5 Ways to Use Notion for Better Mental Health
Is technology bad for your mental health?
We access meditation soundtracks through YouTube, Spotify or apps; we FaceTime our loved ones who live overseas; we attend therapy online…
It all depends on our INTENTION.
And that begins with our self-awareness and mindfulness.
Today I am going to talk about this backbone of my life – the secret of balancing (almost) every aspect of my life while maintaining a strong vision and productivity.
(P.S. not sponsored.)
I started using it in early 2020 and I don’t know what I would do without it.
It IS game-changing.
I am going to walk you through my Notion setup that helped me improve my mental health and my life in general. Now of course, you can still replicate the process with pen and paper or other apps. I just love how versatile and flexible Notion is, and I can store everything in one hub without switching apps (templates included below!).
What Makes Good Mental Health? 🫀
Good question. To sum up briefly, it is a state of well-being in which you are in good physical health, you can regulate your emotions, manage stress, and more importantly have the resilience to face every challenge that comes your way.
It’s okay. Life is tough, but YOU ARE TOUGHER.
Mental health improvement is a continuous journey.
If we really look into it, it is about the things we do on a daily basis: our habits and routines.
Are we sleeping enough?
Are we exercising every day?
Are we maintaining a healthy diet (with occasional guilty pleasure?🥜🍯)
Today, I am going to reveal all the habits I picked up over the years to maintain my physical and mental health – with Notion.
You don’t have to follow my advice. I am just showing you what worked for me – all the habits that helped me navigate dark times and uncertainties, and routines that made me become stronger.
P.S. if you’re interested in my story, here’s the video.
1 Journaling 📝
As I always emphasise, there is no self-development without self-awareness (credit to Steven Bartlett).
To raise your awareness, you need to pay attention to your life, your thoughts and emotions. You will not grow when you operate on auto-pilot (a.k.a. being mindless). And there is no better way to train your awareness through journaling.
The Scientific Research of Journaling
Studies found that journaling can reduce overall levels of depression and symptoms of anxiety (1). Through laying thoughts out (both positive and negative) on paper (or digitally, if you will), we are able to analyse our own thinking and logic in a less emotional way, so that we can response, rather than to react to situations.
Often times we get so caught up in our heads by overwhelming emotions. We are all emotional creatures, but we don’t always have to engage with our own thoughts.
We are not our thoughts.
Similar to meditation, journaling gives you a clear mind by separating what’s happening in your head and what’s REALLY happening.
There is also something powerful by naming our emotions. When we can label how we are feeling, we better articulate our thoughts and emotions, and we can actually do something about it.
If you’re still not convinced, let’s see what Professor Dumbledore have to say on Pensieve, a device to store his thoughts memories:
‘This? It is called a Pensieve,’ said Dumbledore. ‘I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind … It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.’
– “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling
This is why I name my daily journal Notion page “Pensieve”. Yes, Notion is the Pensieve for muggles! You can duplicate my daily journaling template here.
The good thing is that you don’t need to spend hours writing an essay on how your day went. Journaling isn’t necessarily a writing exercise, but a mental exercise to review what happened, and to reflect. Using a few bullet points to sum up what happened in the day, describe your emotions, express gratitude, and set the intention for next day will do.
You will start seeing and living your life differently.
Speaking of gratitude…
Journaling and Gratitude
I believe that gratitude is the solution to many problems.
When we feel grateful, our mind has no space for worries and anger.
Gratitude is a mindfulness practice.
Gratitude requires us to have a change in perspective and look at things in ways we never imagined before.
Studies show that gratitude can increase optimism, improve quality of sleep and generally promote long-term well-being.
Watch my video here about 5 valuable lessons journaling taught me.
2 Thought Record 📃
This is an extended concept from journaling that I personally found very helpful in my personal therapy.
In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), our thoughts, emotions and behaviours form a cycle:
For example, if you received a piece of bad news, you start having negative thoughts and you start feeling depressed, which might prompt you to make rash decisions and act strangely.
To really analyse ourselves, we almost have to interrogate everything we think, feel and do. This is how the thought record works:
First outline the situation. Pay attention to our body sensations. Our body reactions often reflect how we are feeling in any particular moment, for example sweating, feeling dull in our stomachs, increased heart rate etc. Then we can rate the feeling and illustrate the subsequent thoughts.
When we feel distressed, we often engage in some thinking styles which are not helpful at all. In psychology it’s called cognitive biases. It is our job to spot those thought patterns and come up with alternate thoughts so that we can regulate our emotions.
It is not easy. Sometimes it might feel like we are forcing ourselves to be optimistic. But we get better with deliberate practice. And in this thought record, there is actually a column to rate how much do you believe in the alternative thought. We can slowly train ourselves to see things as they are, without emotions and judgments.
Copy my thought record Notion template here.
Also see how I journal and use thought record on Notion in this video here.
3 Habit Tracker 📈
As I mentioned in the beginning, mental health improvement is a continuous journey.
Human beings are creatures of habits. Where we are at today is also the results of our routines.
Don’t underestimate the power of baby steps. Especially when you first start a habit.
Working out for 15 minutes today feels like nothing. 🏋🏻♀️
Swapping coke for a green smoothie today doesn’t sound impressive enough. 🧃
But everything will add up.
Both good and bad habits will stack up and impact our lives in different ways.
This is the power of compound interest.
So pick carefully. Be intentional and mindful about our choices.
We also have to constantly monitor and tweak our habits to make sure we are on track.
This is where Notion comes in: monitor, track, generate report and get a sense of satisfaction and momentum from your streaks.
My current habit tracker is linked to other databases which is a template from a paid coaching program and I will not share here. However the basis of any habit tracker is all the same: date, habit with checkboxes. Mine just has extra sum-up function to calculate my weekly streak automatically. This is the one I have been using before I decided to not categorise them by month.
4 My Favourite Things Checklist ☑️
In times of chaos and uncertainties, we all need something that we can hold onto.
Like an anchor.
It’s beneficial to curate a list of all your favourite things that you can access anytime, anywhere that gives you a sense of security and comfort.
In Notion, you can easily curate such a list and link all the products you might need.
My comforting (and “me time”) list consists of Harry Potter (Kindle, audiobook and movies), hot chocolate and lofi music. I have all the links and recipes embedded in the list for easy access.
Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to give ourselves a breather.
We all need time to unplug and chill.
5 SOS Pack 📦
Similar to the checklist above, you can create an SOS pack for emergency situations. An essential checklist for panic attacks, anxiety of depression crisis.
You can list out everything that worked for you in the past in order:
- Deep breathing
- Ice pack
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Guided meditation
So that you can better manage your mental health.
Here are more grounding techniques that I learnt from therapy.
Looking for Guidance?
Bonus: Using Notion for Notetaking (Mental Health Edition)
Notion is a popular project management and notetaking system. If you are already attending therapy, you can write and store all your notes on Notion, which syncs across all your devices. I stored my thought record and other reflections in one page, and I could easily access them during sessions with my phone.
We can improve our mental health while utilising technology.
Notion has been a game changer. It let me take control, ownership and keep track keep track of everything that’s going on in my life.
It might take a while to set things up, but treat it like an experiment – leverage the flexibility of Notion and it will definitely add value to your mental health and quality of life.
Here’s a summary of all the links of my Notion templates (just click duplicate and start using them!):
Need more tools and resources to live a better life?
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