The Joyful Coach, Sophie Cliff, is a qualified coach, positive psychology practitioner and bestselling author who helps individuals and organisations flourish by finding more joy in their lives and work. For This Creative Life, she shares some tips and tools for positive journaling, an emotive form of writing that can enable us to tap into the good things.
I’ve got a question for you: what would add more joy to your life?
Common answers tend to include: more money, more time, a bigger house, a great holiday, a few more clients and a bit more sleep. And those things might bring us some joy, but what if I told you there was something you could do today, that would take you about 15 minutes and not cost you a single penny, that could help you to access more of that warm fuzzy feeling we all crave?
Enter: positive journaling
Journaling has become increasingly popular in the last few years, and there’s good reason for that. It’s a free tool that can help us to process our emotions, record memories and become more self-aware, and there’s robust scientific evidence to show that writing about ourselves and our lives is good for our well-being.
But if you’re looking for a joy boost, we can take things one step further and explore the world of positive journaling. Positive journaling can be defined as expressive or personal writing that focuses on or explores positive emotions and the good parts of life, and research shows that it can help to improve optimism and increase positive emotions. Put simply, writing about the good stuff can help us feel great!
…remember that we can do little things each day to help us experience more joy.
The daily check-in
The first tool I’m going to share with you is simple but incredibly effective. I call it the daily check-in, and it goes like this:
- Open your journal, write today’s date, and then rate how you’re feeling on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being completely miserable, and 10 being feeling at your absolute best.
- Next, jot down any strong emotions or feelings that you’re experiencing. You don’t even have to write full sentences here, just the odd word or phrase – for example, “feeling angry” or “ready for a break”.
- Finally, write down something you could do today to move your score up by one point. So, for example, you might be feeling like a 2/10, but know that speaking to a friend would move you up to a 3, or you might feel like a 7/10 and know that getting out for a walk at lunchtime would make you feel even better.
This exercise serves a few purposes. Firstly, it helps us to start a conversation with ourselves – often, we are so busy running from one thing to the next that we forget to pause and notice how we’re feeling or what we’re craving. Secondly, if you repeat this exercise on a regular basis, you will start to realise that small actions can make a big difference to how you feel. The goal is never to feel 10/10 every single day (impossible!) but instead to remember that we can do little things each day to help us experience more joy.
…gratitude is proven to be a prerequisite for joy.
Three good things
The next tool I’m going to share is one of my favourites, and that’s because it’s one of the most well-researched positive psychology interventions! It’s another simple exercise, but has been proven to enhance optimism, gratitude and wellbeing, and significantly increase feelings of happiness. Here’s how to use it…
- Take a few minutes to reflect back on your day.
- Open your journal and write down three good things that have happened throughout your day. These can be big or small!
- Then, reflect on and write about why these things happened. For example, “I had a really lovely lunch with a friend, and it happened because I carved out the time to catch up with her”, or “I enjoyed a cup of tea in bed this morning, and it happened because my kind partner brought it up to me”.
This exercise helps to boost our joy for a few reasons. Firstly, it helps us to feel more gratitude for the good stuff in our life, and gratitude is proven to be a prerequisite for joy. Secondly, by writing this list each evening, you’ll start to notice any patterns – for example, you might deduce that time spent outdoors is something that makes you feel good, which will give you information about what to prioritise when you’re craving a little joy boost. And finally, by reflecting on why the good things happened, you’ll feel more connected to and in control of what is bringing you joy.
There’s also something powerful about zooming out from the present moment that helps to give a different perspective.
Best possible self intervention
I’ve got one last tool to share with you, and I’ve saved the best until last! Unlike the other exercises, this isn’t one to use every day, but instead a tool you can reach for when you’re craving some clarity or a big old optimism boost. It’s called the Best Possible Self intervention and was developed by Dr Laura King in 2001. Since then, research has shown that it enhances optimism, improves health and coping skills, and increases well-being and positive emotions. Here are the instructions as outlined in the original study:
Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. think of this as the realisation of all of your life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined.
Write about what you imagined for 20 minutes. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or sentence structure – just write. If you run out of things to say, just repeat what you have already written until the 20 minutes is up.
The purpose of this exercise is to break us out of our “worst-case scenario” thinking, and instead, allow us to explore what could happen if everything went right. There’s also something powerful about zooming out from the present moment that helps to give a different perspective, too, which can be really useful.
So there you have it – some journaling tools to help you find a little more joy in your everyday life! I hope you enjoy them – come over and let me know on Instagram if you give any of them a go.
Sophie Cliff, also known as The Joyful Coach, is a qualified coach, positive psychology practitioner and bestselling author. She helps individuals and organisations to flourish and thrive by finding joy. Sophie’s book, Choose Joy, is out now, and her brand new self-care card deck, Sprinkles of Joy, is available to pre-order. The Choose Joy Club is her monthly membership to help you reconnect with your inner joy and find more of it every damn day.