Our first instalment of the WTMH? (What The Mental Health?) series and competition is here. You can have a read of our launch post to find out how the series and competition works. We have a chat with Mark from Journalise about all things journaling and mental health!
Please can you introduce yourself and Journalise.
Hi, I’m Mark Morton from Bromley, in the South East London/Kent borders. I live with my wife and 8 year old son. I founded Journalise with the aim to provide help and support to those facing mental health and wellness challenges.
Our core service is a series of physical journals for mental health self-care. We have different versions appropriate to your level of experience or stage on the journey of journaling. I’m also keen that we provide more than this though. There are additional materials and support through my blog. These are general mental health and wellness topics. The tools or techniques that can be used to support and help with any issues you might be facing.
What drove you to create Journalise?
I suffer from stress and anxiety, and have low self-esteem and self-confidence. These stemmed from when I was young. It took a long time to face up to it (over 30 years!) When I finally took steps to deal with the issues I was facing, I did a lot of research around the topic. I tried several different techniques or tools that are recommended for self-care.
I wanted to help others in the same situation. Firstly to understand that it’s OK, that whatever you’re experiencing is important and worthy of attention. That you can deal with it and can get help. Secondly to understand the options that are available. Whether that’s through professional help or (and) through self-care tools and techniques like journaling.
How important do you feel self-care is for our mental health and why?
Self-care is (at least) as important as any other aspect of your life. Looking after your mental health is as important as your general health. We spend a lot of time looking after and considering our diet, our fitness etc, but often neglect our mental health. However, if we are mentally in a poor state, everything else will suffer.
It’s also important to balance self-care alongside professional support. Making use of a professional, such as a therapist, life coach etc is incredibly insightful and rewarding. Self-care techniques and tools can, and should, be used alongside those sessions. These will increase your awareness and understanding of yourself. They will help you find tools that you can turn to when the need arises. Speaking to someone else can also be a very difficult step to take, self-care techniques and tools can be a great way to start looking after your mental health if you cannot take that step.
Your journals are beautifully made, appealing to both men and women. With so little in the way of resources for men and their mental health, was this deliberate on your part?
Although my journals are gender neutral, the design purposefully reflects a more masculine style. This was deliberate as I feel that men are under-represented in the mental health/wellness product area. There is still a stigma around mental health particularly in men and less general support for them. Men are traditionally expected by society to be ‘strong’ and not to show their emotions, and therefore are less likely to speak to someone about their feelings and emotions and how they are struggling mentally.
Your fantastic range of journals make journaling accessible for anyone. Whether they are experienced or just starting their journaling journey. The Journalise 101 is for those taking their first steps in journaling or wanting a more guided experience. What was the inspiration for this journal in particular?
When I first tried to journal I struggled and failed a couple of times. Opening a notebook or diary and facing a blank sheet of paper and knowing what to write was hard. This started the idea of having a daily prompt to give you something to think and write about, but I wanted to ensure these would be centred around mental health and wellness support.
Following research around journaling, some personal therapy sessions, and investigating mental support techniques, CBT etc I started pulling together prompts that would help you understand the things that are driving you and causing your fears and anxieties, as well as provide other self-help techniques that you can use alongside journaling.
The journal begins with an introduction of how to use the pages within the book and ideas to help users get a foothold on this new experience. As well as contact information for mental health organisations, should people need them. Why was this important to you in designing Journalise?
As my journals are aimed at beginners to journaling and those who are taking their first steps in their personal mental health self-care journal, it’s important that it’s easy to understand what to do (and there are additional guides to using the journal on my web blog), and that other support avenues are signposted so the user knows where they can turn to for any additional help they need.
With a way to record daily activities, habits and reflections, Journalise 101 is brilliant for helping you think about what to write. There are also a number of wonderful prompts throughout such as Earliest Memories, Circle of Life and Relationship Circle. How did you go about choosing the various additional challenges for users when journaling?
I spent about a year on the research mentioned earlier, working out all the areas I wanted to cover and creating the main prompts. It was important to me that these formed a journey, starting at a high level but then digging down into deeper emotional topics, and that they also formed a cohesive journey where the topics built upon each other. I visualised this by putting all the prompts onto post-it notes and then stuck them on my study wall. Over the following weeks I went through several iterations, revising, adding and removing prompts, and shifting post-its around until I was finally happy with the content and overall flow..
