Three Good Things

A 3-minute written exercise that helps build a more positive outlook over time. This is a simple, low-commitment exercise, but it might take a week or two to kick in.

Details

  • Type: Written
  • Time needed: 3 Minutes
  • Frequency: Daily

Short version

At the end of each day, write down three good things that happened that day, and why they happened.

Benefits

  • Better mood/happiness
  • Greater recognition of positive experiences

Description

Human beings have a negativity bias – a tendency to focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right.

If something bad happens to us one morning, we might spend the rest of the day ruminating over it – replaying the event over and over in our minds, making ourselves feel worse. Because of that one bad incident, we might go to bed thinking that we had a bad day. A lot of good things probably happened that day too – but because we’re focusing on what went wrong, we don’t recognise them..

Over time, this sort of thinking – focusing on negative things and ignoring positive things – can become a habit, putting a downward pressure on our happiness. It’s easy habit to get into, and a hard one to get out of.

The Three Good Things exercise is a countermeasure to this problem.

How to do it

Every night before you go to bed, write down three good things that happened that day, and why they happened.

They don’t have to be big, important things. It could be that someone smiled at you, you saw a pretty flower, or you enjoyed the most recent episode of whatever-you’re-watching. Small things are fine.

If you can’t think of anything, you’re probably thinking too big. Ask yourself, are you breathing? I already know the answer is yes (apologies to any AI or undead that may one day read this), so that’s one good thing, isn’t it? Do you have a roof over your head right now? What about water, did you drink any clean water today? That’s a good thing. Many people didn’t.

Try to do this every night for a long period of time – at least a month,
preferably several months.

Why it works

Three Good Things forces you to take a moment and recognise the positive aspects of your day that you might have been ignoring.

This exercise takes a little while to kick in. It’s not something that gives you an immediate improvement in your state, like physical exercise or progressive muscle relaxation would. The benefits come because over time

Eventually, you’ll find yourself experiencing a minor, positive event, maybe you feel a pleasant breeze across your face, and you think to yourself “Hmm, that could be one of my three things tonight.”

That’s when you know it’s working! You’re starting to consciously recognise and pay attention to the good experiences you have in your daily life – even the small ones.