The 5 Minute Journal
If you have been interested in health and well-being for a while I'm sure you've heard the phrase 'Gratitude Journal' thrown around. Or, on the other hand if you're new to reading up on well-being and the health of your outlook and mind the sound of a gratitude journal may seem a very wishy washy, spiritual step too far or it sounds like a thing you'll try once then never realistically keep doing.
Well, at the beginning of this year I decided to optimistically begin keeping a very basic journal for noting things I was grateful for in my day. At the end of each day I would simply write one thing I was grateful for in my normal diary. It lasted for a while but I quickly began to forget but more than that I noticed it wasn't really having any effect on me. It wasn't helping me constructively look at aspects of my life and I began to felt my points of gratitude were becoming heartless or insincere.
So, I began researching... many people have different ways that work for them when keeping a gratitude journal and I feel there's lots of people out there advising to everyone they should start a gratitude journal however, I found most people's advise vague or non constructive or not necessarily giving me any lasting impact, therefore, I wasn't going to keep up with my journaling. But, then I came across 'The 5 Minute Journal' which was originally created by two guys, UJ Ramdas and Alex Ikonn in 2013. UJ came from a background of behavioural science and prior to the journal had helped hundreds of people to find more meaning in their lives. Alex came from a slightly different background, working with high quality hair extensions. But together one day on a hike they thought up this simple yet SO SO effective tool which is 'The 5 Minute Journal'.
UJ was already performing daily gratitude rituals in the morning and at night these guys basically worked together to create a physical journal to make it even easier for people to purchase and really stick to. However, when I came across the idea I wasn't too convinced with purchasing the physical journal myself. Instead I bought my self a new cheap and cheerful note book and christened it My 5 Minute Journal!!
Basically you don't need to buy anything fancy you can just follow the guidelines of what to include in your journalling.
The process is split into two parts, your morning journalling and then again in the evening.
1. On waking you need to write 3 things which you are grateful for! They don't have to be huge, out of this world claims they just have to be genuine. It may be quite hard at the beginning especially if you're a novice to the gratitude thoughts. I found that I had never stopped to really think about the small things that I am so grateful for. Try to enjoy these few minutes thinking about the things you're grateful for and really try to be present whilst thinking about them and writing them down. Just remember don't put pressure on yourself it really can be anything from 'I'm grateful for the really good night sleep I just had', to 'I'm grateful for my healthy strong body' or 'I'm grateful for the cup of hot chocolate I had before bed'
2. NEXT... you then go on to write 3 things that will make today a great day! Now, stay with me, this may sound time consuming and a little wishy washy but you will get used to it and if you think about how many things you actually do in a day just thinking about three things you actually want to do and that will reward you at the beginning each day is a small task in the grand scheme of things.
3. The last step before you begin your day is to write an affirmation! The guys in their journal leave a space for just the one and at the beginning I also only wrote the one, but after playing around with it and hearing some people discuss the tool of affirmations I have gradually began to write more and more of them each day.
So, what is an affirmation? Let's let Google tell us...
The action or process of affirming something.
Emotional support or encouragement
The combination of these is the perfect thing for you to have in mind! This is exactly what you are going to take five minutes to do for yourself everyday. So often we are continuously giving emotional support and encouragement to everyone else in our lives and rarely do we do this for ourselves. I always like to think about treating myself like I would my best friend. Affirmations also play a huge part in the tool of visualisation (another huge topic I will definitely cover in a post). You can use this moment in the day to affirm who you are, what makes you you, and to affirm you as the person you want to become. Here are some great examples and more explanations via the Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-carmen-harra/affirmations_b_3527028.html .
Then we fast forward to the evening this is where you complete your journaling. I normally choose to do this just before going to bed.
Now you write 3 things which made your day good (amazing)!
Again, they can be as small or as big as you want them to be! It's a really great time to look over your day and really acknowledge all the amazing things you've done and also all the good that has happened throughout the day. It brings you into the present and makes you very aware of all that's happening to you in the here and now!
And one final step is to name on thing that you could have done to make the day better! Now.... I know that initially this may sound like a negative thought to leave the day on and some people don't like 'The 5 Minute Journal' for this reason, however, I don't see it as a negative. This is one of the most significant tools that this journal set up offers! The reason we are writing this journal is not just for us to look back on in 5 years time and admire your daily routine. We are writing this as a tool to check in with ourselves, to continuously be checking that we are doing things on a daily basis to promote our happiness and well-being. For example, if you are always writing the same thing that could have made your day better then you need to take the time to think about this, how can you change something in your day to ensure you do have that five minutes with a cup of tea to watch your favourite programme, or taking the time to call your mum, or cooking dinner for you and your partner. You are in control of your happiness and the 5 minute journal gives you an up to date tally of how you're getting on and to hold yourself accountable for your happiness.
I couldn't praise this set up of journalling enough, it really does help. It has left me feeling clearer in my mind and really helps me continuously move forward with getting to know myself and learning what makes me feel good and grounded every day.
Here's a photo below of how the actual Journal looks if you were to buy it but also some shots of my journal and how I scribble it down. I have already filled two notebooks since beginning and I definitely won't look back.
But, I do just want to make one final point... whatever you do, do not beat yourself up if you miss a day or don't complete a day, it takes time to create new habits and we're all only human! It's is not life or death that you complete this journal, but I promise you if you take the time and really give it a good go you will not regret it and the benefits that you reap will be life changing.