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Spotlight on the One-Sentence Journal

Spotlight on the One-Sentence Journal

For more than a decade, I've been reading, writing, and talking to people about a big question: Can we make ourselves happier, and if so, how?

I'm my own guinea pig, and I do a lot of experiments to see if a certain habit, tool, or strategy can boost my happiness.

Along the way, I've created new tools for myself, to achieve an aim in a way that's right for me.

One such tool? My one-sentence journal.

When I was working on my book The Happiness Project, I realized that I had a strong urge to keep a journal—but realistically, I wouldn't keep a daily journal. I knew this truth about myself, and it frustrated me, because for a long time, I’d been alarmed by how little I remembered about my own past. In particular, because one of my resolutions is to “Appreciate this time of life,” I felt the impulse to keep a record of the pattern of my days so I’d remember this time of life later.

So I turned a plain notebook into my "One-Sentence Journal."

I love reading the long, thoughtful journal entries of writers like Virginia Woolf and Thomas Merton, but I knew I wouldn't write at that length. But one sentence? One sentence I could do. I often remind myself of that line from Voltaire: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." The single sentence I did write is better than the three pages I didn't write.

Because it was manageable, a one-sentence journal didn't feel like a burden.

After I wrote about this idea in The Happiness Project, I heard from many people were inspired to start their own one-sentence journals—and they used this easy, quick approach in many ways. For instance, people reported that they used their journal to...

  • record the funny or sweet things that their children did every day
  • track the progress of a new business
  • take notes on a course of chemotherapy
  • use as a gratitude journal
  • record notes about creative inspirations
  • use as a travel or food journal
  • record a child's progress, with the intent to give the journal to the child one day
  • write down the most notable occurrence from the day (most like a traditional journal)

I recently heard from someone who keeps her one-sentence journal with her children. Each night, as part of their bedtime routine, they decide what to record from the day—a lovely tradition.

Keeping this kind of journal boosts happiness in many ways. It can help to keep happy memories vivid. It can help us spot patterns and celebrate progress. It can be a record to boost our memories in the future, or to pass along to others. It can help us make sense of tough times and big challenges.

It can remind us to be present in the present. This desire is a major theme in my life! Ask me about my Album of Now!

Because I've learned that writing one sentence a day is an approach that works as a happiness-booster for many people, I've created a new, gorgeous design for a One-Sentence Journal.

You fill in the date, so you can start your year at any time: January 1, your birthday, the first day of a big undertaking—or whenever you happen to get your journal. When it comes to making ourselves happier, the best time to start is now.

I'd love to hear more examples of how people have used their one-sentence journals. We can all learn from each other.

If you'd like to start a one-sentence journal yourself—or give as a gift—click here.

We're all looking for new tools to add to our happiness tool-kits, to make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. I hope you find the One-Sentence Journal to be a useful addition.

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