Woman writing in a journal

Write your way to happiness!

I’m a huge fan of journaling as a part of a healthy lifestyle. That’s because writing down your thoughts can help you solve problems, identify your goals, and clarify your values. And today, as part of my “Create Happy” Month, I’m going to tell you how journaling can even help make you happier. I know that sounds like a big promise for such a simple activity.

However, I’ve discovered through personal experience that keeping a happiness journal is powerful medicine, and hundreds of my patients swear by it too. It’s one of the best therapies in the world… and best of all, it’s free! Here’s how to use journaling to increase your happiness. First, set aside a few minutes of quiet time each night to write down your thoughts. (It’s important to make this a habit.) Designate a specific journal for this process. Get yourself in the mood with a scented candle, your favorite music, and a cup of tea or glass of wine.

When you journal, don’t critique what you write; let your words flow freely. (Messy is fine!) Here are six areas to focus on:

1. Process your feelings. Keeping anger, pain, or resentment bottled up inside you prevents you from being truly happy. Repressed feelings are toxic, and airing them out is the best way to reduce their power over you. So write about your negative feelings—and then ask yourself if you’re ready to let go of them.

2. Take action. Write about any habits that are getting in your way. Then list a single step you can take right away to start breaking free from one bad habit. (For instance, if you want to get healthier, decide to replace your daily caramel macchiato with a cup of green tea.) Each positive step you take will increase your control over your life—and that, in turn, will make you happier.

3. Celebrate successes. Often, we’re so busy focusing on future goals that we don’t take time to savor the triumphs we’ve achieved. Your journal is a great place to give yourself a much-deserved pat on the back for these successes! List your victories, large or small, as well as obstacles you’ve overcome.

4. Be grateful. Yes, I know, I’ve said it before. But I can’t say it often enough: Gratitude makes you happy. So each day, write about someone who’s changed your life for the better. Describe what the person did for you, how it helped you, and how you can “pay it forward.”

5. Focus on the good stuff. Each night, write down the best thing that happened to you that day. This will help you recognize positive experiences and appreciate them.

6. Reframe. Take a look at the “bad” stuff that happened in your day, and see if you can view it in a realistic and more positive light. For instance, if you’re crushed because your toddler said “I hate you” when you sent him to time-out, you might write: “This is a natural and healthy thing that nearly every toddler tries at least once—and my mom says I did it, too. So I can view it as a rite of passage—and in reality, I know that my child loves me deeply.”

If possible, try to set aside at least 20 minutes a day for your journaling—but if you’re rushed, simply take two or three minutes to write a few sentences. The important thing is to write something every single day. The more consistent you are, the better your results will be. Think of it as building a “happy habit,” and trust me: it works!

Keep Thinking Big & Living Bold!

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