I first came across The Five Minute Journal when watching YouTube vloggers sharing their relaxing yet productive morning routines. I was interested to find out more about the journal, so I checked out a few video walkthroughs and found that many people were saying it was a life changing practise for them and one which really helped improve their mental health.
As someone who will try anything to improve my health and wellbeing, I decided to give it a go (even though I felt that the journal was quite expensive). I’ve been using it for nearly two weeks now, and I’m really enjoying it and benefitting from the quiet thinking time it provides first thing in the morning and last thing at night. So, today, I thought I’d share my thoughts on The Five Minute Journal, my experiences of using it and ways in which it’s helping me.
What is The Five Minute Journal?
The Five Minute Journal is a product created by Intelligent Change and is one of a small number of tools which promises to positively change your life in just five minutes a day. The company claim that you will love the journal for five very particular reasons:
- It’s the simplest thing you can do to be happier – due its focus on positivity, structured approach whilst keeping it simple and easy to stay consistent
- It’s built on proven psychology – it’s better to focus on positive behaviour traits and creating simple but effective routines
- It’s a journal for people who don’t write journals – it takes just five minutes a day and so is ideal for time pressed individuals who have always loved the idea of keeping a journal but have, in the past, tended to make excuses for not doing so.
- It’s a snapshot of your positive experiences – it’s a wonderful record of all things positive in your life and just flipping back to a certain day should help evoke the feelings that accompanied the memories.
- It’s a commitment you can stick to – as well as the five minute promise, the book is also full of tips and ideas at the beginning which help you to get started and stay committed to the process
Key features of the book
The Five Minute Journal is a hard back book with a linen cover and comes in an original natural linen covered or a choice of five other colours namely royal blue, earth green, blush pink, bold black and sunshine yellow. I opted for the pink colour but from my research, it looks like the original colour is the most popular choice.
The book consists of over 260 pages, with approximately 30 pages explaining how the journal works at the beginning, 6 months worth of daily journalling pages and 11 ruled pages for notes at the back. The pages are a cream colour and feel like good quality. Having used a ball point pen and not being happy with my handwriting, I have since tried a few different pens out on the note pages at the back with no bleed through so I will be converting to a finer nibbed liquid ink which I use in my bullet journal.
As part of the introductory pages, you are invited to create a written commitment which encourages you to think about your reasons for wanting to keep the journal, a reward which you could give yourself if you stick with writing for 5 days, a promise to yourself if you don’t manage 5 consecutive days and your own ideas of how you can ensure you practise daily. In addition to this, you identify one of your biggest current challenges in life, an identity statement that remedies the challenge, major obstacles to writing on a daily basis and actions you can take to overcome these obstacles.
Each page in the daily journalling section of the book consists of a space to write the date, followed by a motivational quote or a weekly challenge (once every seven days or so) and then a section for morning and night time entries. In the morning, you are advised to write as soon as you wake up as it is the perfect opportunity to set a positive tone for the day. The day time section prompts you to write 3 things you are grateful for, 3 things that would make the day great and one daily affirmation
My thoughts on the process so far
I found the introductory pages to be really useful and made sure I read them all before starting to fill in the daily entries. As well as an explanation of how the journal should be used, it gave tips including:
- write your morning entry as soon as you wake up, even if you can think of excuses not to (e.g. feeling sleepy, might make you late for work etc)
- write your evening entry just before you go to sleep (even if you’re feeling super tired, have a headache or need to get up really early in the morning and should be having an early night etc)
- write things that you are grateful for, even if you don’t yet have them in your life (e.g. I’m grateful to be in a loving and healthy relationship with my perfect partner – law of attraction style)
- try choosing different areas of your life to focus on each day or week if you get stuck e.g. relationships, an opportunity that you have, something great that happened or you saw yesterday, something simple nearby you e.g. the pen you’re holding, your comfortable bed, your cosy pajamas etc.
- get specific with your gratitudes e.g. I’m grateful for my friend x as she encourages me to eat healthily and take some daily exercise etc.
- when writing about things that would make your day great, choose things you have control over, e.g. rather than writing ‘a warm and sunny day’ you could write ‘wearing warm clothes and taking a walk in nature’ or ‘finding time to exercise’
- use the daily affirmation to re-affirm something you already know or repeat something you really want for yourself e.g. I listen to my body and give it what it needs, I take time for rest and relaxation after a busy day, I have the power to create the life I want, I hold the key to my own happiness etc
- use the highlights of the day section to find the positives and special moments you experienced e.g. listening to the birds sing in the garden, coffee, cake and catch up with a good friend, enjoying a brisk walk on the beach, trying out a recipe you found in your magazine and really enjoying the dish etc
- use the ‘What did I learn today?’ section as an opportunity for reflection e.g. ‘taking five minutes to do some stretches first thing helps to wake up my body’ ‘I sleep much better if I avoid social media after 8pm’, ‘I get so much more work done if I keep my desk neat and tidy’ etc
When I first started the journal, I did exactly what it said in the guidance and filled in the morning section whilst still in bed. However, now, I like to take my journal downstairs sometimes (usually during the week) so I can look in my bullet journal to see what commitments I have that day. This makes it easier for me to fill in the ‘What would make my day great?’ section. For example, I might put ‘taking some time to rest and recharge after working on a blog post all morning’ or ‘keeping myself hydrated throughout the day whilst talking to the students’ etc. Things I might not have thought of if I hadn’t taken some time to think.
