in praise of: one-sentence journals


As an avid writer, I’ve always kept up some form of journaling throughout my life. Whether it was in the form of long, detailed diary entries about my probably nonexistent high school love life, stanzas on tattered restaurant napkins, or dashes of inspiration in the notes on my iPhone, I’ve always been fond of cataloging my fleeting thoughts and ideas by writing. It wasn’t until recently, after reading The Happiness Project, that I learned keeping a journal actually has a numerous amount of emotional benefits. 

Journaling helps you recount memories in your life that you would have otherwise forgotten. I find myself recalling moments associated with emotion, rather than the significant events or the so-called traditional “milestones” in one’s life. I’m much more inclined to vividly remember the feeling of heavy eyelids on the drive home from daycare, strapped into the back seat of my mom’s Yukon, instead of my high school graduation. But both are equally important, and if you only rely on your feeble memory to encompass all of the pieces that make up your life–from the mundane to the glorious–you slowly begin to lose them at some point along the way. 

By keeping a journal, you allow yourself to solidify details and memories that would have otherwise slipped through the cracks. I still get enjoyment every time I read past entries, marveling at both my naivety and also my persistent voice and attitude that I can still recognize today. Journals allow you to savor forgotten moments, appreciate the past, and make you thankful for the changes that have occurred in your life. So why doesn’t everyone keep a journal? Because it’s time-consuming. 

So, The Happiness Project introduced me to the ultimate solution: one-sentence journaling. 

A one-sentence journal is a good way to summarize the events, feelings, or mood of your day with a simple sentence. The brevity of one sentence forces you to characterize your day in some kind of creative string of words. Not only is it a good way to document your memories, but it also pushes you to have a moment of introspection at the end of the day, something that also encourages feelings of gratitude and happiness. How often do we float through our lives, wondering what the hell we did for the last week? One-sentence journaling forces you to take a (very short) moment to pause and take some time to appreciate it all. 

The beauty of keeping a one-sentence journal is that you can easily incorporate it into your daily routine. Perhaps you write your one sentence before you brush your teeth, or right before you fall asleep. I keep mine right next to my bed, and jot a line or two down before I lay down. And if I forget, I just wake up and write something in the morning, instead. Mine read something like this: "July 13th, 2015: Shared laughs over Guinness on a rooftop. We went for a night swim, and I couldn't help but be in awe of how the stars freckled the sky." After a couple of weeks, you can already look back on a number of entries and see the patterns of your days, the emotions you experienced, and remember all of the things you may have already forgotten. 

Maybe start a note on your phone, or buy a small journal to keep by your bed or in your car. I can guarantee that when you look back–whether it’s one month, ten months, or six years from now–you’ll be glad that you took some time to capture parts of your life: true testaments of the person you once were, or maybe still are. 

The days are long, but the years are short. Keeping a one-sentence journal helps ground me and remind me of all of the moments and days I have to be grateful for.



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