My 30 day challenge for March was all about developing a healthy mind. I realize that my negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions and just leave me feeling either anxious or depressed. As a result, I am not my best self and certainly not the kind of parent that I want to be.
Every day last month I spent 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening writing in a journal. I have never liked journaling and this is the first time it has ever worked for me. The 5 Minute Journal, which is based on the principles of positive psychology, is really quite simple, but amazing. I have noticed a significant change in my overall mood. I am also more able to enjoy the good days and also survive the rough ones.
I feel like the 10 minutes that I spend journaling each day makes me a happier parent. Here are the five elements of the daily journal and why each one is helpful.
There is a strong connection between gratitude and joy. Gratitude is the opposite of depression and anxiety. It’s the conscious experience of appreciation of the gifts in our lives and the results are tangible. This video by researcher Brene Brown does a good job of explaining the relationship between gratitude and joy.
Some days this was extremely hard, especially when I woke up in a bad mood, felt sick or was not looking forward to my day. However, my commitment to the journal forced me to come up with three things I was grateful for, which helped me to shift my thoughts to the positive things in my life.
Every day I had to answer this question. What would make today great? This required me to focus on what I could do to actively make my day better. Eat healthy food, listen to a good podcast, work through a disagreement with my wife or just remind myself of a part of the day that I was looking forward to.
It is amazing how helpful setting a positive intention can be. Many of the things I wrote down related to being a better parent, whether it was taking a walk with my kids or making family dinner a priority.
I have had to train myself to think good thoughts about myself. Using affirmations, while awkward at first has been a really key part of this. I want to teach my kids to be confident and to value themselves. I can only teach what I know and have experienced.
This last month writing my daily affirmation has probably been my favorite exercise. It gets easier with practice and it actually feels really good to acknowledge the best parts of me. I am happy with what I have. I am better than my worst day. I am a loving father.
Reflecting on the good
At night, the journal asks me to reflect on 3 amazing things that happened today. This has easily been one of the most challenging parts, but it has taught me to view my day in an entirely new way. I am actively looking for the best moments and memories, even in the most mundane of days. This allows me to celebrate the small wins and recognize the good.
Funny enough, many of my amazing experiences have to do with food. Starbucks Chai Latte, In-N-Out burgers and my wife’s fantastic cooking. Clearly I live to eat, which is funny to think about, but it also makes me realize the things that genuinely make me happy.
Lastly, the journal prompts me to consider how I could have made today better. This engages my brain in some retroactive problem solving, which can also benefit me in the future. I recognized the things that caused my happiness to take a dive. Lack of sleep, forgetting to exercise, not spending time with my kids or not using my time wisely. This was challenging, but also insightful and it gave me an opportunity to make a different choice the next day.
I have genuinely enjoyed this 30 day challenge. I am surprised to say that I am not ready to give up my journaling habit.
10 minutes a day has made me a happier parent.