If you’re like most people, you were brought up to believe success begets happiness.
In other words, if you get that promotion, get accepted into that Ivy League college, lose 14 pounds … then you will be happy.
Make sense, right?
There’s only one problem…
…it’s completely backward.
In the 1990s, Harvard lecturer, Shawn Achor, conducted the largest-ever study on happiness and human potential, and in his book, The Happiness Advantage, Achor outlines seven principles for improving performance and gaining a competitive edge at work.
One of Achor’s most remarkable discoveries was also one of the most practical:
People who practice gratitude every day are happier and more optimistic.
With thousands of scientific studies confirming its benefits and countless entrepreneurs adopting is as part of their morning ritual (including Tim Ferriss), few things in life are integral are as integral as practicing gratitude.
It’s no surprise, then, two entrepreneurs—Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas—distilled the best gratitude practices into one concise, practical resource:
In this article, you’ll learn why journaling is effective in boosting positivity, and more importantly, how to implement a daily gratitude routine in your life.
Let’s get started.
Note: the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to purchase the Five-Minute Journal, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Simply put, I earn a few extra pennies to put toward my next Five-Minute Journal purchase.
The Five-Minute Journal Questions
There are six features to the Five-Minute Journal, each with its own goal.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Part 1. Morning
1. Inspiring Quotes/Weekly Challenges
If you’re like most people you enjoy reading inspiring quotes (who doesn’t?).
And if you do, you’ll love the Five-Minute Journal.
Because it features wisdom from many of the cleverest minds in art, business and beyond.
And that’s not all…
The weekly challenges, which occur once a week, encourage you to step out of your comfort zone (where real growth happens) and do something that scares you.
From reconnecting with an old friend to going a day without complaining, the Five-Minute Journal is full of exercises to create more spontaneity in your life (and boost your mood in the process).
If there’s one Success Principle that’s had more impact on my life and work than any other it’s this:
Quality questions create a quality life.
When you ask empowering questions, like “What am I grateful for?”, it changes what you focus on and how you feel. Moreover, it redirects your attention to resources that weren’t available before.
Each day, with the Five-Minute Journal, you’re invited to write down three things you’re grateful for.
These can vary from the warm bed you sleep in, your body that’s working in perfect harmony, your friends, and more.
3. What Would Make Today Great?
If you’ve ever read any good self-improvement books, you’re likely familiar with a part of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS).
Simply put, the RAS is responsible for regulating wakefulness and sleep-wake transitions…
…but it’s also responsible for determining the lens through which you perceive reality.
In other words, when you ask yourself, “What would make today great?” you’re not only influencing your RAS to point out and engage in activities that will improve your wellbeing; you’re building new pathways in your brain that allow you to “see” what you can do to improve your happiness every day.
Imagine for a moment you want to build more self-confidence.
So, every day, you wake up and write down, “I’m confident and comfortable in my own skin.”
On your way to work, you pass a beautiful stranger. Your eyes meet. They smile, flirtatiously. You return the favor.
As you continue to about your day—and take note of more reference experiences that further your new belief—you comment to yourself, “Ah, this must be happening because I’m confident and comfortable in my own skin.”
This isn’t fantasy; this is how you prime your brain to accept new beliefs.
The Daily Affirmation is for this very purpose: to commit to writing the person you’re committed to becoming.
Do this often enough, and in time, you become the very person you once wrote about.
Part 2. Evening
5. List 3 Amazing Things That Happened Today
Through rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees in 7 companies, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer discovered a remarkable discovery:
Employees who experienced consistently positive emotions, strong motivation and favorable perceptions of their organization were those who celebrated their small-wins.
In their own words,
Our research inside companies revealed that the best way to motivate people, day in and day out, is by facilitating progress—even small wins.
The best time to celebrate small-wins?
In the evening before bed.
A book recommendation from a friend. A beautiful walk in the park. The barista remembering how you like your cappuccino … there are countless small-wins in your life each day.
Are you taking note of them?
6. How Could You’ve Made The Day Better
Every evening, after putting his things in their place and enjoying a meal with friends, Benjamin Franklin would examine his day by asking an important question:
“What good have I done today?”
Similarly, in the Five-Minute Journal, you’re invited to ask yourself, “How could I have made today even better?”
Let’s imagine, returning to the previous example of building more self-confidence, you wanted to approach the beautiful stranger you passed on your way to work, but couldn’t muster the courage.
Maybe you didn’t know what to say. Or, you did, but your existing habit of shyness prevented you from doing so.
In response to, “How could I have made today even better?”, you might write down, “I could have complimented them,” or, “I could have asked them their name.”
Over time, completing exercises like the above shift how you look at obstacles and help you automatically take the action you actually want to take.
The Five Minute Journal DIY
Before buying the book, I adapted the Five-Minute Journal template to Evernote.
It worked for awhile, but over time, I realized having the physical book is more beneficial. It does more than remind you to write each day; it records your progress for years to come.
Before writing my article, I read through a few entries. I couldn’t believe how much my life and work had changed since beginning seven months prior. I would never have experienced the same nostalgia had I continued writing in Evernote.
Journaling isn’t for everyone, but it’s made a remarkable impact on my life. I hope it will for you, too.
How do you practice gratitude in your life? Leave a comment below.