How just five minutes of journalling a day can help shift your perspective on life

I had read about the benefits of journaling plenty of times before my mum bought me a journal for Christmas in 2020. Like many other people, I’d spent most of that year bitter and frustrated that my life had been put on hold due to the pandemic. I’d lost the remainder of my early 20s. I would go over and over all the experiences I didn’t have that I was supposed to. All of the progress I wanted to make that just didn’t happen. Oh, and all the fun I was planning that went out of the window, too.

woman journaling
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So from the 1 January 2021, I put my mum’s gift to use and started writing in the journal every night before going to sleep. Each page in the one I have (by Caroline Gardner, listed below) is separated into four sections. At the top, you write the date. Next, it says ‘today I am grateful for…’

Don’t let this scare you into thinking you have to write something deep and meaningful every day. Of course, we’re grateful for our loved ones, our health, our homes, and all of that big stuff. Some people can be put off by the pressure to come up with something totally unique, or struggle to think of anything at all. But sometimes, the thing I’ll be most grateful for in a day is that I ate a really delicious doughnut. Or that I saw an adorable dog.

There’s so much ‘small’ stuff we take for granted everyday, like our access to food or a sunny day, but through journaling, I’ve realised the importance of appreciating these seemingly irrelevant parts of life. Because sometimes, on those really bad days, it’s easy to forget those small rays of light exist at all.

Practising gratefulness in this way has also helped me shift my perspective, even when I’m not journaling. For example, instead of thinking ‘I’m so annoyed the train was cancelled and I had to walk an extra 20 minutes’, it becomes ‘I’m so grateful it was a beautiful day, I got to spend time outside in the sunshine, and I got extra steps in’. Granted, it’s still annoying when day-to-day things don’t go to plan and obviously they can have knock-on effects. But by documenting your thoughts through journaling, it’s easier to understand that in those situations, holding on to the frustration usually doesn’t do anything other than make you feel bad. As a wise person once said, ‘sh*t happens’.

Louise Troen, Vice President, International Marketing & Communications at meditation app Headspace says: ‘In addition to meditation and breathwork, journaling is a widely-recognised mindfulness practice, as it provides a way to check in with ourselves and acknowledge how we’re truly feeling.

‘Rather than letting yourself get lost in a moment or staying frustrated, journaling can aid with realising these emotions and behaviours, accepting them and focusing on a route to overcome them.’

The next section in my journal says, ‘tonight I want to clear my mind of…’

As we know, life isn’t all rainbows and smiles, but journaling means I have the space to process the bad parts properly. I allow myself to feel what I need to feel about a situation, but I try to be conscious that this is a feeling I have now. And I might have it for a while longer, but it doesn’t have to encompass me. I can park it there for the night, because there’s often nothing I can do in that moment before going to sleep to make a situation better.

The final space in my journal has the prompt, ‘goals for tomorrow…’

I don’t use this as an opportunity to write down my to-do list, but rather a time to set the tone for the following day. If I know I’ve got a lot to do, the goal will be to ‘be productive’ instead. If I know I’m seeing a friend, the goal might be to be present and consciously appreciate their company.

Don’t get me wrong, journaling doesn’t make all of my problems, worries and anxieties magically disappear. But what it does do is help me process those thoughts properly and re-frame them, so I can shift my perspective on whatever’s bothering me. It’s not about dismissing how I feel or not accepting that bad things happen, but personally, it’s stopped me from getting as anxious about them as I used to.

I started journaling because I didn’t want a gift from my mum to go to waste. Now, it’s a fundamental part of my daily bedtime routine. So if you’d like to give it a go, I’ve found some journals that won’t break the bank to get things started. Whether you’d rather use a completely blank journal to write down your thoughts, or get one with prompts to help feel the benefits of journaling, there are loads available to buy right now…

Journals under £30

Reasons to Smile gratitude journal, £19.99 (was £24.99), Papier

Papier has teamed up with Headspace to give shoppers a complimentary Headspace membership with every Wellness, Gratitude Journal or Notebook purchased throughout January. Existing Headspace members will receive a 25 per cent off discount code via email. What’s more, Papier will also donate 50p from each journal sold to Young Minds charity.

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Joy Gratitude Journal, £19.99 (was £24.99), Papier

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Celestial One Line a Day, £14.99, Waterstones

Vegan Leather Planner with Pen – Dusty Pink with Cheetah, £18, Nooki

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Bomo Art Medium Half Leather Bound Journal, £27.50, Pen Heaven

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Yellow Bedtime Sleep Journal, £15.40 (was £22), Caroline Gardner

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Pocket Dream Journal, £17, Magic of I

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Day of Gratitude Journal (Cotton), £24, Mal Paper

Overthinking journal, £20, Lovendu

READ MORE: Manifesting – Can you think yourself richer?

By Kanika Banwait