Many of us are familiar with the concept of gratitude and thankfulness. Science says that feelings of gratefulness have many positive effects – from physical to psychological – making it the most popular topic for daily journals. While these gratitude journals are a great practice, it can be a struggle to feel thankful everyday when a person is dealing with difficult issues, whether that’s in their personal life or with their mental or physical health.
At Nexus Family Healing, we see many youth and families who are going through difficult times and struggle to see the good in every day. That’s why we champion the practice of keeping a “joy journal.”
Joy Journal vs Gratitude Journal
A joy journal is different than a gratitude journal as it’s asking you to identify one thing that made you smile, laugh, or feel a little lighter that day. Whereas gratitude journals are asking you to identify something in your life that you’re thankful for – and while this is a great thing to do, many people find themselves writing the same things day after day. In essence, finding the small joy in your day seems more attainable sometimes than this larger idea of gratefulness.
For some, joy is in watching a show at night, seeing a funny meme, getting time to go for a walk, petting the dog, or enjoying a cookie. Joy doesn’t have to be a big moment, but just a small thing that sparks happiness, a giggle or smirk, pleasure, satisfaction, or that warm-fuzzy feeling. Journaling these moments is important as we often don’t keep track of the small joys in life, only focusing on the major accomplishments and milestones. Recognizing the small things can help you find appreciation for everyday activities and interactions – which, much like gratitude, can lead to positive changes in overall well-being.
Nexus Family Healing Joy Journal
If you want to join Nexus Family Healing in joy journaling, you can download a free, month-long journal here or use a notebook of your own. Decide on a period of time that you want to journal; we suggest writing in your joy journal for at least one month to engrain into your daily habits. Once you’re ready to start your first entry, write down the date and a few words that describe the thing that brought you joy that day. Do this everyday and you’ll start to recognize little joys in all sorts of places. Keep your journal once you’ve finished so you can look back at it down the road and feel the joy all over again.
If you’re struggling to think of a joyful moment, ponder these thought-starters:
- What made you smile? What made you laugh?
- What little thing brightened your day?
- What was your favorite part of the day?
- What activity did you look forward to doing?
- What helped you relax?
- Did someone do something nice for you?
- What made a positive difference in your day?
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at NexusFamilyHealing.org.