Throughout the 3 month journaling journey you have included reviews. Reflection is vital to establishing new habits and taking care of our mental health. Why do you feel this kind of reflection is important for the people who use your journals?
There are 2 reasons for the reflection.
First, it’s important to look back at what you’ve previously written as a second look can often bring additional insight, and will remind you of things you wanted to achieve. Is there anything you didn’t think of at the time you can now add? Are there some new insights you can use to improve the way you react or approach things? Were there things you wanted to do differently at the time, but for some reason haven’t managed to do them: the review will remind and prompt you to do them.
Secondly it allows you to look at how far you’ve come and see the journey you’ve taken. The sense of achievement will reinforce why you started journaling and help you continue the practice. It will also boost a positive view of looking after your mental health and wellness, ensuring you continue to do so.
Do you have a favourite journaling activity that you do yourself?
I like the check-in pages and specifically the review and reflection of the day, and then key goals for the next. Finding the things that went well and getting a sense of achievement is a great way to finish the day. Then thinking of the main thing(s) for the next allows you to log those, park them for the night, and be ready to go when you start in the morning.
As if you were speaking to someone who had never heard of journaling before, explain what journaling is and why it can be so beneficial to mental health and self-care.
In the most simple terms, journaling is the practice of keeping a diary or journal. However the real power of journaling is when you go beyond logging what you did on any given day and write down your positive and negative thoughts and feelings, goals and desires, and passions and fears. A journal will provide you with an outlet for expressing yourself, and to learn and gain a better understanding of your inner drivers and triggers.
For this reason, a journal is an excellent self-care tool to help manage your mental health, and the positive effects have been proven. Keeping a journal will help to reduce stress, manage anxiety. It can help in coping with depression. This is because it allows you to prioritise your problems, fears and concerns. You track any symptoms you are experiencing, which helps in recognising what triggers them. Therefore how you may control them; and identify negative thoughts and behaviours, and balance them with positive self-talk and gratitude. Research has also shown that journaling can have a host of physical benefits as well.
The Wonder Collection
The Wonder Self-Care Journal! We believe self-care is vital to great mental health. What is your go to self-care activity and why?
I have a few in the bank for when I need them, but recently I got back into (motor)biking after a few years without one, and heading out for a blast through the Kent countryside with a stop for a coffee en-route has become my latest self-care activity. Just myself and my thoughts out in the beautiful countryside, finding new routes, learning to get the best out of the machine, and worrying about nothing else. The best self-care activities are those that take your mind off the everyday stresses and worries and that you completely involve yourself in.
The Wonder Mix Tape! What song/artist do you find uplifting and listening to it/them boosts your mood?
My go to music is usually the heavier side of rock, and I’d tend to lean towards 80’s as that was my teen years and when I really found my music taste. If I was to choose a specific artist, it would be Queen and Freddie Mercury. Such talented musicians, amazing range and repertoire with something to suit any mood or occasion. I was also lucky enough to see them perform in the 1986 Kind of Magic tour before Freddie’s health stopped him performing. To this day I still look back on this concert and the music gives me good memories of that day, and others from the time – it’s a good bit of self-care.
The Wonder Bookshelf! Can you recommend a book to our readers. Fiction, non-fiction, feel good or advice giving. Why did you choose this book?
I’d like to recommend Magician by Raymond E Feist. I’ve always been into Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and Lord of the Rings is a firm favourite since I was a child – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it, and the films were a realisation of a life’s dream to see the books come to life!
I recommend Magician, if you enjoyed Lord of the Rings, but are looking for something else in the same genre to move onto. It’s not as ‘high’ fantasy as LoTR with no Elves and Dwarves etc, but weaves familiar reality through the cultures involved, alongside fantasy magic into a brilliant read- and when you’re done there are more in the series, including some from the perspective of the other protagonists.
The Wonder Sketchbook! Being mindful is a not just rewarding but can also be a lot of fun. Draw a self-portrait, draw a dog, a cat, rainbow, anything that comes to mind.
Today we are adding the Journalise 101 Guided Journal that you’ve just read about to the prize bundle. Valued at £32.50, this journal will get you started on your journey to better mental health. To enter simply follow the instructions below! Remember to check out our previous WTMH? articles for more chance to win the incredible bundle worth over £1800!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Remember to listen to WTMH? What The Mental Health? Our brand new podcast available over on Apple. Our first Episode ‘Introductions’ is available now and we will have a new one ready for you next week!