How to Increase Your Happiness with Journal Writing


There is proven scientific evidence on how journaling can make you happier.

This is pretty cool…and something that can take less than 15 minutes to get results. I’ve been journaling on and off for years now but not doing everything I could to maximize happiness from it because I didn’t know all the pieces. Just stumbling onto this process myself I had it pretty close but now I’m really going to turbo charge it based on evidence from a new book. (btw that’s one of my journals in the pictures – yes I doodle a bit!) 😉

On a flight home from Atlanta I polished off a new book called ‘59 Seconds’ by professor Richard Wiseman. In there Wiseman has taken the best of peer reviewed scientific studies in areas from persuasion to happiness to parenting and provided bottom-line insights that can quickly create results. (Side note: It looks like I’ll be interviewing Prof Wiseman soon and will keep you posted on that.)

You’ve probably heard previously about journaling but either thought it was too easy, too silly or just didn’t know how to do it. Same with me. But trust me, it works.

There are a five main types of journaling that Wiseman discovered to affect happiness the most; 1) Expressive writing 2) Gratitude 3) Describing perfect self 4) Affectionate writing and 5) Progressive review

Expressive Writing: The first one involved an experiment with people talking about negative experiences versus writing about it. The difference was significant. Journaling about an issue or thoughts was proven to provide an increase in self-esteem and happiness.

The process of “expressive writing” helps to put a story line to what you’re feeling. When the thoughts roll around in our head they just keep surfacing, being ignored (perish the negative thoughts!), pushed back down, resurfacing, jumbling, etc. So write about it. I’m not sure if typing will be the same – but paper and ink is probably best.

Gratitude journaling: I’ve done this for awhile now in spurts and I always find it absolutely amazing especially when things are going well! Write down absolutely everything you are grateful for. Once again sounds dumb but it’s been scientifically proven to make us feel better. And I really do mean everything. Spend 15 min and you’ll come up with some good stuff. All of us seem to quickly adapt to any changes (good or bad) so focusing on what we’re grateful for slows us down to appreciate it.

Describing perfect self: Wiseman cited experiments that showed people where happy when writing and describing a situation that went well from the past. Think back to a time when things went extraordinarily well and put that experience on paper. This is something new that I’ve never done. I’ve certainly wrote about the perfect future but never written about past experiences that went well.

Affectionate writing: A study out of the University of Arizona proved people gained happiness when writing to someone they love and what they meant to them.

Progressive review: Write down everything that is going right. As humans we’re easily more focused on the shit that goes wrong then we are with what goes right. Then we just focusing on what else is wrong…and what else…and what else. Creating an every building flurry of negative observations.

Write down all the things are going right and the progress you are making. Dan Sullivan also talks about this in Pure Genius with the analogy of the Horizon. About how we are not upset we can never reach the horizon if we are driving or walking but somehow we want to reach our ideal. But the ideal is a moving point just like the horizon – that’s why it’s important to focus/reflect on where you’ve been and how much progress you’ve made…and that always build up confidence and positive thoughts.

I’ve incorporated this into our Maverick Multiplier™ worksheet (you can download it for free). The worksheet starts with you having to identify the top 10 things that have gone right in your business and your life.

Please realize this is not some fortune cookie wisdom but actual peer reviewed scientific experiments proving this stuff works! Drop me a comment and let me know what you think or if you’ve used journaling.

33 thoughts on “How to Increase Your Happiness with Journal Writing”

  1. I’ve just started journaling this past year and it definitely makes me feel better as I get to express things that I would not normally express.

    Sometimes the things I write down surprise me as I wouldn’t have consciously thought that way previously.

  2. I am so happy to see this! I have also recently released a new book on Journaling….with scientific studies cited…and 7 key benefits we receive from Journaling. The book is called Journaling Through: Unleashing the Power of the Authentic Self. After working with clients for 20 years and witnessing the simply amazing results of journaling with individuals and in workshops, I am glad to see the infomation about such a valuable self help tool getting out there! Angela Caughlin, LCSW

  3. Great post, Yanik. I actually started keeping a journal when I was 8 and it’s fun and interesting to read through my thoughts between then and now.

    Actually, I recently started bookbinding, making homemade journals. I love the idea that something I create might be a home for the thoughts of someone’s heart.

