Fransecsa-Geens-and-the-Science-of-Happiness Blue Almonds Ltd

The Power of Journaling with Fransecsa Geens

On 22nd May 2024, we delved into the science of happiness with special guest speaker Francesca Geens, creator of The HappySelf journals.

We asked Francesca to tell us how she started The HappySelf journal, what the benefits of journaling are and how we can support our children to journal.

Guest Speaker Francesca Geens

In 2017, mum of two Francesca was getting increasingly frustrated about the rising cases of mental health issues amongst kids and she had already discovered the power of journaling for her own anxiety. Together with input from her children who were 7 and 10 at the time, Francesca developed child-friendly journals for different age ranges from 3+ to teens, and also for adults so that parents can journal alongside their kids.

The Science of happiness

Francesca told our eager guests about the science of happiness, including the Yale Happiness Course, and how you need practice and to form habits to improve happiness. The HappySelf journals can relieve anxiety and improve happiness by journaling about gratitude and bringing that habit into everyday family life.

Benefits of Journaling for kids

  • Reduces anxiety
  • Provides a better perspective
  • Improves resilience
  • Improves communication
  • Boosts self-confidence
  • Encourages children to share their worries

Francesca argued that it is best to form good journaling and mental health habits before children hit their teens. She explained that our brains are wired for worrying in order to keep us safe. However, journaling teaches your brain to look for the good things and pro-actively lays down good foundations for happiness.

Tips to help get kids into journaling:

  • Modelling - Seeing your journal every day, or doing the journaling together normalises the habit and helps encourage children to do it too.
  • Don’t combine journaling with homework or chores
  • Don’t insist on good handwriting. Offer to write for them if it helps.
  • Don’t absolutely insist on doing it if they don’t want to.
  • Do it at a time of day that works for you. However, Francesca finds that doing it in the evening helps to cut down on ruminating thoughts - which promotes better sleep.
  • The journal entries don’t have to be about big things - it is good to drill down into smaller moments of joy.
  • Respect your child’s privacy if they don’t want to share about what is in their journal. Resist the urge to take a peek.

Mental health, teens and tech

One of our guests, herself a mental health professional, added that she sees a lot of kids with mental health distress and emphasised the importance of journaling to help prevent mental health crises in teens. She encouraged us to keep talking with our teens, regardless of whether they are journaling or trying to shut us out.

The lively discussion during the Q&A brought out many ideas from various guests about how they manage their own and their kids’ mental health, which of course included a discussion about mobile phone use. Francesca advised that using pen and paper (or a journal) provides a moment of calm and promotes more mindful use of tech. She encouraged us all to take our power back and not let apps control us.


Read our Guide to Children's Mental Health