While I exercise and try to eat fruits and veggies every day, that’s always been the extent of my identity as a wellness person. Meditation, affirmations, manifesting—they’ve always fallen under my umbrella of “to be tried at a later date.” But as my New Year’s resolutions came and went and my goals of focusing more on my emotional wellness rather than just physical seemed like they needed to be moved to 2023, I threw a Hail Mary and decided to order The Five-Minute Journal.
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After seeing it countless times on Instagram and TikTok and even in my friends’ homes, I thought that a quick journal entry every day was something that even I could keep up with in the name of being well. After all, who can’t spare five minutes a day to be a little more positive? After over a month of having The Five-Minute Journal, the experience has been one that I didn’t expect—to say the least. Here’s exactly how the process went for me and whether or not the magic so many promise rang true.
What is the Five-Minute Journal?
The Five-Minute Journal is a gratitude journal with six months’ worth of daily entries (which are undated). Before it dives into the actual journal pages, there are several chapters explaining the logic behind the journal and the best practices in achieving effectiveness in your journaling. It suggests journaling for five days in a row to get into the habit and to come up with a plan on how you’re going to achieve it.
On the first page of the Five-Minute Journal, it claims to be “the simplest, most effective thing you can do every day to be happier,” which is bold but not completely unfounded given how valuable gratitude journaling claims to be.
Each day contains the following prompts:
To be filled out first thing in the morning:
- I am grateful for…
- What would make today great?
- Daily affirmation
To be filled out right before you go to bed:
- Highlights of the day
- What did I learn today?
The premise of the journal focuses on one thing: positive thinking. It aims to help you shift your mentality and build the habit of thinking about the good rather than the bad, which is why you start and end your day with it. It even suggests keeping the journal on your nightstand next to your bed so you can write the moment you wake up. It’s meant to be a practical way to implement positive thinking into your days in a non-daunting, approachable way.
My morning journaling
While all of this sounded easy enough when I read the suggested instructions, it goes without saying that it’s much easier said than done. I thought keeping my journal on my desk in my bedroom would be enough, but I did need to move it to my nightstand to actually get into the habit of doing it first thing after I woke up.
I’ve never done gratitude journaling of any kind, so I was in for a rude awakening on around day three. While it was easy at first with basic gratitudes like mornings with my dog, coffee, and the sun being out, coming up with three new ones every morning became difficult—fast. I had to dive deeper and really reflect on how I was feeling and what positivity I could pull from the day before. It took a bit of practice, but pulling gratitudes from a deeper place took a level of intuition that I don’t ordinarily pull from on a day-to-day basis. Things like “coffee” quickly turned into things that meant more, like “waking up excited to do my job today.”
The gratitude portion quickly made me see just how valuable gratitude journaling can be. I found myself searching for positive things to write down throughout my day to fill out my journal the next morning, which actually just made me look at the positives throughout the day more overall.
I am historically not much of an emotional wellness girl, so my real challenge came from needing to fill out the affirmation portion of my journal. Even though the journal was completely private and just for me, I found it interesting that my instinct was to feel a little embarrassed and cheesy when writing down a new affirmation every day. After taking a deep dive into affirmation ideas, it definitely got easier for me and was a whole new way to give myself a little boost throughout the day. It was one thing to write it down, but another to think about it and actually affirm myself throughout the day, but with a little bit of practice (and writing each down on the page of my daily planner every day as well), it got a lot easier, and it got me into thinking of myself in a more positive way—something that I struggle to prioritize. Coming up with a new affirmation every day made me push myself into thinking about the parts of me that I truly love and what I’d like to believe about myself.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the “What would make today great” prompt made me think about my day in a way that I normally don’t. My days are usually dictated by one thing: my to-do list. In the beginning days, that part of my journal would be filled with things like “get ahead on X project” or “go to Y workout class.” Quickly, I realized that isn’t what actually makes my day great. As someone who tends to be achievement-oriented (Enneagram Three baby), I often equate my happiness with what I perceive as my successes; if I’m productive and achieving what I need to in a day, that means I’ll be happy, right? Not necessarily. Taking a moment in my morning to think about what would really bring me joy was enough reflection to prioritize myself in a whole new way. Rather than it being checking something off my to-do list, it evolved into things like “taking a walk without music or a podcast” to spend some time with myself, which made me feel much more fulfilled throughout the day than any to-do-list task ever could.
My nighttime journaling
Much like my morning journaling, my nighttime journaling really only stuck when I kept it next to my nightstand and did it right before I turned my light off to go to sleep.
Even more so than the morning, the nighttime journaling was truly a test in positivity. On a day that was “good,” it was easy to fill out my favorite parts of the day, but on a day that I was going to bed stressed and overwhelmed, it could take some digging. As someone who doesn’t normally challenge myself like this, it was incredible how taking those couple of minutes to try to think of something good in a bad day made me adjust my mindset to be more positive as a whole. And the best part? Even on those not-so-good days, I definitely could think of something that I learned, which made everything I wouldn’t have preferred to happen a bit more worthwhile.
Seeing the good in every day isn’t something that most people do, but writing about it and trying to think of something positive in even your worst day helps to not dwell on the bad quite so much. And often, after I turned out the lights, I found myself trying to think of more good, whereas I ordinarily would probably have been stressing about the bad. It made small things like a stranger complimenting me or making myself a really good meal feel bigger than singular moments, and my brain adjusted to seek those things out eons more than I ever had in the past.
Over the past month, this journal truly has changed the way I think more than I ever thought it could. Rather than needing to make one huge change to feel and think differently, it was about making one singular, small change throughout every day and that consistency adding up. I was able to stick to it much easier than I’ve been able to stick to anything else (looking at you, meditation podcasts!), and mindfulness turned from a chore into something I truly looked forward to every morning and night.
In the midst of the craziness of work and social plans and life in general, there has never been a reason to really slow down, reflect, and dig a bit deeper than my normal days required me to—but this journal gave it to me. Rather than going to bed thinking about what I needed to do the next day, I was spending time thinking of the good from the day I just experienced, which was a reach of success I never believed I’d actually achieve with this. Once my six months are complete, I know I’ll be ordering another one to continue my journaling ritual, and it’ll continue to make every day just a little bit better—and if I can do it, anyone can.