Something that changed my life was the ritual of writing in my happy journal every day. It makes me more appreciative during the day to day; ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you they’ve heard me say “That’s going in my happy journal!” It also makes me smile at least five times a month. Every Wednesday, I read every entry from the past week and compile my Weekly Happiness post, and at the end of every month I read every entry from the past four weeks and make my Top Ten Things list. It’s a great way to get consistent rewards; I’m constantly reminded of the good things I’ve experienced.
Whether you call it a happy journal, a gratitude journal, or a nice notebook, it’s something I recommend to everyone. It will alter your perspective, I guarantee it. It’s not an easy transition, though! Here are eight tips for keeping a gratitude journal:
1) Choose a system that works for you, be it digital or paper. I prefer a tangible notebook, but you might be more inclined to participate if you can record it on your laptop or phone. Whatever it is, make it aesthetically pleasing. Buy yourself a beautiful new blank book , or decorate a plain one. Choose a font and header in your digital document that makes you smile. Make it a place you want to come to.
2) Create a routine and stick to it strongly for two weeks. Ideally, you want to stick to the routine every day for the rest of forever, but the reality of it is that you’re going to miss days. There are going to be some days where you’re too tired or you simply forget. But don’t let that happen in the first two weeks! Build that structure. I personally recommend doing it before you go to bed, but if you feel like doing it when you wake up in the morning, make that work for you. Either way, make it a priority to write every day in the same way for fourteen days. After that, you will be more likely to remember. It will be a part of your lifestyle.
(Yes, a non-daily schedule is an option. Could you think about he past week every Sunday evening? Of course! It might be a little more difficult to build that structure at the beginning, though.)
3) Think about good things. As you go about your day, pay attention to your body chemistry and physical reactions to joy. It will become easier to identify future happy moments. Do your best to find the silver (sparkly) linings, and be that “glass half full” kind of person.
4) Feel free to include everything. Lots of people ask me what I write in my journal. The answer is anything I want. Think of things that happened that day. Maybe it made you smile, laugh, or gave you goosebumps. It can be something you did or accomplished, or something you got relief from not doing. It can be something someone else did for you, or something you witnessed occur outside of yourself. It can be a thought you had, a goal you created, or a general appreciation for an aspect of life. (Examples: dancing with your friend, finishing your workout, not having to deal with a nasty coworker, your significant other buying you an ice cream cone, a stranger freestyle rapping in the street, the idea that all people are beautiful, deciding to stop smoking, or realizing how easy it is to get a candy bar at 4 in the morning.)
5) Write in a format that appeals to you. It’s your jorunal. Do you want to write a giant list? Do you want to write more of a journal entry, in paragraph form, documenting your day? Do you want to highlight keywords? Do what feels right.
6) Establish a minimum effort. Decide how many things you need to recognize each day. Three? Five? Just one? The reason I say this is because there are going to be days where you feel depressed and hopeless. It’s a natural part of life. This is a test, though. If you feel sad and cynical all day, and can still meet your minimum requirement for listing what you’re grateful for, the journal is working. This may be the most important day of all to document. It pushes you further, and forces positivity.
7) Don’t be afraid. This is a safe space, and you can do what you want with it. Don’t limit yourself. Feel free to include quotes, drawings, and momentos. You could paste in a movie stub ticket or club entry wrist band into your journal from a fun night out, or copy and paste a photo you took of the most gorgeous cotton candy sunset into your file.
8) Get the juices flowing with a general list. It might be hard to jump right in, and even if you’re super confident, I recommend starting this adventure by writing a giant list of things you love and bring you joy. Can you get to 100? Try really hard. After a while, you’re going to tap into a part of your brain that you might not be used to using. To get to 100 things, you’re really going to have to reflect on life. It will be a great preliminary mindset.
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Do you keep a gratitude journal already? Please share your experiences!
Check out this free printable of 10 different ways you can keep a Happy Journal!