Did writing in the Five Minute Journal make me happier?

The full name of this journal is “The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day,” so this felt like the perfect thing to try; “a happier you” is promised up front for this product. The premise of this journal is that it helps you focus on the good in your life and cultivate gratitude, which has been shown to decrease stress and improve mental resilience, among other benefits. Each day you start with what you’re grateful for and what you want to focus on for the day and end the day with what went well and how it could have been better. Some pages have inspirational quotes and others have a weekly challenge.

I bought this product in August last year and have been writing in it off and on since then. This week, I attempted to write every single morning and night, and while I was able to write every morning, I missed a couple of nights. I have had a very consistent nighttime routine for a long time now, and it was more difficult than I realized to add something to it. Reflecting back on the week, it would have made a huge difference if I had put the journal and a pen on my bedside table so I could have written when I woke up and right before I went to sleep.

My favorite aspect about the journal is writing the three things that would make today great. I noticed that I would remind myself to do whatever it was when I was in the situation I had written it down for. For example, I wrote down “listen more than you speak” for an event I had to go to, and I reminded myself of that during the event when I felt like I wasn’t listening enough or asking enough questions. This made a huge difference in how that went.

I didn’t really notice any differences from the gratitude/amazing things sections of the journal. It was definitely nice in the moment to reflect but they didn’t seem to have a lasting impression on my day or mood in the same way that setting an intention for the day did. Once I finish this journal, my plan is to add a section in my bullet journal for a daily intention so I can carry that through rather than forcing myself to do all the steps in the journal, which felt repetitive over time.

Did writing in the Five Minute Journal make me happier? A little bit. There are aspects that made a difference for me that I will definitely keep doing, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spend the money on this journal, and it didn’t make a huge difference for me like it seems to have done for those who reviewed the journal on Amazon.

Did reading every day make me happier?

This week, I decided to read a book every day without any distractions. Like everything else I’ve tried, reading promises to lots of amazing things, like reducing stress and anxiety and improving memory and focus. I used to religiously read 10 pages every day and loved both the quiet time and actually reading all of the books we have in our apartment. I’m not sure when it happened, but I slowly started reading only every once in awhile and then only on weekends when I really felt like I had time. So, this week, I forced myself to sit and read every single day.

Over the weekend, as expected, it was really easy to carve out time to read, as it’s something I’ve already been doing fairly consistently. We went to coffee shops, where I now order something decaf, and read quietly with our coffee until we felt like we’re ready to do something else. It was relaxing, felt like such a nice break, and was much more satisfying than scrolling through the internet.

On weekdays, this was harder than I expected given that I used to read every day. There never felt like a good time, and when I tried reading before bed, I either fell asleep or got distracted really quickly, even though the books I finished (Algorithms to Live By) and started (Furiously Happy) are both incredibly interesting and great reads. This reminded me a lot of mediation; when it was working well, it was great, but it was hard to fit in to my life.

We also spent some time walking around bookstores looking for new books to buy, and I realized how much I missed the experience of shopping for books in an actual bookstore. This made me realize that there are probably other things that I tend to buy online that I should spend more time shopping for in person, both to enjoy the experience of looking through things and to be more thoughtful about what I’m buying.

Did reading more make me happier? While I enjoyed spending more time reading because I already like to read, I wouldn’t say this made me happier in the way that reducing my caffeine or dressing up for work did. I didn’t see a profound change in my stress levels or mood, and I ended up turning something I like doing into a task I needed to complete every day. For this one, I’m going to go back to sitting down to read when it makes sense, like on the weekends, and otherwise stop giving myself a hard time for not reading often enough.

Did removing Instagram from my phone make me happier?

I’ve read more articles than I can count about how social media is making us miserable and how we should all delete our accounts. Given that I already don’t use Twitter and removed Facebook from my phone years ago, I was curious to see if removing Instagram would make a huge difference in my life. I’ll preface this by saying that I tend to spend more time on YouTube and Reddit than on Instagram, so this experiment probably would’ve been more useful had I cut out all social media for a week. That said, here’s how it went.

For the first few days, I noticed that I really felt like I was missing out on what was happening in the world. That feeling that I used to have when I saw someone on an incredible vacation or having an amazing dinner was replaced by the fear that I no longer knew about things like the latest product launches from my favorite fitness companies or which puppy was now the cutest dog on the platform.

Then, about half way through the week, I totally forgot about Instagram all together. I wasn’t thinking about whether my meal was Istagrammable or whether our weekend activities were worth sharing via stories. This helped me enjoy things in the moment and reduced the stress of making my life “picture perfect”. On the other hand, the 30-45 minutes throughout the day that I used to spend scrolling Instagram were replaced with other mindless scrolling elsewhere. I had hoped that I would read, meditate, stretch, or walk more, but I just switched to a different mindless activity. I learned that how we spend our time is both our habits and our choices, and taking away the habit of Instagram didn’t automatically remove the habit of mindless scrolling.

Did removing Instagram making me happier? Ultimately, I think it did. It removed pressure from my day to day life and helped me stopped comparing my life to others’ highlight reels. That said, I still have more work to do using my time mindfully.