YOUR Happiness Project: Keep a one-sentence journal.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

Yesterday was the Little Girl’s last day in the “Purple Room,” which is what her nursery school calls the class for the school’s youngest children. She only went twice a week, for less than three hours, but the Purple Room was a very big part of her life.

There’s something so inexpressibly sweet about this age and this first experience of school. I’m having an emotion that I can only describe as preemptive nostalgia for this time. Her last morning there was yesterday, but already, I feel deeply sentimental about it.

The days are long, but the years are short.

For that reason, I’m so happy that I started keeping my one-sentence journal; otherwise I would worry that I wouldn’t remember any of the details about this time – the teeny tiny sinks, the coat hooks in the hallway marked with the children’s photos, the play kitchen and the board books.

Two years ago, I started keeping a one-sentence journal because I knew I would never be able to keep a proper journal with lengthy entries. I just don’t have the time or energy to write a long entry – even two or three times a week.

Instead, each day, I write one sentence (well, actually, I type on the computer) about what happened that day to me, the Big Man and the girls.

I can imagine one-sentence journal dedicated to more specific topics, as well. It might be useful to have one-sentence journal about your career – especially useful if you were starting a new business. It might be helpful to keep a one-sentence journal as you were going through a divorce, a cancer treatment, or other kind of catastrophic event. It would be lovely to keep a one-sentence journal when you were falling in love.

I posted about how one reader keeps a journal for his children.

I like keeping a one-sentence journal because it’s a manageable task, so it doesn’t make me feel burdened; it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and progress, the atmosphere of growth so important to happiness; it helps keep happy memories vivid (because I’m much more inclined to write about happy events than unhappy events), which boosts my happiness; and it gives me a reason to pause thinking lovingly about the members of my family.

One thing is true: we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term, and underestimate what we can do in the long term, if we do a little bit at a time. Writing one sentence a day sounds fairly easy, and it is; at the end of the year, it adds up to a marvelous record.

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My goodness, I SO want to look through the the Telectroscope. You think you’re looking through a telescope from London to New York City! Fabulous.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • http://www.madisonatoz.com nichole

    What a great tip – I may use Twitter for this. :)
    By coincidence, a friend of mine just blogged about having “one thing” to maintain happiness in tough environments.
    http://fayeinsierraleone.blogspot.com/2008/06/one-thing

  • http://foureveryday.blogspot.com Scott

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been doing something similar over at my blog (http://foureveryday.blogspot.com) for the past few months now, and I’ve found it has significantly increased my happiness. The making-it-public thing has been just to keep me doing it (it’s surprising how people who read it will ask me “why haven’t you posted in a while?” if I start to slack), since sometimes I don’t know what’s good for me.
    And after that bit of shameless self-promotion, and since I’m here, I just want to say I love the blog. It’s like the bodhisattva blog!

  • http://onebagnation.wordpress.com Ann at One Bag Nation

    What a wonderful idea! I was curious about where you write on the computer; do you use something special or Word?
    My daughter is just finishing kindergarten and I’m feeling terribly sentimental, so I completely relate.
    I can’t sustain writing long journal entries either, and I’m tired of feeling guilty about that. I love this one-sentence idea and I will start with writing about yesterday – when my daughter did something very brave!
    Thank you!

  • http://www.abovethegwb.blogspot.com jordi

    I have done this since 1989, all in one dated book. The book doesn’t have day of the week, just dates, so each day I add today’s line under last year’s and all the years back to 1989. I gives me pleasure to look at both the ups and the downs. The downs help me remember how I got through them and the ups make me smile. I have about 10 years worth of lines left!

  • http://liveonpurpose.info/blog Jessica

    I’ve just discovered your blog. Thanks for staying dedicated to it. A sentence a day, eh? I have about three journals half filled with entries, but I find it hard to stick with it. But a single sentence may help. Oh, this will feed my penchant for run-on sentences, for sure!

  • http://shanelyang.com/ Shanel Yang

    I’ve tried this in the past, but was unsatisfied with just one sentence to describe anything in sufficient detail to recall the event later. Your example is lovely: “They days are long, but the years are short.” (Or, did I misunderstand, and that wasn’t your entry for the day?)
    Maybe it’s good enough to have beautiful one-liners each day. It certainly would stretch my writing abilities to come up with enough variety to make the journal less monotonous overall. Remember the Gary Larson cartoon with Tarzan sitting up in bed with an open diary on his lap and pencil in hand, scratching his head in deep thought? The caption read: “Tarzan contemplates yet another diary entry.” The pages of the open diary reveal, on every page, the single thought: “Oongawa!” Love that one!

