Here is a simple yet powerful exercise to make you feel happy. It is a weekly diary where each day you get to follow specific instructions and write down your thoughts. It is well-known that journaling can do wonders for motivation. This exercise makes journaling systematic based on established research. It really delivers.
Research shows that if you follow this routine, you will quickly feel the difference it brings in your mood and happiness (Seligman et al. 2005).
The exercise also relies on research that writing down your thoughts can be more powerful in boosting your happiness than sharing them with friends or family. The process of writing down is more structured and systematic than talking which is why the diary technique is so much more effective.
The routine is suggested by Prof. Richard Wiseman and a variation of this is provided here (Wiseman 2009).
Here is how it work. You will need to fill in your diary on each day of the week. You must follow the instruction and think about the subject and then write it down. The act of writing is critical, rather than sharing it with someone which is simply thinking it in your head. Consider the following notes:
- While writing, don’t worry too much about grammar, punctuation, and style. The aim is to get down on the paper what you have in mind quickly. The act of writing will encourage you to think systematically.
- Keep it short. It doesn’t have to be a long. Follow whatever helps you to keep up with the exercise and make it into a habit rather than going crazy on it one day and then giving up the next.
Here is what you need to write in your diary each day:
Appreciate What You Are Grateful About
Think about your life in the past week and think of three things that you appreciate. Write these in your diary.
The three things can be anything; people, possessions, states, status, experiences, etc.
- Having a loving family
- Being able to enjoy what your city offers
- Having a job that you love
- Being able to play board games in a local board game café
- Enjoying a rich chocolate
- Knowing how to snowboard well
Think About One of the Most Enjoyable Moments of Your Life
Think back and pick a moment in time where you were truly happy. A moment that you were content with life and felt you did not want it to pass; a moment that you wish to revisit. Imagine how it felt. Think of the physical environment and what you sensed. Write about this single moment in your diary.
This moment doesn’t have to be symbolically significant. It also doesn’t have to be the single most enjoyable event ever. Just pick one that you enjoyed a lot and keep your focus on the writing task rather than comparing them in your mind.
- Carried out a complex trick while mountain biking for the first time
- Experienced an incredible performance by a musician
- Immigrated to a new country and felt truly energised and happy to kick start a new chapter of your life
- Found yourself in love with another human being
- Saw a work of art that made your jaw drop
Think of a Compelling Vision of Future
Imagine a future where everything has gone according to plan and you have achieved what you wanted. Think of a realistic future where you have worked hard to get what you wanted and have succeeded spectacularly.
The focus is not necessarily to set goals. Instead, the aim is to understand your vision and to identify what you really want—where you really want to be in every way. Tony Robbins, the achievement guru, expresses this elegantly:
“You’ve got to have a vision—a vision for what it is you really, truly want, not what you think you want or what you should have. A vision that really works is one that excites you... It has to be a compelling vision. It’s got to have something that has the power to pull you, not something you have to push yourself to do.”
- The future of your profession
- The vision of your future
- Where you live or spend time in
- Whom you are with
- What you possess
- What you experience
- What you achieve
Think of a Significant Character in Your Life
Think of a person who has a significant impact on your life—usually a close family or friend. What if you had only one chance to tell this person how much they meant to you. Write down why you care for them so much.
- What your partner means to you
- How has your mother/father shaped you and how grateful you are to them
- What was the most significant thing you have learned from your favourite uncle and how much you are grateful for this
Think About How Much You Have Progressed This Week
Tony Robbins states that in his experience of coaching thousands of individuals, people, the world over, feel happy when they have a compelling vision of future and feel they are progressing forward. The moment people feel they are stuck or not getting anywhere, they start to get anxious, agitated and sad.
Progress is sometimes significant and sometimes little by little. This is just the nature of progress because it is not always linear. Sometimes it can be easy to miss you have been progressing unless you focus on it.
You have already written about your compelling future; now think of how much you have progressed towards that future during this week. Write it down in your diary. It doesn’t matter how little it is; progress is progress and it simply means you are not stuck.
Take it one week at a time, and before long you get exactly you want to be based on your vision.
Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T., Park, N., Peterson, C. (2005) “Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions”, American Psychologist, 60, pages 410-21
Wiseman, R. (2009) “:59 seconds: Think a little, change a lot”, Macmillan.