How To Increase Happiness In 5 Minutes A Day with a Gratitude Journal

Heather Dessinger

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According to happiness researchers (which include neuroscientists, economists, and academic researchers), this one thing can help us sleep better, make us more likely to reach our goals, improve relationships, experience improved immune function and lower stress levels I started doing it last year and it has been a great experience. Can you guess what it is?

Am I doing enough?

Or am I doing TOO MUCH busywork and missing the important stuff? (And what is the important stuff, exactly? Am I supposed to have a sticky floors and happy children or sticky children and happy floors? Why does anything have to be sticky? Is there a checklist I haven’t been told about????????)

If you popped a thought bubble over my head when my oldest was little, this is more or less the internal conversation you would have seen. On the one hand motherhood was the most amazing, rewarding job I could have imagined, and on the other it felt a lot like Groundhog Day.

Change diapers. Make meals. Dishes. Repeat.

I wanted to savor every moment, every snuggle, every “wuv you mama” . . . . but I also wanted a shower and five minutes alone.

Finding joy in the day-to-day life of motherhood has been a messy, beautiful, sometimes frustrating process, and though (SPOILER ALERT) I don’t have it all figured out, I want to pass along one habit that has truly made my days happier.

Last year I – the person who DOES NOT JOURNAL – started keeping a gratitude and goal journal. Specifically, I started The Five Minute Journal, because if the potami are left alone for longer than that they might open a wormhole to another universe and send one of our chickens through. You can use whatever you want, although if you’re tackling some big goals this year and want some support it’s a great option. (Some of the writing prompts are specifically designed to help individuals stay passionate about their goals, while others focus more on overall happiness.)

So why start a gratitude journal? For me, a main motivation was to help with adrenal recovery and stress management, but I have discovered many more benefits along the way.

Benefits Of Keeping A Gratitude Journal

Happiness researchers – yes, real academic researchers, neuroscientists and even economists – are now intensely studying what makes us happy, how to increase happiness, and how to live the good life. Near the top of that list is practicing gratitude, and one of the best ways to cultivate thankfulness is to keep a gratitude journal. Here are just a few benefits of incorporating gratitude into daily life:

  1. A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. That’s the same impact as doubling your income!” (source)
  2. “Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.” (Source: Forbes)
  3. People who keep gratitude journals are more likely to make progress toward important personal goals (Source: Dr. Emmons, UC Davis).
  4. Practicing gratitude is associated with several health benefits, including a lower blood pressure, improved immune function, and more energy. (source)
  5. Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier and helps us relax. (source)
  6. It also improves our marriages, friendships and relationships with family. (source)
  7. When you have a hard day (and we all do), it can be helpful to read through the journal and be reminded of all the beautiful and good things in your life.

For more benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, check out the research on Happier Human and the Forbes article, 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude

According to happiness researchers this one thing can help us sleep better, make us more likely to reach our goals, improve relationships, experience improved immune function and lower stress levels I started doing it last year and it has been a great experience. Can you guess what it is?

Tips For Keeping A Gratitude Journal

There are no rules for keeping a gratitude journal, but if you’re just starting out here are some tips that may be helpful:

Keep your journal beside your bed

That way it’s easy to remember to write when you first wake up or just before bed. The journal I use actually has prompts for both morning and evening. The morning starts with “I am grateful for . . .” and the evening ends with “3 Amazing things that happened today . . . ” Both have different advantages, so I do both.

The evening prompt also has a section called “How could I have made today better?” that I love. It helps me look at my day objectively and imagine what I would do differently if I had a “do-over.” I often encounter the same (or a similar) situation sometime after, and the time I spent consciously analyzing the situation (rather than just beating myself up for how I handled it) helps create a better outcome.

Keep it simple

Despite the fact that I journal twice a day, the total time I spend is usually about three minutes in the morning and two minutes before bed. Don’t feel obligated to write a novel – short and sweet totally works!

Commit to doing it for at least three weeks

There are two reasons for this:

  • It takes awhile to establish a new habit, so it’s helpful to commit to a certain period of time and then set reminders for yourself (via phone, calendar, etc.) until it become part of your routine.
  • The effect of keeping a gratitude journal becomes stronger over time, so committing to do it for three weeks, or six, or whatever seems right to you gives time to start seeing the benefits.

Have you ever kept a gratitude journal? What was your experience?

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Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

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12 thoughts on “How To Increase Happiness In 5 Minutes A Day with a Gratitude Journal”

  1. It is interesting to watch science catch up to the Bible! How many many many times in the Bible are we encouraged to be thankful, to rejoice, to sing, etc. King David would pour out his complaints to God but so often end in thankfulness despite his circumstances. It is not a sin not to, but God knows what happiness it brings to us, how it enriches our lives , when we do! Thank you, Heather, for this great post! I laughed in the first section as it is the thought bubble of my days with a 2 and 4 year old!!!! God bless you!

    • Wonderful thoughts, Elise! Reading this, I had the same thought about how many times the Bible encourages us to give thanks and to do everything with cheerfulness. It is for our own good! Now if science would only give God credit!

  2. Love your blog, and I say sticky kids and sticky floors. This is a wonderful way to learn to be thankful, and love Elise’s comment too.

  3. Another question, Heather. If you are using the journal and the happiness/gratitude jar, do you usually list the same things in both places, or are you using them in different ways? I like the idea of the jar for use with my child (who doesn’t read/write yet), but the journal has other prompts that might be helpful for me personally. Just wondering if you are using both at the same time and how that has worked for you.

  4. Just wanted you to know that your blog is enjoyed by grandmothers, too! I have gleaned a lot of very useful information and links over the past year from you. And this one on journaling has answered a prayer for me. With iPad in hand, and iJournal APP open…. I am grateful!