How I Use A Field Notes Pocket Notebook To Help Me Manage My Mood Disorder

I have always been the kind of girl who likes to write down my thoughts. 

I started keeping a journal when I was 12 years old and was given the gift of a basic one-year diary for Christmas. It was the kind of diary that has about four lines per day, which suited me fine as a kid whose journal entries were no longer than a sentence. 

In my later teens, I rediscovered journaling after watching The Basketball Diaries with Leonardo DiCaprio. My journal entries extended to pages and pages, and I filled my journals up with all of the colourful emotions of my adolescence. Actually, "colourful" may not be the best descriptive word for them, dark and looming emotions are a much better fit. 

It's so interesting to look back through my old journals now and be able to see my cyclothymic mood swings in retrospect. I was only diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder last year, and I'm in my thirties, so before that, I just thought that I must be "doing life wrong". I always had the niggling feeling that my emotions and experiences were a lot more intense than they should be. And now it all makes much more sense!

I still keep a journal, but I have also started to carry a small everyday pocket notebook. The brand I am using is Field Notes. They are a bit pricey for such a small notebook, but the size is precisely why I like them so much. 

In this blog post, I am going to talk about how I am using my Field Notes notebook to help me manage some of the symptoms of my mood swings. So keep reading if you're curious to find out more...

Beautiful Journals Vs. Scrappy Pocket Notebooks

Not everyone is a natural-born writer (like I am, ahem!) Maybe you are one of those people who freezes at the sight of a blank page, having not written more than a grocery list since you left school. Or maybe you just don't have the time to sit down and ruminate on your personal thoughts as there are much more important things to do like watch Netflix or use your best friends as therapists. 

I get that. Sometimes I find myself sitting down with my journal and I have to force myself to quickly write up what happened in my day so that I can get back to doing those much more important things. Sometimes journaling can feel more like a chore.

I do believe that when used correctly, journals can be great tools of reflection that can really help to manage mood swings if you have the patience and interest to use your journal consistently. I highly recommend them, but for those of you who don't want to keep a journal, you should try to keep a pocket notebook instead.

What's the difference? I hear you ask. 

Well, there is quite a difference in the way I use my beautiful leather journal and my scrappy pocket Field Notes notebook. If like me, you are someone who suffers from cyclothymia, or if your own personal affliction is one of the other bipolar disorders, depression, anxiety, or if you are simply a super busy or creative kind of person, you will know that having a head jam-packed full of racing thoughts, ideas, inner monologue, and snippets of random information, conversations or song lyrics kind of comes with the territory. I use my pocket notebook as a means to get all of this chaos and noise out of my head. 

Because it is small and light enough to be kept in a pocket or handbag, as long as I have my trusty pencil with me, I can just whip it out and jot down a few notes. Transferring information from my spinning head into my notebook really does seem to help me. 

I just feel better going about my day not having to feel anxious that I can't keep up with all of my thoughts because they are all safely stored in between the pages, waiting for me to flip back through if ever I feel I want or need to recall them.

A simple pocket notebook doesn't seem to have that sense of expectation that an attractive journal has, which makes them far less intimidating to use. It doesn't matter if you forget to use it for a few days or even weeks either, it's just there in your pocket ready for when you need it.

Why Do I Choose A Small & Thin Pocket Notebook?

The Field Notes brand of pocket notebooks is my favourite because I can get through one of them pretty quickly. This means that I am more likely to go back through my notes before I move onto a fresh new notebook, as I like to flip through the old one to make sure that there isn't anything in there that I want to follow up on. 

Much of the content is useless, shopping lists, wish lists, random quotes from conversations that struck me as interesting... but going back through the pages helps to relieve any anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed like I can't keep up with myself.

it also gives me the opportunity to sit down when I have more time and organise or write up my notes in the relevant places - for example, dates or events can go on the calendar, work notes can be put in the relevant section of my planner, and anything else can be discarded or ignored.

