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February 2014
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the 7 c's: positive benefits of keeping a journal

Journal CoverAll Images via Five Minute Journal

"I'm not writing it down to remember it later.
I'm writing it down to remember it now."

Field Notes


When I was a kid, I used to crawl into bed each night with my journal, jotting down notes of the day's events and pondering the meaning of life (yep, I was that kinda kid!). I stopped journaling in high school when I began focusing my attention on more pressing matters (aka, boys and parties...) and then started up again in college. After college, my journaling habits fell by the wayside. Maybe it was due to all the writing I had to do for my graduate school thesis. Maybe it was due to my new found love of blogging. Maybe it was just the simple fact that it seemed to take up a lot of my time. 

I'm not sure exactly what happened, but since my early 20s, I've found myself journaling only periodically (usually when going through a tough time). I realized recently that I miss it. I miss the feeling of dumping out a day's worth of content on the page, of having the option to go back and reflect on the words I wrote months or years before. I don't miss the endless hours spent dwelling on what's wrong with my life or myself (something I used to do a great deal of back when I was journaling regularly), but I do miss the release I felt when I put my words on a page that no one but me would see. 

Over the past few years, I've sporadically thought, "I should start journaling again..." but every time that thought has crossed my mind, I've countered it with excuses like, "I don't have the time" or "I write every day anyway; isn't that kind of the same thing?" (It's not. A journal is for-your-eyes-only, which is definitely not the same as a website that thousands of people are reading each day.) Whatever the reason, I used it to push a return to journaling to the end of my to-do list. 

Until a couple weeks ago when I read about Five Minute Journal.

When I stumbled across it, I quickly realized that it would be the perfect solution to my lack-of-journaling woes. It was easy enough to do every day, but had enough depth to it so that it really seemed as if I could gain something meaningful from it. I got my hands on a copy and was instantly smitten. Not only does it consist of a clean, simple design (which I'm always a sucker for!), but it includes daily prompts that make journaling quick, easy, and fulfilling.



As I spent a few days with my Five Minute Journal, I quickly started recalling how much benefit I receive from spending even a short time recording my thoughts about the day. While, in an ideal world, I'd love to go back to writing page after page on a daily basis, this journal is absolutely perfect for what I can handle right now: a convenient, compelling resource for taking note of what really matters. As I've dipped my toe back into the waters of journal writing, the positive benefits of keeping a journal are quickly coming back to me. There are many, many benefits (some of which have even been scientifically proven!), but the ones I find most important for living a more positive, more present life are listed below. Even after using the journal for a short time, I've noticed how keeping a journal can help you . . . 



What initially drew me to the Five Minute Journal is its focus on gratitude. Back when I was younger, I never spent much time thinking about what I did have. Instead, I focused on what I was lacking or what I hoped to have in the future. Embracing an attitude of gratitude is one of the best ways to live a positively present life, but sometimes it's hard. As much as we recognize the value of being grateful, sometimes thankfulness just slips our minds. However, if you make a point to make note of things you're grateful for every single day, you start to pay attention to all that you have and spend less time focusing on whatever you lack. 



This study found that writing down your thoughts and physically throwing them away can actually help clear your mind. While I wouldn't necessarily want to throw away any part of a journal (I love looking back on it), I bet there are benefits from just simply writing down these thoughts. Even thinking about what you could have done differently to make a day better can provide you with a more positive outlook. Each day, the Five Minute Journal asks you to consider what could have made your day even better. This is a great way to address any negativity in your life without dwelling on it. When you write it down, it really does feel like you're clearing it from your mind (at least for a little while!). 



When you spend time thinking about the good things happening in your life on a daily basis, you start to pay closer attention to life's little victories. If you were to write down one good thing each month or even each week, you'd probably highlight something big. But when you write down good things every day, you start to realize that huge victories don't happen on a daily basis, but little causes for celebration happen all the time. Even the smallest things—like making it to the train on time, treating yourself to something sweet, or starting a really great book—are worth savoring and writing not one but three things each day really makes you think more about the little wonders that pepper your life with happiness on a daily basis. 



