Probably the most often used exercise in the field of positive psychology is known as the “3 Good Things” exercise.
To do the exercise, you select a time – bedtime is the most typical time – identify 3 things that went well during the day, write them down, and reflect upon what caused them to go well.
As you probably know, my first e-book was titled “What Can Go Right?” Coupling that forward-looking theme with reflecting upon what has gone right helps you to immerse your thinking process in a positive way.
Research has demonstrated that individuals who spend as little as a week doing the 3 Good Things exercise (although many continue to do it on a regular basis) increase their happiness and decrease depressive symptoms. Well-designed research studies demonstrate that gains in happiness continue for at least 6 months – which is as long as the research was carried out.
I’ve rarely run across someone who had difficulty with the exercise. When that has happened, however, it is because they have been looking for major sources of happiness rather than appreciating the small but significant good things that happen to us each day.
Are you noticing the time when traffic is light and you got to your important appointment on time? How about the waitress that complimented your outfit or the salesclerk who gave you no hassle over the item that you returned without all or the required packaging? Did your check arrive on time to pay of a major bill? Did the new recipe come out the way that you intended? How about the friend whom you’ve neglected who was still happy to receive your call – or something else that you did for someone that made both of you feel better?
Once you start to notice the positive things in your life, you may be surprised to realize how easy it is to keep noticing and appreciating good things. Research has shown that happiness tends to lead to more success and better health – rather than the other way around. The best way to start up the path toward happiness is by appreciating the little things.
Ron Kaiser, Ph.D.