Me pointing at a banner I made with adult coloring book pages and wrapping paper. The banner says "YAWP!"

My five notebook journal system to improve mindfulness

Journaling is all the rage these days. This powerful mindfulness practice has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds. The most common form of journaling is simply writing down your thoughts, ideas, and opinions about what’s going on in your life. Bullet journaling is popular for people far more artistic than I am — which doesn’t take much! Often people will start a gratitude journal, in order to improve their mindset and mood. 

I absolutely recommend a gratitude journal, but I don’t stop there. I use a five notebook journaling system, and recommend that my clients do as well. (You could use a five-subject notebook, but I find that decorating the covers of each notebook is part of the mental health boost.)

Each notebook is used for a different journaling topic. The first is for gratitude. Second is positive affirmations. The third one is for rockstar moments, things I did well during the day. The fourth notebook is for RAKs, random acts of kindness. And the last one is simply titled, yawp! — that’s for moments of courage in my day-to-day life.

Gratitude journal

In my gratitude journal, I write down at least three things for which I am grateful every day.  Some days, it may be hard for me to think of something for which I’m thankful, so I’ll write down things like: the roof over my head, dinner, clean air to breathe, that I’m able to read and write. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.

Some other examples from my actual gratitude journal include: showers. Remembering to be grateful. The Marco Polo app so I can stay in touch with my daughter. My accountability pod. My productivity coach for helping me get my shit together. My personal trainer telling me I have good muscles, great flexibility, and perfect form. My son passing his test to get his driver’s license. My therapist.

Positive affirmations

The second journal is titled, I profess. Every day, I write down at least three positive powerful affirmations in this notebook. On rough days, it might be things as simple as: I am enough. I can do this. I am stronger than this shit. This shit will not beat me. I write these affirmations in the first-person present tense to proclaim that this is who and what I am now, today, in this moment. After I’ve written down at least three positive powerful affirmations, I will go back and read at least a dozen out loud.

Some examples of positive powerful affirmations from my journal include: I am strong and resilient.  I can ask for, and accept, help when I need it. I am getting healthier every day. I can easily earn money writing. I am successfully balancing progress and health. I help other people overcome. I am a podcaster. I know how to find out.


The third notebook is called rockstar. Everyday I write down three things I have done well; where I have been a rockstar. Some days it’s hard to come up with anything that I’ve done well, so I’ll write down things like: I didn’t fall over when I went to the bathroom. (That’s not always a given!) I successfully converted oxygen into carbon dioxide. I drank water. But on good days, watch out!

From my journal: I got amazing feedback from multiple people on my writing yesterday. I created beautiful, on-brand graphics for a client. I clearly articulated a request for something to my doctor, and he agreed with me. I turned down a job that paid less than I’m worth. I figured out the podcast software all by myself. I didn’t wait for feedback before I uploaded the first four podcast episodes. I created a plan for meeting all my goals for the year.

RAKs – random acts of kindness

Notebook number four is the RAKs notebook, or random acts of kindness. Random acts of kindness don’t have to be huge. They can be something as simple as complimenting someone’s shoes at the doctor’s office. Smiling at your cashier at the grocery store and asking how their day is going. Smiling and waving at a little kid in line with their mother at the post office.

A woman wearing sea-green sneakers with daisies right below the toe

Here are some of my random acts of kindness: I remembered to thank my caregiver for everything he’s doing for the family and for me this weekend. I took the time to answer a message on Facebook about how to get started as a freelance writer. I agreed to make copies of a bunch of genealogy stuff for Mom and send it to her. I complimented the cashier at the pharmacy about how she’s handling the long line. I helped a friend with rebranding graphics for her business.


The last notebook is all about the yawp. Yawp is from the Walt Whitman poem, Song of Myself, which says, “I too am not a bit tamed. I too am untranslatable. I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” If you’ve ever seen the movie Dead Poets Society, you know about the barbaric yawp. It’s all about courage, and grit, and guts, and doing the thing even though you’re scared.

Here are some examples from my yawp notebook: I went to my appointment with a new therapist. I decided to start a podcast and  started asking market research questions. I submitted a pitch to a website to be their staff writer. I voiced an opinion in a group discussion that was contrary to the majority opinion. I talked to strangers at Kroger. I had a coffee chat with a perfect stranger so we can get to know each other. I started a Facebook group. 

Me pointing at a banner I made with adult coloring book pages and wrapping paper. The banner says "YAWP!"

Using this 5-notebook journaling system has been a great boon to my mood, mindset, and motivation. When I forget to journal for a few days, what my mother calls “stinkin thinkin” starts creeping back in, and I know it’s time to start writing. I strongly believe this system will give you similar benefits to the ones I have enjoyed since I started using it. 

For more on mindfulness, check out Even bad meditation is good for you, Meditation — what is it and how to do it, 25 of my favorite powerful quotes about mindfulness, and I’m great!







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