Journal your way to happiness, in five minutes or less
I’m always on the lookout for simple, science-backed ways to improve my life.
I’ve been reading a great book called 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute. Author Richard Wiseman reviews a bunch of scientific literature in pursuit of simple changes that anyone can make (not unlike my theme for this blog). In one chapter, he proposes an innovative method of journaling devoted to gratitude. (If you’re interested in the supporting studies, I recommend you read his book for more details.)
I’ve experimented with gratitude before. The science around gratitude is impressive and in my own experience, it makes a real difference.
I’m not so sure about the claim of being able to do this in 59 seconds; it’s probably more like five minutes per. But it’s five minutes well spent in the pursuit of happiness. I also recommend doing this first thing in the morning; this way, it stays with you as you go about your day. Here’s what he recommends:
- On Monday, give thanks for three things in the past week. Maybe it’s a good friend, a job you enjoy, a great meal or even a good cup of coffee. It can be anything, even things which seem “trivial”. In fact, there is great power in appreciating trivial things.
- On Tuesday, recall a great time in your life. Spend a few minutes describing the experience and your feelings.
- On Wednesday, imagine your future self in a time in which everything has gone well. You’ve achieved your goals; your personal and professional life feel like “a dream come true.”
- On Thursday, write a short letter to someone who means a lot to you. Tell them what they mean and how they’ve changed your life.
- On Friday, think back over the past week and list three things which went well for you. Again, even if they seem silly.
Richard suggests there is particular power in writing your way through these mental exercises as opposed to merely thinking about them. When left to float throughout our brains freely, our thoughts tend to be disjointed, but writing them down helps us to create structure and make sense of what has happened. (This is also one reason why I take and publish notes on most books I read.)
It’s been a little while since I’ve practiced a gratitude habit like this. I look forward to giving this one a try and hope you may enjoy it too!