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How to Journal: the Complete Guide to Journal for Happiness

Journaling, gratitude, mindfulness, and introspection. What do all these things have in common?

They are all significantly correlated to happiness. Now, what does this have to do with journaling? It's easy: journaling - no matter in what form - helps you achieve these things.

There is plenty of scientific research on the benefits of journaling. But that's not what this page is focusing on. Instead, we want to focus on the simple fact that journaling is fun.

We've published numerous articles highlighting the benefits of journaling, and how you can make a habit out of journaling for your happiness. This page contains the best bits of those articles, with links to every other article we've published on living a life with purpose.

Most recent articles about "Journaling for happiness"

Here are the most recently added articles that are about journaling and how you can be happier from keeping a diary:

The many benefits of journaling

Journaling has many incredible benefits. It’s a form of therapy that you can do on your own. It improves your memory and self-awareness. It can even increase your productivity.

No wonder why many successful people are known journal writers.

In addition to helping you sort out your thoughts, journaling is good for your mental health, and there's more than enough evidence to prove it:

But we don't want to focus exclusively on the studies about journaling.

Instead, we want to focus on the amazing stories that we've read over the years from our community at Tracking Happiness.

These people have shared their personal journaling journeys with us, with more than enough examples on how journaling can help you live a happier life.

How to journal in a way that boosts your happiness

Okay, so you want to start journaling to experience how powerful it can be for your happiness?


But how do you start? What should you focus on? Do you write in a book, notepad or digital file? What do you even write about? How do you turn journaling in a habit?

These questions might be difficult to answer, but you shouldn't let these questions keep you from starting it all.

Just like everything, the first step is often the hardest.

The first step: start journaling!

Have you ever heard the following phrase?

"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now."

The same goes for journaling. Everybody started the same way: writing down that first word on a piece of paper. Even the people who are now known to be the greatest diarists around started the same way, by writing something along the lines of "dear diary..."

In fact, my first written words in my journal were:

This is my first ever page.

How creative... ?

My point is, journaling is one of the most powerful tools to become more grateful, mindful, self-aware and more introspective. If you're not sure how to even start journaling, here's my advice:

  • Buy a nice little notebook
  • Find a great pen
  • Sit down with a cup of coffee
  • Write the following words: "Dear diary, today this happened:"

And go from there.

The post below shows multiple examples of how readers from our community started their journaling habit:

Find the journaling method that you love

There are over a thousand different journaling methods out there.

It's safe to assume that you won't enjoy every method. You'll need to find the journaling method that you love.

As much as no one is able to tell you how to live a happy life, no one will be able to determine what journaling method will make you the happiest. I personally made the switch from pen and paper to a digital journal format a couple of years ago. Even now, I change my journaling habit every so often!

If you at least just start journaling, you will quickly be able to find out what helps you the most on your pathway to happiness.

Embrace gratitude

Gratitude is strongly correlated to positive emotions and good experiences, and the reason why is very simple to explain.

A study on gratitude was conducted in 2003 by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. The study found that people who are actively reminded of things to be grateful for are 10% happier than those who aren't.

This might not sound like a lot at first, but when talking about happiness, mood and subjective well-being, this is a very significant result. See, things like happiness and mood are extremely hard to measure and define. The measurement of subjective things like these is distorted in a lot of ways, like biases, different measuring scales, and wrong interpretations to name a few. The researchers have done a great job to eliminate as much of the distortion as possible, and a 10% increase in happiness as a result of practicing gratitude is a huge observation.

Practicing gratitude, especially when feeling less than happy, keeps us anchored to a more rounded and positive view. Our emotional subconscious believes whatever narrative our conscious mind feeds it. This is why incessant worrying can make us feel so bad emotionally. It’s also why changing that narrative with gratitude journaling can make us feel better.

Become more self-aware by learning from your journal

Here's something not a lot of people do:

Learn from your journal and find out how you can be happier.

At the start of this guide, I talked about how no-one can tell you how to live a happy life. Not your parents, not your friends, not me, and especially not your colleagues.

Only you can learn how to be happy yourself. See where I'm going here? If you've been journaling for some time already, you have an immense amount of knowledge sitting right underneath your nose.

Your journal is able to teach you:

  • How to be happier on typical crappy Mondays.
  • How to deal with that annoying colleague (we all have one, right?)
  • How to not be bothered by your busy commute.
  • How much your friends improve your happiness.
  • That you're not as happy when you feel hungover.
  • Etc.

By journaling, you're recording daily case studies (or experiments) on how your life is influenced by everything. You can learn from these daily experiments!

What has helped me most?

To just open your journal every so often, and jump to a random page. Whether it's a page from last month or 3 years ago, you'll be surprised at how much you can learn from your former-self.

Re-experiencing my own thought process like this has been a powerful way to increase my self-awareness.

Don't forget to live life outside of your journal

Journaling is great. I think this page has made that very clear. But - like everything - it's possible to overdo it.

One of my favorite writers - David Sedaris - has worded it beautifully:

That's the thing with a diary, though. In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it's so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it.

David Sedaris, Theft By Finding

What this means is that journaling is a beautiful way to record and learn from your life. But in order to be able to journal, you need to live your life first.

I was surprised when I found out, but there are some people who let journaling control their lives. I don't want you to go down that route!

All articles about “Journaling For Happiness”

Here at Tracking Happiness, we are extremely fascinated about happiness and creating a habit out of journaling every day. We are always on the lookout to answer questions such as:

  • How much does journaling increase your self-awareness?
  • Can journaling replace therapy when you're struggling with your mental health?
  • How can you more easily turn journaling into a daily habit?

Whenever we learn something new about journaling, we usually write an article about it.

Here’s a full list of articles we’ve written about “Journaling For Happiness”:

Closing words

I hope these articles have made you excited about starting a journal. Journaling remains one of the key topics here at Tracking Happiness. This article is updated whenever we publish a new and interesting piece of content, so make sure to check back every once in a while.

Now it’s time to hear from you! What does your journaling routine look like? Want to share your own story on how journaling has made you live a happier life? Please share it in the comments below!

Hugo Huijer Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.