As some of you know, I’m a personal development blogger, influencer, and podcaster since 2014.
And I have great news. I finally created a journal you can buy! Why? Because I felt that there was room for improvement in the journal market. There are a couple popular journals that I have tried for a couple years, including the Five-Minute Journal.
But I noticed some common problems in the market:
- The journal tries to solve multiple goals at once, including but not limited to: fixing anxiety and stress, improving happiness, reflecting, achieving more success, sticking to a commitment, building habits, and manifesting what you want through visualization. This can lead to confusion or a scattershot of different prompts pulling you in different directions or confusing you on their intent. Affirmations, defining what would make today great, and reflecting on what could’ve been better about the day can turn into something more focused on planning and achieving success, self-esteem, and productivity. They may even trigger regret or other emotions that aren’t conducive towards happiness.
- The journal sometimes takes up 15 minutes a day even though it claims you only need 5 minutes.
- There are too many prompts and too little space to write what you need.
- The people I know in real life who got the journal tried it out for a couple days or weeks and then stopped and never returned to it, even the people most interested in self development.
I also noticed a few areas of improvement just based on my knowledge reading hundreds of personal development, success, and psychology books over the years.
- The science and principles mentioned sometimes miss the mark, at least a bit, almost as if they relied on hearsay rather than the actual scientific literature. For example, the study that people mention to explain gratitude improving happiness also found that doing it too frequently doesn’t help and can actually hurt Because you end up repeating the same things you’re grateful for and start wondering if you have things to be grateful for. Two or three times a week is enough; you don’t need to do it daily.
- Also, research shows that gratitude can also backfire if done improperly or for certain groups of people. If gratitude causes shame, indebtedness, or is performed in a condescending or patronizing way, it won’t have the proper effect. Plus, it isn’t listing something that matters. It’s the genuine feeling of appreciation you must have for it to work. That can be missed based on the prompt.
- Repetition on a daily level often leads to the same entries every day and boredom and monotony. It’s hard coming up with new things to be grateful for or new goals and improvements. You end up with the same conclusions because life doesn’t change that much day-to-day.
- Having to come back to it morning and night can often lead to many unfinished pages and a sense of failure rather than feeling like you’re building a habit.
- Broad questions that put the onus on you to decide what would make today great can sometimes lead you astray in your pursuit of happiness and well-being. Tons of scientific research has shown that we are often mistaken on what brings enduring happiness. What do you think will make you happier usually doesn’t make you as happy as you think and what you think will make you miserable won’t make you as sad as you think. Studies have been done on people before and after they experienced a spectrum of good or bad things. Whether a person didn’t get the job they wanted, get the salary raise they wanted, or experienced a big accident that left them disabled severely, we find that most generally return to their happiness setpoint before the experience. The same happens for people who experience positive things, like lottery wins or salary raises. Yes, income does have an impact on happiness, but only up until a point. Once you reach about a first world middle class income of about $75,000 inflation adjusted, the bang for your buck as you increase your salary starts to rapidly diminish. People often confuse things that give them short-term pleasure with long-term well-being. And that’s why ordinary people or people who have simple lives but their basic needs are met, like the Dalai Lama, or sometimes happier than rich people. So that means that we could have a more specific product in place of this in a journal that could better prepare you toward your happiness goals.
I came to the following principles that will be used in this journal.
- You don’t need to journal daily. Three times a week is enough. And just once a day – no need to do it morning and night. If you make one tweak a week, that’s 52 tweaks a year, which will change your life. Daily tweaks are often over-ambitious. Improving 1% a year may not seem like much, but that’s 365% a year which is unrealistic. A three times a week frequency also keeps you from using up unnecessary time with the gratitude part. Rule breakers and over achieves can still do it daily.
- More space to write and freehand. A journal should give you more than three lines to let your mind wander. You can draw, sketch, and right in a more open area. Writing helps you burn things into your mind more than typing. Feel free to ignore the prompt and just write on occasion.
- Focus on one niche / goal per journal. There can be one to three subgoals but no more. That allows the prompts to be very targeted towards that one goal with science to back it up, rather all over the place. The “what could’ve made today better?” style of question will be eliminated. While good for some goals, it’s incongruent for others.
- Affordability – I’ve been told by my following that they’re willing to spend $10 to $20, many on the lower end of that. This is a factor I have to consider to keep things affordable. This is the beta version, so if this takes off and a high quality version is desired, I’ll launch a 2nd edition that’s more fancy.
- Less prompts so you can actually complete your journal entry in five minutes if you want to.
Here I’ll explain the reasoning behind the prompts for this Happiness Journal.
- The gratitude prompt is here to stay, with some tweaks. There’s been a lot of buzz about how gratitude and perspective can enhance someone’s happiness in the long-term. There is some truth to that, but we are simply tweaking some parts to the prompt so that they align more with the science and effectiveness. The intention with gratitude exercises is that you make sure it creates actual genuine feelings rather than just listing something on paper. And you want to vary things a bit so you’re not repeating the same things you’re grateful for every day and trying different activities that generate gratitude. Someone, for example, could choose to list out things in your life that you are grateful for one week, and then choose to call up someone you love or haven’t spoken to in a while the next week. You also don’t have to do it seven days a week. Aim for three.
- Mood checker – It’s important to check in on your mood throughout the day every once in a while. That way you are in control of yourself and your emotions, not the other way around. A quick check and reflection will help you assess when and how your emotions get out of control so that you can learn the cause and consider how to better deal with those moments.
- Acts of kindness – acts of kindness and service to others in your community has shown to increase happiness. They can be big or tiny. They don’t have to be donations of money. They could be donations of time or even a kind remark.
- Connecting with others – interacting with new people and building strong relationships are possibly the most common things that positive psychology research has found that leads to enduring well-being. It just makes sense that happiness correlates with having good relationships with people in your community. After all, we’re a social, tribal species. Therefore, it makes sense to have a prompt to help you initiate more habits of communal interaction. If you’re scared, start small. Maybe it is and expression of gratitude to your cashier or a compliment. Or maybe it’s introducing yourself to someone new in your fitness class and finding out one interesting fact about them. For some people, they are more comfortable or more focused on strengthening existing relationships. So go on and do that. Talk to a friend you’re already familiar with. Or reach out again if you’ve lost touch and schedule something together. There is freedom here to find something that works best for your unique situation. Three times a week is plenty. Let’s aim for once a week for starters.
When you are going through the journal prompts, keep in mind that the goal is to build healthy, happiness-generating habits in the long term. Starting with three days a week makes it so easy that you can’t help but to start. I call this method the Nibble technique. Once that becomes a habit, you can increase the frequency or duration if you want to submit that as the next level of habit formation. If three times a week is too intimidating, you can start with two or even one. Then, once that is cemented, increase it a bit.
Also, I know that there is a level of personalization with these prompts and routines. You know your life circumstance and personality best, so make the tweaks necessary for them to fit your best performance. If, for example, you’re already a very giving person, then you may not have to worry about the act of kindness prompt as much. Use that space for whatever you want. Or, if you’re feeling really down in the dumps and just listing some things about life that you’re grateful for isn’t doing the trick, switch it up and focus on actions like calling someone you love or someone you haven’t talked to in a while.