  4. Hi Yanik,
    I have been keeping a journal for the better part of 53 years in one form or another. I think it has helped me focus particularly in the last 30 years. I have often thought all those eras of thoughts, desires, emotions, and sometimes understanding things might make a good book. I will think hard on that possibility. Just think; I was born in the late forties and am still around. I am likely to be around for quite a lot of time yet as my Mother just died last spring at the age of 103. It even impresses me, all the things I have seen this old world of ours go through. My journey has for the most part been interesting; sometimes chaotic, but always interesting and a great learning process thanks to my teacher parents. Good Blog Yanik!
    Ruth D. Shultz

  5. Yanik,

    I ordered a moleskine journal on-line yesterday so good timing with this post. Though my initial plan was to use it more for every day note-taking and jotting down of ideas. But I think I’ll also start doing some ‘proper’ journaling now, like you listed, and see what happens. It will also make for a good record of the highs and lows I go through as I launch my new business.

    Thanks for this. And I’m really looking forward to seeing you at Underground 6!


  6. Hi Yanik,

    great post and I agree with Dan.

    Journaling makes me feel better. I can write down all the things which tourns arround into my head. It allows me to structure my ideas, to plan my future tasks and much more.

    It is more than a diary. It stores a lot of ideas and allows me to develop my personality. I simply love it.

    A German Millionaire told me to write separate journals but I think one journal is enough.

    He said I should make:

    a recognition journal
    a relationship journal
    a success journal
    a dream journal
    an idea journal
    a diary
    a target journal

    Regards from Germany


    P.S.: I also doodle a lot Yanik 😉

  7. I’m going to definitely take up more writing (literally writing) about this stuff instead of typing it. I’m going to pull my lover into this as well as she needs this a lot.

    I’ve definitely written about my gratitudes and my perfect future self, have not written about past experiences before when everything went great, will try that out.

    Affectionate writing and progressive review are some great concepts as well. I’m going to do them all!

    Thanks Yanik.

  8. Several years ago, I was challenged to do more praying in gratitude, than requests. Like your positive journaling and affectionate writing, it does make as difference. When I was much younger, I was told I should never pass up the chance to tell someone that I loved them. Sadly, it took the murder of two friends, and suicide of another, to make me start.
    I still don’t do it often enough, but I’m working on it. If you’re reading this, start now, don’t put it off. No one is promised a tomorrow to do things. Once they’re gone, you lose the chance.

  9. @Thomas, thanks for the extra journal ideas, it reminds me that I do keep a visual diary all the time, as an artist that is an important one and never gets forgotten or left for years. It also keeps records of things that were important at a certain time, good to be able to look back sometimes:) Lots of non art things tend to end up in my journal too come to think of it, maybe it would be good to just extend the scope of these journals, make them richer for the extra content, especially gratitude:) Thanks!

  10. Yanik,
    It’s nice to meet you and read your post about the different approaches of journal writing that can be used as a catalyst toward happiness. I especially noted writing down events from your past that went well. It is easy to focus on the negative rather than the positive. If you have an ongoing journal detailing what is going right, especially in the present, it helps to give a balanced view of life over all.
    I am an avid journal writer, keeping personal, spiritual, and dream journals going every day; I find them very beneficial and enjoy spreading the word about the benefits to others.

    Have a refreshing day!
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance

  11. Hey Yanik –

    Fantastic thoughts. I completely agree and recommend journaling often. And I’m sure the doodling feeds the creative outlet just as much as the writing.


    Jonathan Flaks

  12. @Mike – I’m going to be doing it more. Typically I do the most journaling around ideas/projects. But I’d say previously it was about once every 2 weeks or 3 weeks but I’m going to step it up.

  13. Hi Yanik,

    A very interesting post. Dan Sullivan’s advice about Positive Focus and Gratitude journals has been helpful to me.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention this but according to his books and interviews, your friend Richard Branson is a proficient user of journals and notebooks. Also other creative minds like Edison and da Vinci – does Wiseman say there is a link between journals and creativity?

  14. Love this post Yanik

    Something I definetly need to get into a habit of doing

    Came across you & then your blog through a mates dvd where you did a spot on copywriting @ a UK seminar with Andrew Reynolds in 2002.

