Happiness in 5 Minutes

Kan Yilmaz
4 min readJul 23, 2019


5 Minute Journal is a habit with asymmetrical positive value. The habit consists of every morning and evening answering a set of questions. I will explain each section and how it improved my life.

Morning Entries

I’m grateful for …

Every morning you write 3 different sentences on what you are grateful for. Initially, I had a bit of trouble finding things to write. Eventually, it gets easier. I use the following 4 items to guide me on how to approach this question

  • An old relationship that really helped you
  • An opportunity that you have today
  • Something great that happened or you saw yesterday
  • Something simple near you (having tap water, the pen you are holding, etc)

Explicit gratitude is important because it helps re-contextualize the short term negative things that happen to you throughout the day in the greater context of all the positives in your life.

- Justin Kan

In 10 days, you can feel the effect. I felt the need to reach out to friends from my past to thank them on how much impact they had in my life! The more I wrote the more I accepted myself, my friends and my surroundings, the happier I became.

What will I do to make today great?

Every morning you write 3 different actions that would make the day great. These should be small goals which can be achieved easily. It can be as small as “I will call my parents”. This section is perfect with daily habits. At least one tiny action would be a daily habit I am trying to gain.

In the beginning, I wrote everything straight forward like “I will do sports”, “I will close my browser tabs”, “I will cook”. Nowadays, I am using the following pattern

I will do [tiny action], because I want to feel [emotion]

  • I will exercise because I want to feel physically healthy.
  • I will close my browser tabs because I want to feel accomplished.
  • I will go to the Immigration Office because I feel frustrated of waiting a response.

I used to have a lot of days where I do not do anything productive and felt like shit. Writing simple goals and achieving them makes even the worst days productive. It is fine to not being able to accomplish the mini-goal. There has not been a single day where I achieved nothing!

Daily affirmation. I am …

Honestly, I have tried multiple things here. I have tried writing characteristic traits that I have and that I want to acquire. In the end, I have not seen any results. I would appreciate if you have figured out how to use this part and tell me.

Evening Entries

3 Amazing things that happened today …

This entry allows you to rethink the day and acknowledge all the great things. It can be something significant such as “I have done a $10.000 sale” to “I did laundry”. Most days I fill it with the answers in What will I do to make today great? section. This makes me feel that I have accomplished my mini-goals.

How could I have made today even better

This is the most important section. It finalizes the feedback loop. We analyze the whole day, select the single most important action that would improve the day.

I have realized a pattern after a few weeks. Around 40% of the time, I would write “I could have exercised”. I started exercising every second day. Even though the % of “I could have exercised” decreased, this statement was still by far the most common. Then I started to exercise daily. I am feeling significantly happier than before.

Shorter feedback loops means more iterations, and it’s the number of iterations, not the number of hours, that drives learning.

- Naval

However, after started exercising another statement began to appear as a pattern. The loop keeps continuing. Each iterated cycle you (1) observe surroundings (2) be more productive (3) figure out which what work/do not work (4) habitualize things which work, dehabitualize things that do not work (5) be happier. Happiness is a skill we can all learn by iterating.

If you enjoyed this post, you can follow me on Twitter or reach out to me on thellimist.com.

Note: The iOS and Android app send notifications twice a day. This allowed gaining a habit straight forward. My friends have tried using different apps or writing in a physical journal. In the end, they could not make it a habit. All of them have switched to using this app. I have no relation with the developers of the app.