5 Lessons Learned from Writing in the Five-minute Journal for 3 Years

Ren D


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I purchased the five-minute journal in 2017. I felt stressed, unaccomplished, and unproductive. I needed something to get out of my daily funk. I needed a better understanding of what I wanted and what I was doing to get there.

For those unfamiliar, the five-minute journal was created by Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas. It was created to increase happiness, improve relationships, and become more optimistic. There is a morning and night routine. Each morning, you write down 3 things you are grateful for and 3 things that would make the day great. You also write a daily affirmation. In the evening, you write 3 amazing things that happened that day as well as how you could have made the day better.

I started the journal a year after my father passed away. When I first started, I wrote the same things every day. I was always grateful for the health of my family, being employed, and enjoying time with my mother. Each day would be great if I enjoyed time with my children, did not stress work, and exercised. My daily affirmations seemed to vary. Some days I was a good mother. Other days, I was in control of my life, stress and decisions. As I continued to write in the journal and evolve, my entries changed.

Writing in the journal each day gives me time to reflect on the day as it begins. It allows me to start the date on a positive note. By focusing on what you’re grateful for in the morning, you’re creating a habit to focus on the positive.

I’m not a morning person. I don’t jump out of bed ready for the day. It takes me time to wake up and if I’m awakened before I’m ready, I’m usually cranky. The journal lets me reflect on my intentions for the day as I drink my morning coffee. By thinking about the good things in my life and what will make my day great, I’m setting my own expectations for the day. This has allowed me to feel in control of my day.

The daily affirmations are interesting. They are supposed to capture what you want in life. By consistently writing down who you want to be, you will believe it. This belief will result in becoming the person you want to be. I struggled with the daily affirmation initially. I want to be so many things. I didn’t have one distinct purpose.

Years ago, I wrote an affirmation that I wanted to make a certain amount by a certain age. I accomplished that goal. It could have been purely by chance, but it occurred. There is power in the written word and visualization. If you think about UFC fighters, those that win fights often visualize themselves winning. They map out their movement and the direction the fight will go. They see their success at the end. When we write, we visualize. When we visualize, we are changing our beliefs.

For the 3 years I’ve written in the Five-Minute Journal, here’s what’s I’ve learned.

1. Daily gratitude is important.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it”. – William Arthur Ward

Writing in the journal has made me more positive. By setting expectations to have a great day, I’m creating a sense of control for the day. If I accomplish all things listed, there’s no question it was a great day. There could be occurrences throughout the day that set me on a different path, but writing your goals for the day bring you back.

2. Goals should change over time.

“You aren’t wealthy until you have something money can’t buy”. – Garth Brooks

Initially everything I wrote was focused on making money. I’m not proud to admit this but the journal was extremely financially focused. I was focused on more money, a bigger house and being able to afford more for my children. All of this was disguised by telling myself I wanted it for my children. Over the years, I’ve realized there is more to life. My children have everything they need. And I have everything I need. There’s an awareness you develop when you realize you have everything you want.

Fulfillment doesn’t come from earning more money. I needed to challenge myself in order to grow. I needed to set goals and accomplish them to find fulfillment. Reviewing my goals over the years has shown me what I want has changed.

3. Prioritizing yourself is essential for your success.

“To be responsible, keep your promises to others. To be successful, keep your promises to yourself”. – Marie Forleo

To get the most of your five minutes, you should focus on you. You should set attainable goals that will give you a sense of accomplishment when you achieve them. If you write the day will be great if it snows, you can’t control that. By focusing on realistic goals you can attain, you’re able to take control of your day. You can achieve success by accomplishing goals set for yourself. If the focus of the journal is on outside influences or things you can’t control, you’re not setting yourself up for success.

Initially I wrote a lot about my children. And while I still am grateful for their health, I’ve realized focusing my daily goals on them does not contribute to my personal growth.

4. Daily reflection leads to better days.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has”. – Epictetus

By capturing 3 amazing things that happened each day, you’re forcing yourself to focus on the positive. We all know the affects of a crappy day. You just want to go to bed to wake up to a new day, a new chance to start over. We don’t need to wait until the next day to do that.

On crappy days, it’s difficult to find 3 amazing things that occurred that day. On days where I worked longer than I should have, where the kids were stressful, where all I want to do is wear my pajamas and relax, I try and focus on the small things. I’ll write about the glass of wine that ended the day on a good note. Or maybe an amazing thing that happened was speaking to a coworker about his upcoming wedding. Sometimes we need to force ourselves to find the good in every day. Over time, it gets easier.

5. It’s important to reflect on your habits.

“Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do”. – Bruce Lee

Having written in the journal for years, I can read previous entries. Sometimes I’m embarrassed at what I found amazing that day. On one day, I wrote I went to the cleaners to pick up my husband’s dry cleaning. That is about as lame as it gets, right? But somehow that day it was one of the amazing things that occurred.

On April 4, 2017, I wrote that going to see my grandmother would make the day great. In the amazing things that happened that day, I wrote about how good she looked that day. Reading this nearly 4 years later when my grandmother has passed, is wonderful. It allows me to remember the good days I spent with her.

While reading old entries is good for memories, it’s also good to see how you’ve evolved. You can take inventory of your habits and see if any have changed. I used to write “not stress work” under what would make today great. I no longer write that. I’ve been able to manage work stress better and I believe it is due to writing in the journal.

In Conclusion

Whether you purchase a five-minute journal, use the app, or simply write down what would make today great and what amazing things occurred today, you’ll be on your way to self-discovery and improvement. You’ll start your day with gratitude and end with positivity. Over time, this will become a habit and before you know it, you’ll become a more positive person with increased self-awareness.

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On a journey to find fulfillment. I write about personal growth and development, love, minimalism and life lessons.


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