This 2-Minute Journaling Exercise Is Scientifically Proven To Boost Happiness
I've never been one for journaling. Don't get me wrong, I love to write (I write literally every day for work), but for some reason, the act of writing solely for myself has never been something I could stick with. I think it's because I'm overly ambitious and start out writing pages upon pages, only to find the whole process unsustainable after a few days. So I stop.
But lately, my life has felt like it's whizzing past me. Every time I blink, another week goes by, and I'm often left wondering, what have I even been doing with my time? How is it almost my birthday—again?! The fact that I can't slow things has been a bit of a buzzkill that's left me feeling more morose than I'd like to admit. So, I was pretty intrigued when I came across this insanely simple daily journaling exercise that would take about two minutes to complete and basically guaranteed I'd end up with a smile on my face.
All you need to do: Every night, write down three funny things that happened during your day. That's all. The really cool part, though, is that this has been scientifically proven to boost happiness. In one study, researchers found that when people did this every day for a week, it enhanced happiness for up to three months and reduced depressive symptoms for up to six months after the intervention week.
This, at least, sounded like something I could sustain. So I gave it a whirl. My immediate reaction? From day one, I was much more present. Normally, I have tunnel vision, focusing on my lengthy to-do list or worrying about things that haven't even happened yet. But from the start, I was on high alert for all the funny stuff that might be coming my way—even if it didn't. My next reaction? While my life may not be hilarious, there's often humor to be found in the small moments. Here's a sample day's entry:
- Evan (boyfriend) realized halfway through his pint of chocolate ice cream that he was using a dirty peanut butter-crusted spoon. Ha! (Also: Am I a terrible person?)
- Neighbor caught me staring out my window at her dog—equal parts funny and embarrassing.
- Tried to close peanut butter jar with the almond milk cap today...after scolding Evan for not closing it.
Not only did I learn that peanut butter is a predominant theme in my life, but every time I would flip through my notebook and reread these humorous little nuggets, I would smile. It was nearly impossible not to.
Of course, some days things just weren't funny, no matter how I tried to spin it. On those days, in an effort to not lose my journaling momentum, I would switch over to a gratitude practice, writing out three things I was particularly grateful for that day (like a supportive boyfriend who ran out to grab my favorite kombucha when I was feeling extra frazzled about meeting a deadline) or something unexpected (like seeing a groundhog on my morning walk—they're so cute!). Fun fact: There's actually scientific evidence that it's impossible to feel stressed and grateful simultaneously.
Overall, I found the whole process to be an incredibly helpful and low-effort way to attach positive memories to days that might otherwise blend together. And I'm confident that I've finally found a journaling exercise I can stick with—as long as I don't run out of peanut butter.
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Stephanie Eckelkamp is a writer and editor who has been working for leading health publications for the past 10 years. She received her B.S. in journalism from Syracuse University with a minor in nutrition. In addition to contributing to mindbodygreen, she has written for Women's Health, Prevention, and Health. She is also a certified holistic health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She has a passion for natural, toxin-free living, particularly when it comes to managing issues like anxiety and chronic Lyme disease (read about how she personally overcame Lyme disease here).