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.