plan for them, and set a date to complete them by. I like to create a timeline for myself. This helps me to remember what I need to do and how often I need to do it to reach my goal. It’s a great tool for staying on track. Here’s an example of what a timeline might look like:

Task Due Date/Plan for Completion
Talk with my friends about my goal of being involved in less drama 1/30/19: talk with my friends during lunch
Let my friends know that it’s really important that I do well in school 2/2/19: talk with my friends during lunch
Ask my current friends what their goals are so we can work together to reach them 2/20/19: talk with my friends during lunch
Ask my friends if they want to be involved in a study group Before our next big test
Join a club at school doing something I’m interested in Listen to announcements to find out when it is
Write down three good things about myself every day Ongoing – Daily: Every day when I wake up in the morning
Answer one positivity journal prompt each week
Self Love journal prompts
The Future journal prompts
Confidence journal prompts
Gratitude journal prompts
Ongoing – Weekly: Every week on Thursday night before bed
Answer one boundaries journal prompt each week
Boundaries journal prompts
Communication journal prompts
Ongoing – Weekly:
every week on Tuesday night before bed


Now that I’ve got my action steps picked out, a plan, and dates to complete them by, I’m ready to go! I’ll probably come back to these notes at least once a month to remind myself what I’m working on. I might review them more often if I’m having a hard time staying on track. The “new me” is going to commit to doing these things in the new year. By doing that I’ll be one step closer to my goal of becoming a social worker and having a job I love helping others.
I know that setting goals in this way works because it worked for me. By taking tiny steps when I was a kid I was able to reach my dreams. I have an awesome job as a social worker that I love, lets me help others, and support myself. Now that I’ve reached the top of my goal triangle, I’ve not new triangles I’m working on.

Change can be really hard, but it can also be really worth it. It might not seem like it, but the little things you do right now can make a big difference for future you. With some work and support you can create your “new you” in the new year!


Need some help getting started setting your goals or want to know more? Comment on this post and we’d be happy to help!


Happy New Year!

Alright grown ups, here’s all you need to know about getting your kid to journal!


Parents often want kids to be able to speak with them about how they are feeling, sometimes kids, especially teenagers can be pretty…resistant…to talking with their parents about important stuff. Journaling can be a great first step in fostering healthy communication about emotions between you and your child.

Most parents can agree that they want their kids to be able to express their emotions in a healthy way. Most parents can also agree that they often struggle to get their kids to do things that they suggest.

Here are some helpful tips on getting your kids to journal and minimizing their eye rolling and resistance:


  • Pitch the idea to them in the right way: If you think your kid might benefit from journaling explain to them how can be helpful; that it can help them learn about themselves, grow, express themselves, find their voice, and track their progress. Give your kid as much choice as possible. If you force them it becomes like homework…and no one likes homework.


  • Gather materials: We all like nice things. A kid is much more likely to write in a journal if they are able to pick out a cool one that they like (that’s why Paper Thoughts works to give kids in need journals!) Make it a special event to pick out a nice journal and a nice pen/pencil for your child to use when journaling. Encourage your kid to choose something that speaks to them. The more exciting and special it is the more likely your kid is to try it.


  • Set the stage: Encourage your child to find a good space to journal. Encourage them to limit distractions like cell phones and television. Calming music or quiet work best. They may want to journal outside or they may want to journal in their room. Let your child know they can journal for as long or as short as they’d like. Encourage them to do what feels most comfortable for them.


  • Make it as easy as possible: Check out our resources page to find a printable PDF of different methods of journaling. If your child is having a hard time knowing where to start, give them some direction. There are lots of free journal prompts in our resources section that you can use to help your child get started. They’re divided by topic and are available for PDF download. 


  • Respect Privacy: while it might be really tempting to peek in your kid’s journal to see what they’re writing about, try to avoid it. Journaling will be more effective and helpful for your child if they feel like it’s a safe place to let their feelings out. If you feel like you must check what they are writing to make sure they are safe, let them know about it. Be honest and up front; avoid sneaking and snooping. If you want your child to be able to communicate their feelings with you, it’s important that they trust you. Take the first step in building that trust by making sure you’re honest and open with them.


  • Set a good example: If you want your kid to journal and express their emotions in a healthy way, it’s important for you to set a good example by doing the same. You can set aside time where you both journal at the same time next to one another. You can encourage them to share what they wrote. If your child doesn’t want to talk about what they wrote, that’s okay, try to avoid pressuring them, instead ask what you can do to make it easier for them to talk to you, or ask them what the experience of journaling was like for them. This can be a cool way to bond with your kid and both learn about yourselves and grow!


Journaling offers a place for kids to learn to express themselves with words, but also maintain privacy and not have to worry about the reactions from others. It gives kids the opportunity to think about their feelings and express them in a safe and healthy way. It can also be a great coping skill when your child is upset or frustrated and it can facilitate healing and growth. It’s also a great way to jumpstart communication between you and your child!




Don’t forget to follow our blog  facebook, and instagram social media for more updates on journaling!

Like what we’re doing?! You can support us by donating online or by sending us an email to find out how to get involved! 

Journaling for Mental Health



Today is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day! And although I think EVERY day should be children’s mental health awareness day, its a good day to celebrate and have a conversation about mental health and how it all relates to…you guessed it…journaling. 

1 in 5 children  suffer from a mental health or learning disorder and 80% of chronic mental illnesses begin in childhood. That’s why it is SO important to talk about mental health.

Lots of kids (and even adults) feel like they have to hold all of their feelings inside, that they are weak if they express them. Bottling up of emotions can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety, problems managing anger, making good choices and a bunch of other issues. 

Journaling can help manage mental health symptoms because its a great way to express your emotions and get your thoughts and feelings out. 

