Ondrej Markus

Entrepreneur in ed-tech, building the future of education as a founder and CEO at Playful.

I write about the future of education, designing learning games, and running a startup.

I'm a generalist, introvert, gamer, and optimizing to be useful.

stickman sitting at a desk

Feelgood journal

A simple method I used to train my brain to be more optimistic.

Feelgood journal

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I learned optimism as a habit in 2014.

And today, I remembered one technique I forgot I used at the time: I kept a positive-emotions-only journal.

It was my first journal ever – a pocket-sized Moleskine. Look, I still have it.

My first-ever journal

My first-ever journal

Every day, I would write there positive things, nothing negative.

Sometimes I added things during the day. But, more often, I’d take a few minutes in the evening and remember what happened today and what was good about it.

I did it to help my brain focus on what’s good at a time when my innate tendency to see things critically was tripled by a life situation that very much sucked.

Create a proof of joy

This technique worked for me because it creates a place where you can find evidence of how good your life is in case you forget.

So anytime I had a bad day, and everything felt hopeless, I could open this journal and see that life didn’t suck yesterday so that tomorrow might be okay again.

Writing down your positive thoughts strengthens the optimism habit. It adds a concrete technique into your positivity practice which increases your self-awareness.

Feelgood practice increases self-awareness.

Feelgood practice increases self-awareness.

How to start your feelgood journal

The setup is simple:

  1. Get any notebook you will only use for writing down positive things about your day. (It can also be digital.)
  2. Create a ritual of journaling time. I recommend keeping your notebook somewhere visible where you spend a lot of time: Like at your work table. You might write there whenever you think about it or at the same time once a day.
  3. The only rule is: There cannot be any negativity. So anytime you open this notebook, you are guaranteed to be showered with positivity. It will make you smile.

(Note: Sometimes I did put negative things in there but only to laugh about them.)

Here are some prompts I like to use:

Journal until you don’t need it anymore

I used feelgood journaling for 4-5 months before it didn’t feel necessary anymore. After that, my brain started paying more attention to the positive side of things on its own.

When the brain starts paying more attention to the good things.

When the brain starts paying more attention to the good things.

So you might look at this as short-term positivity training.

And if you are already optimistic, maybe you don’t need it. But it might still be fun to do it to have your thoughts written down for later browsing.

Because years later, you will stumble upon your journal after looking for something else in an old box of stuff from the past, read it, and laugh about your old stupid jokes…

“The epic feeling when you walk towards a bus station, and it arrives exactly as you get there so you just continue walking without stopping, the door shuts right behind you, and it takes off again. #GodMode” – Random note from my 2014 feelgood journal.