In terms of my night time entries, where it suggests completion just before going to sleep, I find it better if write mine in bed prior to reading my Kindle. This is because quiet reading whilst lying down often makes me feel incredibly tired (even to the point of dropping off and whacking myself in the face with my Kindle), so I’d rather fill it in when I’m still properly awake. This is working really well for me and I still drift off with a mind relatively empty of thoughts.
At the beginning of the journal, it invites you reward yourself if you manage to write for 5 consecutive days. I really wanted a sunrise alarm clock/lamp so I researched them online and picked one out on Amazon that was relatively inexpensive but had really good reviews. I’m pleased to say I now have the item on my bedside cabinet and I absolutely love it. Plus, it stops me needing to use my phone as my alarm (or as a light if I get up to pop to the loo) which, in turn, means I don’t get tempted to check the various notifications which have appeared overnight before even getting out of bed.
Although I managed to keep up the practice for 5 full days, I’m now on Day 13 and I’ve forgotten to fill in my night time entry a couple of times already. Once, I was drifting off to sleep and remembered and filled it in straightaway but last night, when I got up, I realised I hadn’t done yesterday’s night time section. Rather than chastising myself for forgetting, I simply filled last night’s in first thing this morning and reflected on possible reasons why I’d not remembered to do it – it was on my bedside cabinet under my Kindle but we went to bed quite late and I was very tired (and feeling a little under the weather).
I’m so far really enjoying using my journal but I have found parts of it more challenging to fill in. For me, the gratitude part is easy as I’ve previously done a daily gratitude pages in my bullet journal. I’m also used to identifying activities to fit in to my day that are focused on ‘me time’ so I always have plenty of ideas for this. Creating a daily affirmation is often quite difficult so I’m in the process of creating a page full of encouraging mantras which I’ve found on Pinterest to help me. Writing three highlights for the day is my favourite part of the journalling progress and I always have plenty to write – sometimes I find there’s not enough room here! Finally, jotting down something I’ve learnt that day (the original journal had the question ‘How could I have made today better?’) is probably the hardest part as I’m not used to doing this kind of reflection. I do get something written each time but it takes me quite a while.
Although it’s known as ‘The Five Minute Journal’, I reckon it currently takes me a lot longer to complete – probably at least 10 minutes in the morning and another 10 just before bed. I’m sure as I continue with the process, ideas will pop into my head during the day which I could incorporate into my entries and this will things quicker and easier. If not, I think the process is still really beneficial and well worth persevering with.
I also found that it was a good idea to refer back to my journal throughout the day to re-check my daily affirmation and to remind myself of my three ideas for what would make my day great. I might try making a quick note of these in my BuJo in future to see if that helps further.
The Main Benefits of keeping The Five Minute Journal for me so far
Having used The Five Minute Journal for nearly two weeks now, I can really see how beneficial it is for my health and wellbeing. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
- it helps me set the tone for the day and encourages me to end it on a high note
- it allows me to think about ways in which I can bring more joy to my day rather than focusing wholly on my ever expanding to-do list
- it helps me to set some intentions for the day and then check back in with myself to see how I got on with them
- it helps me find the good in every day, even if I have a super busy (and exhausting) or particularly stressful day, there are plenty of positives if you dig deep to find them
- it’s great for personal development as I spend time reflecting on what I’ve learnt and how this can help me live an even better life
- the ‘what have I learnt today?’ section has helped me reflect on good and bad habits – for example, doing a mindful activity such as my jigsaw helps me to relax and unwind after a busy day (plus it helps me to rest my voice after talking to different groups of students), whereas ruminating over the feedback I gave and ways in which I could have made it even better is pointless and unhelpful
- the daily emails that I signed up for have help me learn different ways to approach filling in the pages so that it doesn’t become a repetitive process
- some of the daily quotes really resonate with me and they all make you think or are a good reminder of things you can do to control your own happiness levels
- the weekly challenge was a really great way of trying something new and exploring how it made me feel – I’ve only completed one so far but I enjoyed it and it made me feel really good afterwards. I’ve flicked forward to see what’s next and I can’t wait to try it!
- daily affirmations are helping me to feel better about myself as a person and also increase my confidence, resilience and motivation to take on new challenges
- although it takes me a bit longer than 5 minutes to fill it in, I do find that it is an incredibly worthwhile practice and that my entries will get better and faster with time
I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out about The Five Minute Journal and reading my initial experiences of using it to promote happiness and personal growth. Let me know in the comments if it sounds appealing of if you’ve given a similar style of journalling a go before.