When I first heard about the Five Minute Journal, I thought it was a complete scam.
Their website said this journal can “prime your brain” and “cultivate gratitude.” But how can a journal make you happier?
I’ve never used a physical journal to write down what I was feeling. I’m not that type of guy.
It wasn’t until bestselling author Tim Ferriss recommended journaling in his morning routine that I started to reconsider my stance. I’m a huge fan of his work and trust his recommendations.
I wasn’t depressed but thought that if I could be a happier person, I would have a more fulfilling life. So why not? I joined the hype and bought a copy.
The journal was created by UJ Ramdas and Alex Ikonn in 2013. UJ has a background in behavioral science and has helped hundreds of people find meaning in their lives by working with them one on one. Alex co-founded a company that produced high-quality hair extensions. Not the most obvious pair but they use each other’s skills to grow.
Alex and UJ came up with this idea while they were hiking. They were discussing personal routines and UJ started telling Alex about his morning and night journaling rituals.
“This sounds great, but I’m too lazy to write out the process every day,” Alex said in an interview with Karousing, a lifestyle magazine.
“How about we create an action focused journal so we can share your process with others?”
Fast forward two years later, their company has sold thousands of copies and is endorsed by celebrities like Leo Babauta, Hal Elrod, and Jayson Gaignard.
The Five Minute Journal looks like this:
The journal has a beautifully designed — and subtle — cover that’s nice to the touch.
Inside, the pages are nearly identical.
But will this really make you happy?
It’s $22.95 and designed to last 180 days.
Let’s break down how it actually works.
Every morning, you start off the day by reading a quote that challenges you to think. These quotes are from world class thinkers like Mark Twain, Louis Pasteur, and Seneca. Quotes that force you step back from your daily hustle and reflect how that message can impact your life.
One of the most memorable quotes from the journal is:
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”Mark Twain
This quote inspired me to read books for an hour each day. I’m sure other people are similarly inspired.
Once a week, the journal prompts a challenge to tackle during that day. My most recent challenge was to sing in the shower. My favorite one was to call an old friend.
Weekly challenges give you that extra push to do things that would make you happy that you normally wouldn’t do on your own.
I am grateful for…
This morning, I wrote down:
- An awesome eight hours of sleep
- Waking up before my alarm went off
- Breakfast on my kitchen table
Psychology studies find that when people practice gratitude, it can instantly make you happier. Practicing gratitude could be as simple as writing what you’re grateful for or expressing it to your loved ones.
Gratitude gives you a greater sense of well-being and can even make you more generous to those around you.
What would make today great?
This morning, I wrote down:
- Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables
- Sleep by 10 p.m.
- Call mom
This sounded stupid. I already know what would make me happy (food, money, sex, power, family) but why did I need to write it down?
It turns out that when you write down things that would make your day great, your subconscious takes note of these activities. When I notice that it’s close to 10 p.m., my brain is more likely to remember to go to bed on time. Or when I notice I haven’t called my mom yet and it’s getting late, I’d take a step out of the office and give her a ring.
It’s that simple.
This morning, I wrote down:
“I am a strong and healthy person.”
Daily affirmation is a statement of what you want in your life. Every time I write my affirmation, I’m helping my brain internalize this belief.
I’ve struggled my whole life with bad eating habits. So I wrote this affirmation down every day until it was true.
You can be even more specific,
“I am a strong and healthy person who eats five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.”
As I go on with my day, I find myself more aware of what I eat. If I chose a salad over a bacon cheeseburger, my mind tells me that I am actually a healthy person! The more I write my affirmation, the more my brain will believe it.
“Every morning when you wake up, you can decide who you want to show up as. Write it down and affirm that every single day until you are comfortable and confident in your answer.” UJ Ramdas
It felt strange, at first, to be so happy at 7 a.m.. But now I’m able to start my day on a positive note, and it feels powerful.
Before you sleep, you fill in a section to evaluate your day… and see where you’ve experienced pleasure and frustration. You’re asked to fill in:
Three amazing things that happened today:
Last night, I wrote down:
- I ate four fruits and two servings of vegetables today!
- Went to the gym, good workout
- Got a coupon for a free drink from a Jamba Juice
No matter what bad things happened throughout your day, these awesome three things help your brain end the day on a positive note.
I enjoy this section the most because it lets me reflect on the happy moments of my day. I often write more than three things down because I can’t stop having positive thoughts.
How could I have made today better?
Last night, I wrote down: Less time on Facebook, because I felt that it was distracting me from being in the present moment.
To finally end the day, you write down one thing that would have made your day better. It’s a personal reminder telling you that you control your actions. And that only you have the ability to change for the better.
In the beginning, I kicked myself a little every time I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. Why was eating fruits and vegetables so hard!? Why was Facebook so addicting!?
It got to the point where I had to force myself to change my habits. Because the worst thing I can write every night is the same answer I wrote for the past 30 days.
You start to notice patterns in your life, good and bad, and you work to change it.
This was such a simple yet incredible transformation.
Why isn’t there anything else out there?
Well, there is.
“[We have] two major categories of competitors. One is anyone creating products that aim to create morning/night habits. We’re basically competing for the minutes spent in a morning or night routine. Think Headspace or Muse.” UJ Ramdas told me during our interview.
“The other category of competitor is the gift market – people creating unique notebooks. Anyone from Baron Fig to specialized journals.”
With all this competition, why is the Five Minute Journal so successful?
“I think it is really important to build a business where you LOVE your customers. Alex and I created the product for ourselves. And we are able to serve people like us. The one unique thing about the product is that people love sharing it and talking about it because it’s making a difference in their lives. I believe that’s been an important part of the success.”
I’ve been using the Five Minute Journal for nine months and have gifted it to many friends and family members. This actually works and has had a lasting impact on my life.
Co-founder Alex Ikonn describes the journal as a toothbrush for the mind.
Time after time, it is so important to do something to keep your mind fresh, and create great positive patterns in your life.
To get a copy, you can click here and try it out for yourself. Let us know what ya think.
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