Many times, those struggling with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety have thoughts that bother them a lot. Someone with depression might think a lot about how bad things are always going to happen to them, or how they aren’t good at anything. Someone with anxiety might think about how if they make a mistake it could ruin their lives. Journaling is an awesome way to work through that. Here’s a good way to structure it: 

  1. Write down the thought that’s bothering you. 
  2. Take a few deep breaths and try to “center” yourself. 
  3. Take a step back and re-read what you wrote. 
  4. Think about it: Does this thought make sense? Is it based in fact or opinion? How would you react if someone you cared about said this thought out loud to you?
  5. If you’re like most people, your thought might not make total sense (even though they FEEL really true). Try writing a counter thought. A counter thought is one that is based on fact and not on the way you’re feeling.   

Here’s an example of an anxious thought pattern and how journaling like this might help: 

I’m feeling REALLY anxious about my upcoming finals. It’s almost the end of school and I’m going to fail. I’m going to fail and I’m never going to get into college. I’m going to fail and I’m never going to get a good job. I’m going to fail because I’m stupid and can’t ever do anything right….” 

I’m feeling pretty terrible and scared. Let me try to journal to feel better, I’m not sure it will work, but whatever, I’ll try because I’m feeling really crappy right now and anything is better than just sitting here worrying. 

I write down “I’m going to fail because I’m stupid and can’t ever do anything right.”

I look at the page for a few seconds. I really believe this. I feel bad about myself. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I focus on my breathing for a few seconds. I open my eyes again and read what I wrote.

I have a hard time coming up with a “counter thought” that makes more sense. I still feel like I’m stupid and can’t do anything right. So I ask myself how I would respond if my friend said these mean words about themselves to me.

….I would say she was silly, that it’s just a final and it won’t determine what happens to her for the rest of her life, I would tell her that she’s smart and if she puts her mind to it she’ll be okay. I’d remind her of all the things she’s good at. I’d offer to help her study if she wanted, and remind her that I’m her friend and I’m here for her. 

I try to re-frame the way I think about the situation and myself. I know that beating myself up isn’t helpful and usually only makes me feel worse. 

I write down “sometimes I make mistakes and that’s okay because everyone does, I’ll study hard and try to pass my test, if I don’t it will still be okay and I’ll try harder next time.” 

I’m not sure I really believe it, but I write it down anyway because all of those things are facts. They are true and not just based on how I’m thinking and feeling. I keep going and writing down things that are nicer about myself. I try to stay positive. I feel a little better. It’s good to get my thoughts and feelings out, even if it is hard to come up with counter thoughts. Even if I don’t fully believe the positive things I wrote down, I’ve still stopped my “runaway train” of anxiety. That alone helps me feel better. 

This is just an example of how journaling can be used to manage thoughts that are really common in people struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. It is SO important to be able to express yourself in a way that works for you. Journaling can be a great way to do that. It doesn’t matter if you express yourself better with art or with words, its just important to express yourself. 


REMEMBER: It is SO important to seek treatment from a mental health professional if you are struggling or think you might have a mental illness. Nothing is a substitute for quality care from a professional.
If you are in crisis please call your local crisis number, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or 911. 


If you’d like more resources on journaling check out our resources page. Make sure to follow our blog for updates and more content like this!



We are SUPER excited to announce that Paper Thoughts has been accepted as a speaker at the inaugural TedXNewburgh event! On May 18th Jen O. will be speaking about the work Paper Thoughts is doing and how we are working to support kids in our community. Check out their website and follow them on Facebook for more information! Tickets are limited and first come first serve, but aren’t on sale yet. Make sure you follow them for updates!

Do you remember how it felt to be in middle school? Oh, yes, we’re going there. Everything is changing, your body is changing, relationships are changing, roles in your family, how you’re educated: it’s all changing. During all of that, you’re somehow expected to naturally know how to cope with all of it, right?

Where does all of this go, before it all boils over?

A few months ago I was working with a student who was really struggling. We tried lots of different things, different skills to help her feel better, but none of them really “stuck.” We had stopped making progress.

Then we started writing together. Writing became a wonderful tool for her to express herself and release her pain. Things improved immensely, she was able to communicate with others better, focus in school, and just looked happier.

I was so proud of her, but my heart sank, She told me she tried not to write everyday Because she was afraid of filling up her nice journal too quickly. Writing in a notebook from the dollar store, or on scraps of paper may technically work, but the cheap paper, the scattered nature all served as a reminder of her current situation, while the nice journal helped her travel into the future and ponder what she truly wanted for herself. It allowed her to let go and dream.

So I bought some journals, nice ones, the kind a person could dream in. She was so ecstatic, I couldn’t help myself…I bought more journals… I bought… SOOO many journals and offered them to more kids, and the same thing happened.

Then the magic really hit, I started talking about it and grownups really loved the idea of helping kids journal. It was as if they could remember what it was it was like in middle school, and while no one ever handed them a journal, they had the chance to do that now for someone.

Not only did friends and coworkers bring me journals, but others were donating through facebook, and even volunteering as local collection points in their home towns, sending me cases of journals. I was able to offer these special things to more kids, and not only were more kids journaling, but more kids were reaching out for help.

So I started the Paper Thoughts Program.

The Paper Thoughts Program allows me to provide journals and sketchbooks to schools and other youth serving organizations, giving children the tools to find their voice, and manage emotions that might otherwise boil over. While I’m not psychic I do believe that such a thing ensures a brighter future for all.

Our goal started out small, hoping to collect enough journals to provide any student at South Middle School that needs an outlet for their emotions. Now, we hope to branch out to other schools, mental health providers, and youth serving organizations. With your help we can do that! Check out our Get Involved page for more info!