  • Peggy

    The best gift I ever got (and now give) is a ten-year journal … just four short lines for every day, each page with space for that same day over the course of 10 years. When my husband died three years ago, I spent the first year of grief reading that day for the past 10 years — it was incredibly comforting, and helped make the life that had ended come alive fresh every day. Highly recommend it! “Time Flies”

  • http://www.blogher.com/blog/sallyhuss/ Sally Huss

    Ah, so delicious, a thought for a day. I commend you on your dedication to happiness. I too am in the business of happiness through my art and writings. I do a daily syndicated feature for newspapers called Happy Musings. I actually display one of these a day on my blog. You might enjoy them. Today’s has a wonderful jumping-for-joy frog.
    I did a book several years ago called The Happy Book which Ten Speed Press published. It pulled together what I had learned about happiness to that point in my life. Please take a peek if you get a chance. The happier you are, the happier you get!
    It is my desire now to connect with others who are focused on this very important subject. You’re on my list!
    Smiles,
    Sally Huss
    “Life is wonderful! Don’t forget it.”
    Email: sally@sallyhuss.com
    Blog: http://www.blogher.com/blog/sallyhuss/
    Website: http://www.sallyhuss.com/

  • http://lifeamongstangels.blogspot.com maggie

    I’m long-winded so I’m not sure I could do just one sentence. I’ve kept sporadic journals about my love for my children and the amazing things they do as a gift to my children for over 6 years now. There are frequently long spells — months — where I don’t write (I have a 6-year-old and 3-year-old identical twins with Down syndrome). I blame it on busy-ness. I also attempted a blog but didn’t get there enough to make it worthwhile. I’m going to try the one sentence entry in my hand-written journals and see if it helps me get there more regularly.
    Meanwhile, it seems everyone is jumping on the blogging band wagon. As I said, I wanted to hop on (I’ve always secretly wanted to write) but didn’t feel my addition would change the world or anyone in it for that matter. However, as a function of reading about your pursuit of happiness I kept up the search for some relevant topic that moved me to blogging. And, I think I recently found it. I began a blog called Angels Abound. It both satisfies my pursuit of happiness by keeping me focused on good/positive things as well as, hopefully, shares a way of thinking that might help others appreciate the angels acting in their lives.
    Thanks, always, for the boost.
    so, maggie

  • http://lifeamongstangels.blogspot.com maggie

    I’m long-winded so I’m not sure I could do just one sentence. I’ve kept sporadic journals about my love for my children and the amazing things they do as a gift to my children for over 6 years now. There are frequently long spells — months — where I don’t write (I have a 6-year-old and 3-year-old identical twins with Down syndrome). I blame it on busy-ness. I also attempted a blog but didn’t get there enough to make it worthwhile. I’m going to try the one sentence entry in my hand-written journals and see if it helps me get there more regularly.
    Meanwhile, it seems everyone is jumping on the blogging band wagon. As I said, I wanted to hop on (I’ve always secretly wanted to write) but didn’t feel my addition would change the world or anyone in it for that matter. However, as a function of reading about your pursuit of happiness I kept up the search for some relevant topic that moved me to blogging. And, I think I recently found it. I began a blog called Life Amongst Angels — Angels Abound. It both satisfies my pursuit of happiness by keeping me focused on good/positive things as well as, hopefully, shares a way of thinking that might help others appreciate the angels acting in their lives.
    Thanks, always, for the boost.
    so, maggie

  • Angie

    I’ve been keeping a “Gratitude Journal” since the beginning of the year so I can look for (and inevitably find) at least one thing that day for which I am grateful. The entries tend to be very short – one to two lines in a small journal. I’ve tried to keep each selection unique and so far, I have been successful. It encourages me to approach the day actively seeking a blessing and then forces me to review the day in a positive light. It has been a tremendous boost to my happiness project. It’s more difficult to become discouraged and sad when I already have several pages of blessings for the year!

  • http://dritter55spaces.live.com Donna Ritter

    I love what you do

  • http://happiest.be nmw

    I like this idea — but I don’t see any reason to chain your “success” / “failure” to a clock. Just let the pc record the time / date — whatever it is, it doesn’t really matter….
    :) nmw

  • http://genuinecuriosity.com Dwayne Melancon

    Today I learned about 1-line journals from Gretchen.

  • Jessie1993

    I found about it because of Jacqueline Emerson, but I still don’t get it.