Did you know that by spending only a few minutes a day counting your blessings, you can actually improve your level of well-being and happiness? Don’t take my word for it: researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center have confirmed this finding with rigorous studies that show you really can change your life for the better.
Here’s the exercise:
Every night, about 10 minutes before you go to bed, make a list of Three Good Things that happened to you during the day. They can be big (I got a promotion!) or small (My partner smiled at me when I woke up this morning.)
Then write down why you think these good things happened to you today. Did you work extra hard at your job for the past six months? Did you say “Good morning, I love you” to your partner this morning instead of “Gosh, please go brush your teeth?” Linking the things you are grateful for in life with the cause behind them may show you how to go about increasing the abundance of blessings in your life.
The researchers recommend that you write down three good things every night for six weeks. If you stick with it, you should see an increase in positive feelings and possibly a general shift in noticing more of the good things that are already present in your life. Sometimes, once you start noticing things, you see them everywhere. Have you ever had the experience where you buy a new car and suddenly you notice that there’s a car just like yours around every corner? Well, the same phenomenon can happen with positive events if we just start paying attention to them. Good things may be hiding in plain sight all around you!
Now this isn’t to say that you should just ignore the negative events in your life. We are programmed to react to and remember negative events more than positive events – it’s what keeps us safe. It is better to think that the stick in the path is a snake and jump to avoid it than to pick up the stick only to find yourself face to face with fangs. Or remembering that you got yelled at the last time you took the last cookie from the cookie jar, so maybe this time you should leave it there. However, sometimes we get stuck only perceiving the negativity around us and our warning bells are always going off about how the sky is falling, if not today, then definitely tomorrow. One of the goals of Positive Psychology is to shift our perception so that we notice the good things in our lives a little more than we did before. By noticing the positives, we can weather the stormy days with a little more ease, and realize that it’s not the sky that is falling, you’re just walking in DUMBO as a train rumbles overhead.
So that’s my challenge to you: write down three good things and why they happened each night before bed. Share them with someone who cares about you. Ask that person what his or her three good things are for the day. You might be amazed at what you find out!
If you are interested in learning more about Positive Psychology, check out the following resources:
- Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, by Martin E. P. Seligman
- Eat, Drink and Be Mindful: How to End Your Struggle with Mindless Eating and Start Savoring Food with Intention and Joy, by Susan Albers
- Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, by Martin E. P. Seligman
- Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Happy, directed by Roko Belic and available on YouTube
- Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, by Fred Bryant & Joseph Veroff
And if you’d like a more in-depth experience with Positive Psychology, please give us a call at Madison Marriage & Family Therapy. Our therapists can guide you through a 10 week program designed to increase your well-being through multiple activities that connect you with the best in your life. Call us at (917) 488-6364 or email us at email@example.com for more information and to set up an appointment.