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Take Five: How a 5 Minute Journal Can Change Your Life

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Take Five: How a 5 Minute Journal & Gratitude Journal Can Change Your LifeImagine a happier, more productive, more positive, more carefree, less stressed you. Now imagine all you have to do is pick up a pen for a few minutes a day and dash off your thoughts in a gratitude journal. That’s what UJ Ramdas, co-creator of the 5 Minute Journal, wants for all of us.

Started by Intelligent Change, the company Ramdas co-founded with Alex Ikonn, the Five Minute Journal phenom is built on positive psychology research and the reciprocal notion that focusing on the good in your life brings more good.

“It is absolutely, scientifically proven that expressing gratitude improves mental health, positivity, and overall well-being,” says Ramdas. “It, often unknowingly, re-shapes your perspective by making positive cognitive pathways more accessible.”

UJ Ramdas of Intelligent Change & Five Minute Journal

Time works wonders

You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who would say expressing gratitude – to ourselves, to others – isn’t a good thing. So, why do most of us struggle with taking time – even just a few minutes – to do it? Ramdas says it comes down to the busyness of life and an inundation of information.

“Taking time to reflect – whether your practice is meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, or what have you – is surprisingly difficult and requires discipline,” he continues. “The other element is that the required discipline stems from understanding the benefits of practicing gratitude. This is uncommon.”

The benefits of brushing your mind

We know that the benefit of, for example, eating fruits and vegetables is improving our diet and overall fitness. We know washing our hands helps us avoid colds. We know that brushing our teeth means good dental health (and not offending your classmates). That’s how Ramdas wants you to think of a gratitude journal – a mind cleanse.

“We call the practice of the Five Minute Journal ‘A Toothbrush for Your Mind.’ What I mean by that, is that you will only realize the benefits if you practice. The same principle, which is applied to physical training, can be applied to mental training, except instead of your glutes, this is exercise for the mind. Writing your reflection down – writing anything down, really – makes your thoughts concrete.”

5 Minute Journal Benefits of a Gratitude Journal Intelligent Change Textbooks.com Infographic

Click to enlarge

A prompt reply is appreciated

The guided journal provides both structure and freedom. For each daily entry in the 5 Minute Journal, there are three wake-up questions and two before-bed questions.

“In the morning, the prompts are designed to prime you for a positive, meaningful, and productive day,” says Ramdas. “They are 1) What are you grateful for? 2) What would make today great? and 3) A daily affirmation. The combination requires you to take stock of what matters in your life, set an intention for your day and stay accountable to it, and to ingrain a mantra of the person you want to be with your daily affirmation.”

As you settle in at night, it’s about reflection: What are 3 amazing things that happened today? and How could I have made today even better?

“These prompts enable you to end your day on a positive note,” says Ramdas. “They stop you from running through the list of didn’t-dos in bed, or torturing yourself with something you did wrong that day. Instead, you remember the great things and the beauty of your day. And, you ask yourself, with no judgment, ‘What would have made it a little better?’”

Take 5 and take care

“By taking five minutes of your day to express gratitude for what you already have in your life – air in your lungs, a roof over your head, the world wide web at your fingertips, etc. – that for the rest of the 1435 minutes of the day, this thought pattern becomes available to you,” suggests Ramdas. “Instead of thinking, ‘Agh, I’m so busy at work, it’s so crap to be me,’ you train your mind to access, ‘I’m grateful to be employed. I’m grateful for the responsibility that’s been entrusted in me.’”

But really – it only takes five minutes? “It does! And this is part of the fun,” says Ramdas. “If you wake up, in a bed, under a roof, with a journal at your bedside, I can guarantee that it should only take you five minutes. I just named three things for you in about 10 seconds. This is the beauty of the exercise. It’s unobtrusive to your life and routine, and completely transformational.”

And while deeper, more contemplative reflection is welcome, the little things are just as important. The big moments don’t happen every day – routine can often rule our daily lives. Showing gratitude for the person who let you out in traffic, snagging the last blueberry scone at your favorite café, or a 10-minute walk amidst a busy day leads to a more positive and productive day.

Short and sweet

“The activity isn’t meant to have you sitting in bed for hours on end toiling over what you are most thankful for,” says Ramdas. “It’s in fact the opposite – a challenge – to come up with what you are grateful for in a matter of minutes, because this is just how abundant our lives are.”

Putting pen to paper and writing down happy tidbits, your goals, affirmations, and to-do list should be part of everyone’s wellness program, says Ramdas.

“Writing it down makes it real, tangible, a declaration of what is otherwise invisible,” he suggests. “Without that commitment, we generally don’t hold ourselves accountable. Not to mention, this practice takes just five minutes. We can all spare five minutes to better ourselves.”

Get a Five Minute Journal and read more tips on IntelligentChange.com.

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