The 5 Minute Journal: my experience using a daily gratitude journal (and app)

five minute journal

I first downloaded the Five Minute Journal over two years ago as an iPhone app.

I had heard great things about the Journal, and I definitely wanted to give it a try and experiment with daily gratitude, but the paper version wasn’t distributed in Europe at the time.

So I downloaded the app, which I loved and used for several months. But when I started to include a “no-screens before bed” phase to my evening rituals, it became more and more difficult to use the app regularly. I eventually stopped for a few months.
Until, earlier this year, the Five Minute Journal started being distributed to other parts of the world, including the UK.

I couldn’t resist, so I immediately bought one, and started using it on March 1st.
I haven’t skipped a single day since, and I love to give it away to friends and (lucky) readers as a tool to support them in their future pursuits.

Writing in the Five Minute Journal has become one of my favourite daily rituals, and has definitely impacted my life in a very positive way. Although it’s part of an ecosystem of positive habits and purposeful goals that help me stay on track on a daily, weekly, and longer-term basis, this gratitude journal has made a strong impact in the following:

  • Being the luckiest man on the planet: through listing three things I am grateful for, and three positive aspects of my day, I realise how much I actually have in my life. Even on a bad day.
    This makes me appreciate present things even more, and creates a feeling of being “the luckiest person on the planet”.
  • Keeping track of my progress: thanks to the evening review, I can easily look back and see where I was a day, a week, or a month ago, and adjust course.
  • Being aware of my struggles and desires: through daily affirmations and the daily review, I can spot patterns of things I want to change or make happen in my life.
  • Spotting room for improvement: in the daily review, the journal asks “how could you have made the day even better?”. This is great to find a way to keep improving and take action to make every day even more positive.
  • Understanding my daily priorities: through answering “what would make today great?” I select my top 3 daily priorities, which helps me keep my day balanced.

You can get your own Five Minute Journal here, or keep reading for my full review:

Paper journal (from $22.95)

iPhone app (from $4.99)



How does the Journal work

Using proven psychology principles, the Five Minute Journal condenses a lot of goodness into a few minutes, two times a day: first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.
Each day is contained in a page on the paper journal, which is split into day and night, represented by a set of two cards in the app.

The Morning

five minute journal - morning

The morning starts with either a daily quote or a weekly challenge to push you outside your comfort zone and do something kind.

Then, the journal is structured for you to list 3 things you are grateful for: you can write down anything here, from your positive attitude to the bed you just woke up in. This step is key, as it makes you start the day with a positive mindset, forcing you to realise the abundance in your life.
I find this a great antidote to the shower of negative information and gossiping that we’re exposed to every day, and it’s a great way to wake up each day!

Next, you will list three daily priorities, which is the perfect amount: small enough for you to focus, but large enough for you to keep your day balanced. I usually set my priorities separately, but this is a great way to just jot down what I feel is important for me.

Lastly, you will write a daily affirmation, which is a sentence meant to set your direction for the future.
I use this to either reinforce something that already exists, or I write something I want to see happen, describing it in the present tense.

The Evening

five minute journal - evening

The evening is shorter, and it’s divided in two bits meant for you to evaluate your day.

The journal asks you to list 3 amazing thing that happened today. From a stranger’s smile, to a reader’s email, passing through a call with a friend, this is my favourite section together with the morning gratitude.
It helps me realise how every day has offered me plenty of positive jewels, I only need to be ready to notice.

Lastly, you can list 1-2 ways you could have made your day even better. You should write this in the present tense as if it actually happened. But don’t be harsh on yourself, take it as a suggested direction for your future days.


The Paper Journal

The paper journal is by far my favourite: though more expensive than the app, it has enough pages to last for 210 days, which brings the cost to just over $0.10 a day.
The journal is very sturdy, with an external cover that feels like linen to the touch, making it unique and adding to the experience. The first 45 pages explain the positive psychology principles and the structure of each page, which definitely helped me make the most of it. I didn’t realise I had been doing my Daily Affirmations all wrong until I went through the paper journal.

daily gratitude journal

The main advantages of using the paper version are:

  • A dedicated object: we use our smartphones for so many things, it’s tough to associate it with one habit. Having a dedicated journal makes the ritual richer and easier to stick to.
  • A mindful moment without distractions: you can write in your journal without worrying about being distracted by notifications or other apps (it will happen – don’t lie to yourself).
  • Writing down by hand uses different parts of the brain than typing, activating cognitive processes that help you elaborate and remember your thoughts.
  • No need to worry about battery life.
  • Financial incentive: the journal costs $22.95 (around $0.10 a day) – we tend to appreciate more what we pay for, which in turn will make you more likely to actually use the journal and get all the benefits.

You can find the paper journal here:

The App

The gratitude journal app was updated earlier this year, with a snazzy new interface that is very pleasant and intuitive to use. The daily structure is the same as the paper journal, except it’s easier to navigate between days using the calendar view. You can also add a daily picture, which makes the experience more fun and makes it easier to recognise specific days at a glance.

The portability of the app makes it ideal for travelling (I have used it for 10 days while visiting friends in Moscow), but overall it’s not such a big deal, since the journal is meant to be filled in first thing in the morning and in the evening before bedtime.

gratitude journal app

The main advantages of the app are:

  • Bring your daily priorities with you: setting your 3 daily priorities is a great part of the journal, but it’s even better when you can bring it with you as a reminder. Since the paper journal stays on my bedside table, I like to take a picture instead.
  • Ideal when travelling: I used the app when travelling in Russia, and it was ideal, although it was more difficult to stick to the habit without a dedicated object.
  • You can add pictures.
  • Daily notifications: though you can set these in a separate app, it’s handy to have notifications remind you to write your daily entry.


You can find the paper journal here:



Five Minute Journal app review


Personal conclusions

Overall, I prefer the paper version. Although the app is convenient, having a separate object just reinforces the daily habit to pick up the journal and write – which allows me to be consistent every day.
Yes, the app allows you to have your daily priorities with you at all times but…you can just take a picture before leaving the flat.

Can you get the same benefits without using the journal? Perhaps, yes.

However, the Five Minute Journal is structured to make journalling and positive thinking as simple and effective as possible. The easy-to-follow and essential structure of each day lowers the bar for you to actually do it, removing as many excuses as possible.
The app interface and the material of the journal make journalling a special moment, and create a more enduring habit that is easier to stick to.

Buying the Five Minute Journal also increases the perceived value of this important ritual, making you more likely to keep at it in the long term, and keep benefitting from the incredible effects of journalling and positive thinking.

You can get your own Journal by following the links above.
Full disclosure: I do get a small commission for sales made through those links (at no extra cost to you).
The Five Minute Journal has made a great positive impact on my life, so if you prefer a regular link, you can just visit the official website at — all I care about is that you benefit from the same goodness that the journal has brought into my life.

— Matt