There are other brands you can use like Moleskine, and even cheaper generic notebooks, which are probably a better option if you need your notebook to be disposable (it can be extremely satisfying to chuck a notebook away once you have sorted through its contents!) 

I want to keep my notebooks after they have been filled though, because I am a writer, and I never know when writer's block is going to rear its ugly head. It's fun to look back at some of the random notes, and they can spark new ideas or remind me of the things that I have forgotten about myself or the people I come across in my life. 

Field Notes have a rather lovely wooden archive box the perfect size to store old Field Notes notebooks, and the notebooks themself come with different collectible cover designs, which is kind of fun too. 

I treated myself to a fancy Palomino Blackwing pencil and brass pencil cap while I was at it, just to entice me to whip out my notebook whenever inspiration strikes - be it at the bus stop, in the supermarket, or when I am walking the dog. Again, this probably isn't necessary, but I like to do things in style.

I have to say that my Field Notes shopping spree did happen during a somewhat hypomanic mood swing. But even though I spent far more in total than anyone should really spend on notebooks and pencils, I don't regret it. I know my purchases are not only going to bring me a lot of pleasure, but they are also going to help clear my mind, and you can't put a price tag on that when you have a mood disorder! 

(I think I spent over a hundred pounds in total. I bought several different editions of the notebook, the wooden box, my fancy pencils, and the brass cap - all at once - yikes! You know what it's like though, once you get something in your head in that state of mind. It is my birthday next week, so I'm justifying it by saying it was my birthday gift to myself. I won't tell you what other "birthday gifts" I bought for myself during that up-mood though!)

Let me know in the comments if you like to journal or use a notebook to help manage your moods. Share details of your hypomanic spending sprees too, if only to make me feel better about mine...

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Thanks for reading x

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  1. Being able to jot things down on paper has some sort of therapeutic effect for me that doing things electronically can never match.

    I’ve always liked the size and thickness of field notes brand. Good quality paper.. but honestly they’re a bit expensive for what they are. I’m pretty sure there are very close copies to this for far less money.

    I’m a journal writer.. but not every day. Most of my entries are either doodling or jotting down reminders or ideas. More than anything else, writing calms me a bit and helps me feel organized. I have a Filofax and love scribbling away in it.

    Didn’t you used to write in a Midori notebook/journal?

    1. Hi Dave :) Yes! I love love love my Midori, it's my main journal, I write in it regularly. I totally agree with you that physical writing when it comes to journaling is far more therapeutic and hands-on than using a computer. As for the field noted, they are way over priced for what they are, but I gained a fascination for them. There are definitely cheaper versions that are pretty much the same thing though. I also have a Filofax which I use daily. I actually use mine to track my moods, I have charts and a graph which is very useful for seeing what my moods are doing visually. Very interesting.

  2. On the Amazon site there’s a nice looking alternative to Field Notes; it nearly had the same name. I doubt the paper is nearly as good as the Field Notes brand.

    I’m trying out a newer Filofax product.. their notebooks with removable/movable pages. Interesting so far. Will work well at work.

    The Midori Traveler is such a classy journal. Makes one “want” to write.

    I use the Filofax Classic (It think it’s one of their original designs reissued a few years ago)

    These are one of the little tools that can calm me.

    1. Thanks for your comments Dave. I think what I find attractive about "Field Notes" is that the brand has a bit of a cult following, similar to that of Moleskine. They also put out special edition covers and offer a subscription service, which I think is fun. But you are right, they are overpriced little notebooks and there are plenty of alternatives that are essentially the same thing if anyone is looking for something that does the same job.

      The Filofax Notebooks with removable pages do look pretty good, and a great idea. I hope they are working out for you!

      Yes, you can't beat the classy Traveler's Company Notebook, my favourite, hands down... and the older versions of Filofax are always going to be timeless beauties, I have a vintage one that I adore!


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I write about a variety of topics, including mental disorders (like bipolar, cyclothymia, depression and anxiety) but also everyday mental health challenges and self-care tips. Subscribe to my mailing list and never miss a post...