The great thing about keeping a journal is that you can use it as a tool to focus your attention on the truth that lies in each moment. It's one thing to have a fleeting thought about something—like, "Today really sucks."—but it's quite another to actually write down the words. Often we see a situation (or a day) a certain way because we don't really think about it on a deeper level. When you sit down with a journal and are asked to consider all of the reasons why the day was good, it becomes much more difficult to label an entire day or event negatively. The more you use your journal, the more you'll see patterns and be able to figure out what really bothers or delights you, which can be very helpful when it comes to understanding what will or won't make your life more positive. 



We're often so busy with things to do that we rarely pause and think about what we've done over the course a day or what those actions actually meant to us. If you keep a journal, you have access to information about how you spend your time. And if you're focusing on the positive aspects of each day—as the Five Minute Journal encourages you to do—you'll start to understand not only how you spend your time, but what you enjoy spending your time on. Even though I've only been using my journal for a short time, I can already see some clear patterns as to what activities I consider to be good (and, on the flip-side, I've been able to make note of what activities I don't list in my journal—a sign that maybe I should spend less time on those things). 



Did you know that keeping a journal can actually be good for your physical health? According to this article, "University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker, contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health." Pretty cool, huh? Journaling clearly has some mental health benefits, but it's pretty amazing that it can actually benefit you physically too. That fact alone might make it worthwhile to give journaling a try!



The more you learn about yourself, the more you can understand what you want and don't want in your life. And the more you know what you do and don't want, the more you can shape your life so it's as positively present as possible. You've probably read about Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self-Discovery, the workbook I created to help you (and me!) discover more about who you are and what matters to you. Keeping a journal has some of the same positive benefits of completing the workbook: it shows you want you value and informs you about your personal preferences. In addition to showing you how you spend your time, a journal collects knowledge about who you are—knowledge you can use to help create the live you want to be living.  


Clearly, I'm pretty passionate about this whole journal-writing thing. I guess finally picking up a journal again—even a structured one like Five Minute Journal—has shown me just how powerful jotting down a few notes about my day can really be. If you're ready to start keeping a journal too, I'd highly recommend giving the Five Minute Journal a try. It's such a great way to start out, and it really only takes five minutes every day! And if you're not the notebook-toting type, they just launched a really nice new Five Minute Journal app that makes keeping track of your day while on the go even easier. Whether you pick up a copy of the journal, download the app, or just grab a blank notebook and start keeping track of what you do and what you care about, if you give it a try, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll be pleased by how much more positive and more present the act of journaling can make you feel. 


28 ways to create a bit of inner springtime


Spring has finally arrived here where I live and it always brings about a sense of refreshment and renewal. With everything beginning to bloom and the weather taking a warmer turn, things outside are looking up. The winter sun is slowly setting, giving way to the magnificence of springtime: birds chirping, shoots sprouting, sun warming, and green everywhere. Autumn will always be my favorite, but there's something magical about spring. 

When the magic of spring starts happening outside my window, I always find myself thinking about how to manifest that renewed, refreshed feeling on a internal level. Spring is hopeful, inspiring, uplifting, and it always reminds me of how important it is to find little ways to stay uplifted. Just as a single flower poking through the dirt can transform a drab plot of land, so too can a single act of joy transform a lackluster spirit. The littlest acts can bring about big revelations. 

In the spirit of spring's transformation, I've rounded up a list of 28 things you can do to uplift your heart and mind, to embrace the season and create your own little inner springtime. Some of these are seasonal, but most of them are just things that tend to give you good feelings, that uplift you in a way that makes you feel the way spring does: hopeful and happy. 


1. Take a photo walk in nature. 

2. Re-read your favorite book

3. Meditate outside (or at least try!). 

4. Plan summer getaway

5. Watch a spring-time film. 

6. Go somewhere totally new.

7. Exercise (or walk...) outdoors. 

8. Play with a cat or dog (or kid!). 

9. Call an old friend for a chat. 

10. Donate what you don't need.

11. Take photos of spring-y things.

12. Start keeping a daily diary

13. Throw an impromptu party

14. Start a mini garden.

15. Clean one room of your home.

16. Listen to some new music.

17. Take 5 deep breaths. 

18. Get up one hour earlier. 

19. Take a friend out to lunch. 

20. Draft a gratitude list

21. Treat yourself to a massage. 

22. Make an inspiration board.

23. Give someone flowers. 

24. Do something crafty

25. Lay in the sunshine (with sunscreen!). 

26. Take a super silly selfie. 

27. Answer soul-searching questions

28. Smile at strangers.



Spring is a great time to dig deeper into your mind and refresh your spirit. One way to do this is to spend time reflecting on what it means to be you, which you can do by dedicating time and attention to learning more about yourself. Check out Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery to discover even more ways to learn about—and uplift!—yourself. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own soul-searching copy here.

