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workplace health

This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award at . Register your company for 2018 at

How do you objectively evaluate each day as being positive or negative?

The key word is objectively. Many of us, outside our level of awareness, put more weight on negative than positive life events. This suggests that one negative event will have more influence in shaping our perception of the success of a day than any positives.

The purpose of this microskill is to explore the value of adding journaling at the end of your day as a way to process the day's events. This can help you catalog the positives in your world and to look at stress not as pain but as a challenge that you can process and deal with as it comes.

One researcher found that people have a tendency to be more upset about losing $50 than being happy about gaining $50. Positive psychology gurus like Sean Achor, who did the TedX Bloomington talk viewed by more than five million people, promote the need for people to focus less on what's negative in life and more on what's positive. He promotes the value of investing energy in our social network with the intention of bringing a positive attitude and to taking stock daily of three things we're grateful for. If we do this, we can improve our mental map and learn to see a more positive view of the world, and as a result become happier.

Journaling has been found to be an effective approach for promoting wellbeing, and for processing emotions and increasing self-awareness.


We all have lots of data coming at us every day in many different forms, from the Internet, social media and e-mails. Keeping up with the amount of information we need and elect to engage in can be overwhelming. Prospect theory teaches that we have a desire to avoid negative experiences more than taking action to obtain positive experiences.


Each of us owns our own mental health. It can be difficult, without a frame of reference and knowing how to understand what we can do, to take charge of our mental health and to reduce the risk of putting more focus on negative than positive events. Journaling has been found as one way to process negative events in a way that has a positive impact on mental health.


One line of research found that journaling, which is the physical act of writing, activates the analytical and rational left brain. When this happens, the left brain is focused and busy, freeing the right brain to create new options or ways to see the day's events.

There's value in considering some of the benefits that may motivate you to consider adopting this daily microskill:

Organizes thinking – James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal, reported that the act of writing out their experiences and putting them into their own language has been found to help people organize them in a way that is less overwhelming and easier to comprehend and process.

Promotes health – One study found that people who journaled on average 20 minutes a day before surgery were able to recover faster than those who did not. The research found that the act of writing out stressful events can help a person to see the stress as a challenge, not a hindrance.

Processes daily thought and emotionsJournaling only five minutes a day can help process and clear out unwanted thoughts and can act like a toothbrush for the mind.

Journaling doesn't need to be complicated. You can use pen and paper; you may elect to write out your daily thoughts electronically; or you may decide to purchase one of the many online journaling tools out there.

I have created an online journal that doesn't have a lot frills, but it's free. It has a few self-assessment tools, daily self-measures that can track your emotions and what you're grateful for each day. As well, you can write out your daily reflections and set your personal goals. This journal was designed to support students who completed the Pathway to Coping online course so they had a place to monitor their daily progress.

Processing each day's events in a journal can put you in position to close out the day on a positive note so that you can start the next day with a clean slate.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto and creator of an online Pathway to Coping course offered through the University of New Brunswick.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:

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