One of the most successful techniques to come out of the Positive Psychology movement (Seligman) is the task of keeping a daily journal where you write down three positive things that have happened during your day. Why is this effective? Because looking out for positive things, either that you observe or that happen to you during your day can help improve your outlook, and over time, cause you to be happier.
If writing or journaling isn’t your thing, don’t worry! This is easy, and takes less than a minute. Simply list three things that have made you feel happy today.
Why does this practice work? Well, if we know we have to write something in the evening, we keep our eyes open during the day and therefore are more likely to notice and pay a little bit more attention to positive events. Quite simply, noticing something positive and noting how it makes us feel happy causes our brain to release serotonin. If we do this regularly, over time we will be happier.
I have divided this daily task into two sections; things that we just observe and things that we made happen. It only takes a couple of minutes to write down three examples of each.
Three Things That Made You Happy Today
Write down three positive things that you noticed today.
“I saw the daffodils were poking through the soil next to my garage and it made me smile that Spring is finally on its way”.
“My son came through the door and gave me a big hug hello”.
“I looked at a cartoon on Facebook and thought it was so funny I laughed out loud”.
When we are feeling down, we tend to just focus on the negative and ignore the positive. But writing down the positive will widen your focus to include things that went well and that you enjoyed, not just what irritated you. The act of noticing and paying attention to the experience makes the brain take more notice and therefore feel more pleasure. This is the opposite of being on automatic pilot as you go through your day.
Three Things You Had A Role In To Make Things Go Well
Now jot down three things that went well for you today and what role you played.
“I began the morning in a relaxed way by lying in bed cuddling with my kitty cat – because I set the alarm to go off ten minutes earlier than I needed to get up I still had plenty of time to get ready”.
“I felt very connected to my child because I put down my phone and really listened to how his day at school had gone”.
“I had a lot of work to get done but I made myself take a break and take my friend up on her offer of going for a walk. Afterwards I felt more refreshed and was able to be more productive”.
Just as we tend to ignore the positive and notice the bad things that have happened, we also tend to ignore the positive influence we have over things and events. I think it is so important to recognize not only what was good, but how you came to make it happen so you can hopefully repeat it in the future. Feeling like we handled a situation well or did something good serves two purposes: it makes us feel like we have some sort of control, and it fosters self-love.
So, try it! Start with one week and see if you notice a difference!
Dr. Sarah Allen is a psychologist who specializes in empowering women to live the life they want. She sees clients in her Northbrook office or throughout Illinois via telephone or Skype sessions. This article was originally posted on her blog.
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