    Awesome stuff mate


    Barry Cross

  15. I am a VERY AVID journaler, with many books and pages “under my belt”. I agree that journaling is very therapeutic. I do tons of stuff in my journals. Primarily I record my deepest thoughts, but I also write silly stuff, sketch, take notes, practice various topics of study, and so on.

    I recently discovered Pentalic Traveler’s Sketch Books. They are very nicely sized for carrying and have a durable, waterproof cover, the cream colored pages kept neatly together with an elastic closure. They are not nearly as expensive as moleskines, which is the primary draw for me. I always try to find cheaper alternatives and can’t stand stuff that is overpriced for what you are getting. I use Micron pens and FW ink and quill primarily, though over the years I’ve used many different writing instruments.

    I can honestly say that journaling has utterly changed my life. I am a deeper, more thoughtful, considerate, even powerful (in the Spirit) person. I’ll likely be journaling for the rest of my life. And yes, it makes me very happy! Some day I’ll enjoy looking back at all these pages I’ve written (and probably laugh more than anything else).

  16. Your blog was brought to my attention by my Mentor because it confirms my new business which is My hope is that people can live life with out regrets and be their authentic self by using the power of sketching and journaling together. Love your doodles..Thats why I created the sketchajournals to balance the left and right brain (creative and logical)

    Let me know if I can send you one for free. I’d love your feedback.
    Diane C Doyle

  17. @EVA – I don’t think I’ve seen a link. It’s interesting for sure. Last night on my flight home I sat next to a member of Congress from WA state and he had 2 journals going at once.

  18. Great Post Yanik! I haven’t written in my journal in forever, i have to get back in it!

    Another great benefit to journaling is that when you look back you can see where you were in life, business and how far you’ve come. It’s like a “Life progress report” and you see how fast you grow. I think that is beneficial because it allows you to keep growing and keeps you in a humble state because you know you can always learn and grow more.

    I love how you broke down the different types of journaling. I just sort of recorded in my journals but using it as more of a tool to release negative emotions and stay positive is a great idea! I love it!

    Thanks again for the post!


  19. Hi Yanik,

    I’ve been following your stuff for a while now, and must say am pretty impressed with all you’ve done.

    Re journaling, I’ve done it off and on, and actually have found it pretty useful, expecially the expressive writing bit. What gets me is describing day’s events which can sometimes get deadly boring…
    I guess I need to find a style of writing that is comfortable.

    The other issue is, it gets mixed up with my to-do lists, and daily accounts and other stuff, and in the end none of it gets done… :-(

    Still, past record is no guarantee of future performance [as the fine print says in mutual fund ads :-) ] and I’m going to start again with this boost from you…


  20. Yanik,

    I just finished listening to you interview Ted Leonsis, author of “The Business of Happiness,” and I just wanted to thank you for sharing his inspiring outlook on life.

    I’ve known you for a few years now and it’s a joy to follow your work. You bring us the latest not only in the business realm, but in the personal growth and happiness arena.

    Thanks again and keep it coming,

    Romy Macias

  21. Hi Yanik

    I’ve been journaling for about four years and I find it really helpful to get ideas and successes down on paper. If ever I start to doubt what I’m doing is the right thing I can always look back on all the successes in my journal.

  22. This is good stuff and I agree, aside from practical reasons to journal (formulating plans, ya know) there definitely is a more subtle psychological benefit of better feelings and clearer thinking.

    However I want to urge you, Yanik, to add AddThis Button ( to your blogposts in addition to other buttons you have, it seems easier to add links on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace with it. More people will share your stuff.

  23. Hi Yanik
    Journaling sound like a god thing you should do (and so do meditation and other “stuff”).
    I think I’ll get myself a copy of 59 seconds.

    Thank for the “Maverick worksheet” is looking great.


  24. This is so true. I started writing a journal about 6 months ago and the difference is remarkable. Whenever I feel confused, sad, angry, out of focus I just write everything down. I don’t know what actually happens but I suddenly feel better I get better clarity on the situation, I’m happier. I do all the above mentioned things except for affectionate writing, I’ll start that too now.

    I love to journal. It helps so much. It’s like magic.

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