After keeping a regular gratitude journal for the past few years, I thought I’d give the popular Five Minute Journal a try. For about the last three years or so, I’ve been writing down 5 things that I’m grateful for each day, in a small blank journal, as the last thing I do before going to bed. At first, I would miss weeks at a time, however eventually reached the point where I am using it most nights of the week. What I have noticed in doing this informal practice is that I am most grateful for the people in my life and also, surprisingly, seemingly little, insignificant things, like a stranger smiling at me as I pass them on the street. So my motivation for trying the Five Minute Journal came from curiosity around its popularity – I started seeing it everywhere and it seemed like every grounded, positive person I knew was using it. So I decided to give it a try, purchased it online and have been using it for the past 3 months, during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Five Minute Journal is advertised as the “most effective thing you can do every day to be happier.” It’s a structured, guided gratitude exercise that you are meant to complete first thing in the morning and as the last thing you do before bed. Its simple exercises are easy and approachable and not meant to take much of your time (hence the five minutes). It’s based on elements of positive psychology – you fill out exercises about daily affirmations, complete lists that encourage you to reflect and reevaluate and in return, the idea is that you start to shift your mind to a state of optimism and abundance.
After using the journal for the past 3 months, during a global pandemic, I have noticed some changes. Since I had already cultivated a gratitude practice for myself at night, most of my shifts have been because of the morning practice, which was new for me. I have really enjoyed positive affirmations and now find that at multiple points in my day, I use them to catch myself if I’m spiraling down a negative-thought rabbit hole. I have also really enjoyed the time in the morning to set intentions for my day and start the day with positive thoughts. I am a more active, energetic person, and so typically, as soon as my eyes open in the morning, I shoot out of bed to get the day started. I have learned that for me, taking a few minutes each morning before my feet even touch the ground, and purposefully choosing a mindset for the day, can have a noticeable effect on my stress level. As of now, I plan to continue using the Five Minute Journal and I recommend that if you are struggling with attaching to negative thoughts and having difficulty seeing optimism and hope, that you give it a try to.
Author: Dr. Elise Hoffman, ND