Do you like to journal or do you want to journal but struggle to do it consistently? I tried getting into journaling a while back and would do it for a period of time and then find myself not journaling for months. I think sometimes we journal when we really need to get our thoughts and feelings down on paper and then when we’re feeling less expressive, we tend to put it on the back burner.
The thing is that journaling has many benefits, though. It allows us to get clarity on our thoughts and see problems from a different perspective. By writing things out, I’ve been able to find unhealthy patterns that I couldn’t see before and take steps to change them. And when we write about things that are bothering us, they come to have less power over us. What’s also cool about keeping a journal is that you get to see how you’ve progressed over time, and that can be very rewarding.
Now that said, journaling isn’t always for everyone. If journaling makes you feel bad about yourself or your situation then that’s not a good thing. It can be hard to write about difficult things no matter what, but journaling should help you feel like you’re working through them rather than getting stuck on them.
I love to write out my thoughts and feelings about something that is distressing me and then read it back sometime later and see how I’ve been able to progress during that time. But, again, I’m not always doing that type of journaling so I’ve looked for other ways to still get the benefits of journaling. We get the most benefit from journaling when it’s done consistently so I was looking for something that would help me with that, too.
Enter the Five Minute Journal by Intelligent Change. There are many different types of journals out there for different purposes, but this is one I stumbled upon and really liked the idea of and thought you might, too.
What Is the Five Minute Journal?
I don’t remember exactly how I came across the journal but it was back in 2015. One thing about it that appealed to me was the fact that you could do it quickly. Another thing I liked, was how it guided you along. I think that having prompts or some sort of guidance makes it easier to be consistent at it. In fact, this journal was designed based on positive psychology research to make it more likely that you’ll use it consistently.
Another thing I really like about the journal is how it helps you to focus on what’s good in your life and to become more mindful. Practicing mindfulness has been something that’s been extremely helpful to me lately so I like how this journal helps with that. It also gets you to focus on gratitude, which has also been important to me.
One other thing, is that it gets you to focus on your day and what you could do to make it great, or what you could’ve done to make it better.
So How Does It Do These Things, Exactly?
Well, first off, it’s a journal that’s designed to be used twice a day. Since it’s quick to do, it’s not something that feels like a burden, plus it’s helping you to begin and end your day on a positive note. I make it one of the first things I do when I wake up and one of the last things I do when I go to bed.
The Morning Section
The first thing you’ll find is an inspiring quote to start your day. I always look forward to these (well, I love quotes anyway). Once a week there will be a challenge instead. An example of one is, “My favorite song from 5 years ago is _____. Listen to it today.” They’re usually something fun and pretty easy to do. Another one is, “Take a different route to your school / work, etc.”
Then you’ll list three things you are grateful for. This can feel hard to do sometimes, especially if you feel like things aren’t going your way, but there are always some small things we can find. It doesn’t have to be anything huge and it can be the same things each day for a while if need be. The point is to try to focus on the good, no matter how small it is.
Gratitude is known to reduce stress and improve self-esteem, and help us to sleep better. It can improve our overall physical and mental well-being. And focusing on the things we’re grateful for can also make us feel more hopeful. Gratitude has helped me to stay grounded during challenging times and stay more in the moment and really appreciate everything I have in my life.
The next thing you’ll do in the morning is write down what would make today great. I really like this section because it makes you list out three things, that if you complete, will make you feel pretty good about your day. And the act of writing them down will make it more likely we will get them done.
For example, if I write down that sticking to my schedule would make today great and I find myself starting to get off track, I’ll actually remember that I wrote that down and it will basically end up holding me accountable. Or maybe you’ll write down that going for a walk would be one thing that would make your day great. If it’s nearing the end of the day and you haven’t gone for a walk yet, you may remember that you wrote that down in the morning and then you’re more likely to actually go for that walk.
The last thing you’ll do for the morning is list out some affirmations. Now, affirmations work great for some people but they don’t for others. You’re supposed to write out something that you would like to be true about yourself that necessarily isn’t so that your mind will come to think it’s true and then it will become true.
For example, you could say that you are a strong and confident person, but if you feel the complete opposite of that, then you’ll end up feeling bad about yourself when you don’t feel strong and confident. It’s best if you can affirm something that isn’t true for you yet but you know can be true for you. So, if you believe that you can be strong and confident, then that affirmation can work.
When I started writing affirmations, I was writing ones that didn’t feel true to me at all and it didn’t feel right. What I like to focus on now are things I know to be true that I want to reinforce or things that aren’t true yet but that I know will be.
The Evening Section
You’ll start out your evening section by writing down three amazing things that happened today. Now if you’ve accomplished the three things you wrote down earlier in the section on what would make the day great, then those are things you could now list here. But you can also feel free to write down any three things that made your day great. I really like this section too because, like the gratitude section, it’s forcing you to focus on the good.
And it’s okay if you’re having trouble thinking of three things. Again, it can be anything, big or small. Maybe it could even be something that didn’t happen that you were worried about happening. Just try to think of anything that made some sort of positive impact on your day.
The last section is admittedly my least favorite (or it used to be). It’s going to ask you how you could have made today better. Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to focus on how I screwed up. But, it is actually helpful to look at how we could have done something better because that allows us to do it better the next time.
The authors refer to this section as a time machine and say that it allows you to start building a pattern in your life where you look at your problems and the actions you can take to move through them. In time, you can begin to shift how you look at the problems and be able to automatically take the actions you want to take. I wouldn’t say that it’s quite done that for me yet, but I now look at what I can do differently in the future rather than getting upset over what I did (or didn’t) do.
Why I Recommend This Journal
I understand that this journal may not be for everyone, but I’m recommending it because it has been helpful to me. And if you like the idea of journaling but struggle to do it consistently like I have, and you like a journal that guides you along, then this could be right for you, too. I’ve described it all for you here so that you can decide that for yourself.
Personally, I like how this journal helps me focus on the positive things to ensure I have a good day and then allows me to reflect on the day I had. If that’s not a style you like, then that’s okay. Either way, I recommend making some type of journaling part of your routine thanks to all of the benefits it offers. You could even use a notebook and write out your answers for each section I described here and see how you like it and if it makes a difference for you.
I like using the actual journal for all the little extras you get with it. I like seeing the different quote each day or the weekly challenge. Plus, you also get a section in the beginning that will go into more detail of the journal itself and the principles behind it. I think it also looks nicer than just a notebook.
How to Get a Copy
The journal actually comes in two forms. There’s the physical book, which is what I use, and there’s also an app. The physical book is currently $22.95 USD and if you use it every day it will last you 6 months. It’s also important to note that it’s okay if you don’t use it every day. I’m not perfect with it myself. But the more you use it, the more you will benefit from it. So, it could potentially last you longer than 6 months. The price is a little steep for something that will eventually need to be replaced but it is a nice hard cover book. And they offer a subscribe and save option that saves you 10% as well as discounts for bulk orders.
You can check out the physical copy here.
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photo credit: Intelligent Change