Happiness is the way forward. It has become a trend, spanning countries and generations, and it is definitely a trend worth following. Happiness helps build our resilience, develops our confidence, improves our performance at work or school, makes for better relationships, and even positively affects our physical and mental health. In short, Happiness makes our lives better.
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There are a number of specific tools that have been proven to increase our happiness, such as gratitude, exercise and kindness (read about those here). One specific tool is to write a journal. I have been through periods of my life where I have written profusely, everything that happened, and every feeling I had about it went on paper. It took a lot of time, but I really got something out of it. I have also spent years not writing at all… I just didn’t seem to have time, or feel the need to record everything.
Keeping a journal in the traditional sense is not for everyone. Some people love filling pages with all their thoughts and feelings, and some people don’t see the point. Journaling for happiness lies somewhere in between, requiring little time, and involving making the specific choice to focus on the best bits of your day. If you fancy starting a happiness journal, then choosing the right journal for your personality and needs will keep you consistent and more importantly help you enjoy the process.
What should my happiness journal look like?
The whole point of this process is to enjoy it, so my recommendation is to choose one you absolutely love. Whether you like a beautiful elaborate design, a simple block colour cover, or a cover with an inspirational message, or even an understated book that ‘hides’ in your book pile, the more pleasure you feel in the process of using your journal, the more effective it will be.
Should my Happiness Journal have dates?
It really depends. Are you motivated by keeping up to date? or do you find the dates in a diary put pressure on you? Do you need to feel organised, or do you need freedom? When I was a young person, I remember someone gave me a diary. It was the first one I’d ever had, and I immediately felt pressure to ‘keep my diary’ by writing something in it every day… even if it was just what we’d been doing. But then I’d miss a day… then a week… and then I’d end up with such guilt that I wouldn’t pick it up again! Dates in a diary did not work for me. I would have preferred numbered or blank pages. Now though, I have a diary for work, with a full page for each day. I don’t write everything down, but if something cool happens, or I hear a nice quote, or watch an inspiring Ted Talk, I note down the takeaways. I no longer feel pressured by the dates, and find them to be a useful tool.
Should my happiness Journal have lines?
In deciding this, have a think about how you’re going to use it. Do you like to write a lot and fill your pages with text, or do you have large, free form hand writing intermingled with pictures and doodles? Some journals have half and half, and some have a grid or dot pattern too.
Actually it doesn’t, except to you. If you would like to carry your journal around with you, then I would recommend an A5 journal or smaller, and if you’re keeping it at home, then any size that suits you is fine. At home I have a giant A3 sketch book for writing my children’s stories, but for a happiness journal I personally prefer A5, so I can keep it easily beside my bed or carry it in my bag whenever I need to.
What should I write?
Start with gratitude.
You can’t feel grateful and worried at the same time making gratitude one of the most powerful ways to increase your happiness. Spending a little bit of time each day writing about it, allows you to really feel into your gratitude.
Debrief if you need to.
If anything bad has happened during the day, let it slide out of you onto the page and let it go. You can even choose a separate page for this, and then burn it (safely) afterwards.
Choose your best bits.
Write about the best bits of your day. Was someone kind to you? Did you see something beautiful, or run into an old friend? You will always be able to find a best bit (even on a bad day). It may be as simple as leaving work after a hard day. Finding the best bits will help you focus more on what is right in your life.
Ideas and dreams.
What does your happiest day look like? What are your most outrageous and exciting plans? Where do you want to go on holidays? Or just how do you want to feel? Write it all down, imagine it and feel it.
Positive affirmations are simply positive statements of your preferred outcomes. Writing them down will add clout, and help you remember them, so you can say them to yourself throughout the day. I am OK, I am Happy, and I am Brave are really simple one’s to start with, but you can make them as detailed as you like.
You can even use your happiness journal to track your activity and diet and see the impact they are having o your mood!
Plan for happiness.
Make plans for the following day. Think about the things you really like doing, and write them down as a commitment to yourself to do something just for you, that makes you happy each day. (and then write about it again the next day to reinforce the effect).
Prompts for happiness.
Some happiness journals come with ideas prompts and information to help keep you on track. I have written one (Read about Everyday Happy here) which acts as a manual, gratitude journal and happiness prompt, plus there are plenty more on the market.
So which Journal?
Choose a lined journal if you love filling your pages with writing! The choice for lined journals varies from very simple block colour covers like this one from Silvine, to those with beautiful, elaborate cover designs. This Celestial Journal (notebook) from Peter Pauper Press is a lovely example of a simple lined journal with a beautifully bound cover and gorgeous design. Have a closer look here.
Choose a blank journal if you prefer free form writing, and filling in the gaps with pictures and scribbles. This one from Moleskin is a lovely example of design simplicity, whereas if you’re looking for something pretty, the tree design on the Tree of Dreams Journal by Peter Pauper Press is beautiful.
Grid journals come it two types, ruled grids or dot journals aka bullet journals. These add a bit of structure for writing, are great for lists and tracking, and at the same time create a nice space for sketching as well. For a ruled grid I really like this one from LEUCHTTURM1917 or for a very sweet bullet journal this flamingo clad book from The Little Journal Company is lovely.
A note on Dated Journals (Diaries)
Diaries are fantastic for keeping you organised. I use mine for meetings and schedules. I also like to write down inspiring quotes, notes from Ted talks I’ve watched on a specific day, or the main takeaways from a meeting or workshop I’ve attended. However I’m not going to recommend any specific diaries here because the very nature of dated journals and diaries means they run out of date. At the point of writing, the main ones on the market are for the academic year starting in August. You can also purchase them for the financial year, and of course the calendar year.
Dedicated Happiness Journals
It you’re just starting out with happiness journaling, then a dedicated happiness journal might be the best place to start. There a many available, some specifically for children, like The HappySelf Journal by HappySelf, or some specifically for women, such a this beautiful Grateful Heart Journal by Lamare and of course Everyday Happy, written and designed by me. I created Everyday Happy as a tool for managing and recovering from anxiety using specific strategies for happiness. It was written for young people, yet can be easily used by any one of any age.
Like everything else in this blog…
The way you do it is up to you. Don’t get hung up on being perfect, or feel you have to do this every day. You don’t. Do it your way, as often as feels right to you. Beating yourself up over it will defeat the purpose of doing it at all. Our happiness is a habit, the combination of all the small things we do, think and say, everyday. Keeping a happiness journal is simply one tool at your disposal. So, try it out, enjoy it, and see if it makes a positive difference to your happiness.