Francesca Geens, Happy Self Journal

Practising gratitude with Francesca Geens

Amazon Podcasts | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts Spotify | Stitcher

I have long wanted to interview Francesca Geens, creator of the Happy Self Journal. She was one of the first women I reached out to during the first season. However, there was a lot going on in the Happy Self Journal world and it was not until I exchanged emails with Francesca about her newest journal edition for 3-6 years old, that we used the opportunity to schedule a date. It was hard to stop our chat, even after we stopped recording! What she is doing for gratitude and children is just the type of thing I love!

From Gratitude to the Happy Self Journal

Yes, this will be yet another article talking A LOT about gratitude and the importance it has in our lives. I have shared a lot before about my gratitude practice and how I started it 3 years ago. It has certainly helped my perspective and reminds me of all the small things that can exist, even on a bad day.

As to Francesca, her trigger was all the stories she was hearing in the press about children being depressed. She became very interested in the science of happiness and how simple habits can have a meaningful impact on our wellbeing. In 2017, she started working on the concept and launched the Happy Self Journal in 2018. Her passion project is now her full-time business and she is selling in more than 150 countries.

“Just a few minutes of reflection a day give children the space to think about their emotions, be grateful for the positives in their lives and develop a positive attitude”

The Science of Gratitude

If we practice gratitude, scientists are able to measure the impact on our happiness after 1 week, 1 month, 3 months or even 6 months. It actually reinforces the positive pathways in our system. It is such a simple thing with such a great impact. More importantly, Francesca is taking gratitude to another level, she is taking is to children.

With a journal, the kids get a structure to have a safe, normal space to share things that are usually not easy to talk about. Francesca is also getting a lot of feedback that the kids are sleeping better and communicating better. As an added benefit, the parents are also feeling better, as many of them are doing the journals with the children and end up reflecting on their own 3 things for the day or on the quote that Francesca adds to every page. Ours today was:

“Your world is as big as you make it”

Georgia Douglas Johnson

I have started Little Girl C on the Happy Self Junior Journal 3 years ago, and whilst we don’t always keep up every day, the first year has definitely changed our family a fair amount. That is how we found out about bullying, that is how we can get her to express some of the anxiety when she struggles, or how we get her to have a moment of reflection and wind down before going to bed. It works for us. And now, Baby S is a fan as well and is almost through his First Happy Self Journal. He told me he would keep it until he was 100 years old today.

Ramping up through the pandemic

“This has been a crazy year!”

Right? I am certain we all agree with Francesca on this. In the beginning, they did not even know if they could continue shipping, or if their warehouses would stay open, topped with the chaos in the postal system. At the same time, at the start of the first lockdown, anxiety levels were very high and the uncertainty was really stressing kids, so the orders were also dramatically increasing.

In 2020, the team launched a lot of new products. Whilst they had products planned for the year, the combination of having nowhere else to go and the immense need that they observed, made them accelerate some of their plans. They launched a teen edition, a continuation edition and did the work to the newest My First Journal (officially launched this week).

One thing that had not been planned at all was to apply to Innovate Finance UK, which allowed them to distribute thousands of journals to children on free school meals, children that were least likely to get hold of their journal. This was one of the highs of the pandemic, which allowed them to do good with their business in an extra way. For Francesca and her team, to get the funding and deliver the journals on a very tight timeline was a reason for great pride.

Are people more grateful now?

Before the pandemic, a lot of parents assumed they did not need such a tool. Their life was fine, their kids were happy. Why would they need a tool to work on their happiness?

However, once the pandemic hit us, there was no escaping. The background or financial situation did not matter. Everyone got hit in some way. The pandemic reminded us that life has ups and downs (and will continue to do so) and that there are tools we can use to deal with it in a better way. The pandemic was such a huge event that it made people sit back and realize the magnitude of the problem. And find ways to address it.

Chickens for Lockdown

I know – chickens! I have been wondering about the chickens on Francesca’s Instagram story. The chickens were meant to be an Easter Project, but as lockdown started, the family anticipated it, as suddenly everyone wanted chickens and wanted to be self-sufficient. So they got 3 chickens that really created a different routine and small joys and it was a perfect distraction for them.

At the same time, the family tried to slow down, have lots of walks and taken one day at a time, enjoying the small things. Francesca tried to practise what she preaches and gratitude played a part. The family keeps their gratitude journals, they share their top 3 things at dinner, they have a gratitude jar (which I am yet to get), try to get themselves outdoors and get enough daylight.

It is about the micro-moments and how they end up really add up. Big changes don’t always work, small micro changes do (have you heard me say this before). Sometimes we try and over-engineer too much and simple things may sort it out.

“It’s ok to sit and do nothing”

The gratitude jar

If you are not into a daily gratitude practice but want to try some of its benefits, maybe the gratitude jar is for you. All you need is a glass jar, pen and paper. So after a great day, write down a memory of that day and go round the table for everyone to do it. The best of it? To open it at the end of the year to remember what the year has brought you. This is next on my list.

Looking forward

When we can go to concerts, restaurants and parties, will we still be worried about being grateful? Hopefully, yes. Many of us found an increased ability to connect to us, to our children, to our families. Together with Francesca, I hope we can find some lasting change in this and can take as positive from this situation.

In her business, Francesca also sees new opportunities and new markets. The company is only 2 years old and has already gone through so much growth. But the last year it has certainly gotten the confidence to really speak up about their product and what they have to offer. I can’t wait to see what else they will bring!

Before we go…

  • 2020 Advice: Go back to the simple things and find ways to switch off (and get more chickens, or something silly that gives you joy)
  • 2020 Lesson: Step back and realise what you can go through staying positive
  • 2020 Challenge: Wi-fi (they are very rural and have no mobile reception!)
  • Book for 2021: Mindset, Carol Dweck
  • Word for 2021: Growth

Connect with us

Produced by Alice Stansfield

One comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.