5 lessons my parents taught me about love

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the day my parents got married, which is pretty impressive if you ask me. It's hard work being married (or even just being a part of a couple) and sticking by the side of one person for thirty-five years kinda blows my mind. Love is an amazing experience, but a lasting love rarely comes without a lot of hard work. While I can't say I know too many details of my parents' relationship (who can ever know exactly what a relationship between two other people consists of?), but I did live with them for eighteen years and have spent tons of time with them since then so I've had a chance to observe what it means to be devoted to someone for three and half decades. As most children do, I've learned a thing or two from my parents about what it means to love. Here are some of the lessons they've taught me:



My parents are very different people. They're definitely an example of one of those "opposites attract" situations, and the fact that they're so wildly different has taught me that, even when you're part of a pair, it's important to stay true to who you are. Sometimes when people fall in love, they change who they are to suit the other person. While my parents definitely do some compromising in order to work together as a couple, they both stay true to who they are, embracing their unique selves. Sometimes those selves have clashed (it's hard being so different!), but a lot of the time they balance each other out—which is maybe why people are so keen on that "opposites attract" idea. For me, the benefits of seeing my parents stay true to themselves has been twofold. One, I've been inspired to stay true to myself, which has led me to lead a more positive, present life. And, two, I've been able to closely observe and learn from two very distinct personality types, which has given me twice as many insights. 



My parents spend a lot of time together. Not only do they live together, but they work together as well so they are together almost all day every day. I don't know too many couples that could survive decades of marriage and decades of working with one another, but my parents have somehow made it work. Not only are they working together, but my parents almost always make a point to sit down at the end of the day and chat about work, life, whatever. These conversations keep the lines of communication open and make it easy for them to stay in tune with one another. In addition to all that, my parents spend time doing things together (like crossword puzzles every morning) that give them common interests, which is really important since they're such different people. 



My parents are not without their fair share of disagreements. That's kind of what happens when you have two unique people living and working together. Like every relationship, my parents have had their good days and their bad, but one thing I've learned from them is how to forgive and move forward. When they've had arguments, they seem to recover from them and move forward, focusing on the present instead of the past. Forgiveness, I've learned, is such an important part of creating a lasting love. No matter how great a relationship, everyone has arguments or difficulties. The trick isn't learning how to avoid such things, but learning how to cope with them when they happen. My parents have shown me that forgiveness is absolutely essential for making the most of the less-than-perfect moments. 



My parents seem to make each other laugh every single day. Whether it's when I stop by for a visit or when I'm chatting with one of them over the phone, there's hardly a day that goes by when I don't hear one of them making the other one laugh. They're always teasing one another for their differences, laughing about a ridiculous situation that no one else even understands, or cracking up over little sayings they've made up. One of the best sounds in the world is hearing someone you love laugh, and my parents have shown me just how valuable laughter can be in a relationship. When you can laugh a lot with someone, you feel connected with one another and, obviously, you feel happy. Laughter might sound superficial, but it's actually quite important for making the most of a long-lasting love. 



My parents have the same long-term vision (or at least it seems they do to me). They've created a successful business together and raised two daughters who love them, which, in my opinion, is pretty awesome. They've had to go through some tough times (like starting a business from scratch... or going through those awful teen years with two girls...) to get to where they are now, but they've always seemed to be on the same path with the same goals in mind. I've always been a fan of the Antonine de Saint-Exupery quote, "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction," and I now realize how much that quote applies to my parents. The love they have isn't just about each other. It's about each other and more: family, work, creating they lives they wanted to be living together. 


These are just a few of the lessons I've learned from my parents. They've taught me so much about love—and also about life—and I'll always be so thankful for these two wonderful, inspiring people who have given so much to make my life so wonderful. Thanks, Mom and Dad, and happy anniversary!