Sunday, March 3, 2013

Write Three Good Things

This dare is just as the title suggests: I dare you to write down three good things in your life, every day.

The end!

Just kidding, I'll explain:

When I studied positive psychology (the scientific study of happiness) in college, many lessons stuck with me.  For example, money increases happiness only up until a certain threshold, at which point basic needs are satisfied.  Having children decreases momentary happiness, but dramatically improves long-term life satisfaction.  A lengthy commute significantly diminishes happiness--far more than people may predict.  ... SO many interested findings!

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, tested various interventions to measure effects on human happiness.  One of the simplest was called Three Good Things in Life: "Participants were asked to write down three things that went well each day and their causes every night for one week. In addition they were asked to provide a causal explanation for each good thing" (Seligman, Steen, & Peterson, 2005, p.8).  They found that completion of this daily exercise "increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms."  The positive effects--feeling happier and less depressed--were immediate and long-lasting.

In this video, Dr. Seligman, himself, explains the process and why it works:

It's not unlike a gratitude list, but with a slightly different twist.  Seligman notes that it's important to not only identify the "good thing" that happened, but also the cause.  Why did this happen?  Or why is this a good thing?
  • If you received praise for something at work or school, is it because you did a good job? Because you put in a lot of time and effort on your project? 
  • If you set a new personal record for your 5k run, was it your lucky day, or did your training pay off? 
  • If your jeans feel loose, is it because they stretched out, or because you've been choosing to eat high quality foods?
  • If you had a nice time catching up with a relative, maybe that's because you took time out of your busy day to invest in your personal relationships.  
  • Maybe a friend did you a favor because you've done so many for them in the past.
  • Maybe you had a fun afternoon with friends, is it because you were brave enough to suggest an unconventional activity? 
  • Maybe you had a really good nap, or a particularly good meal, or an awesome workout.  Maybe you can simply be grateful for the things and people you have in life.  Anything that is GOOD to YOU!

You get the idea. Don't just say what happened, but also why. Give yourself some credit!

How should you start?
  1. Choose your medium for journaling.  Pick up a basic lined journal to keep on your nightstand, start a new Google Doc, or use a website designed for daily journaling.
  2. Simply begin!  At night before bed, reflect on your day.  Identify three good things--anything that made you feel happy, grateful, proud, or warm and fuzzy inside--that happened over the course of the day. The "things" can be big or small; it's up to you!  
  3. Consider why it happened.  Even if you don't have an answer right away, try to figure out why you enjoyed that blessing on this day.  This was tricky for me to get used to at first, but do your best and you'll get better at this part.  Again, don't be afraid to give yourself credit!  Or, sometimes you might simply think that someone up there is smiling down on you.  Whatever it is, think about and write down why the good thing happened.
  4. Do it again the following night! Keep it up. The trick is doing this on a regular basis.  Make it habit. This is why putting a journal beside your bed is a good idea, or even keeping a document open in your phone for regular editing.
  5. Look back on past entries.  Over time, you'll get to look back and recall "good things"--both big and small--that made you happy and can now, once again, bring a smile to your face, a week, month, or year later!

After learning about this in my psychology courses, I began doing this myself. I started an online document and added to it daily.  The time of day has changed.  For a long time, I wrote in it at night, but this year, I began writing my "Three Good Things" in the morning, when I had time. I found that it was a nice way to start my day, too--looking back on good things from yesterday and putting me in a good mood for another good day.

I had a good streak of doing this daily, and have since taken a break to work on something else--a thoughtful birthday gift from a friend (thanks, Becky!) who knows how much I loved The Happiness Project (a book you should all read ASAP!):

The Happiness Project: One-Sentence Journal

But either way, I'm noting good things from the day, and that's what matters!

Bonus: Other positive intervention exercises tested in Seligman's study included...
  • Gratitude visit: Write and deliver a letter of gratitude, in person, to someone who has been especially kind to you but has not been properly thanked.
  • Identify and Use signature strengths: Go to to learn about signature strengths.
  • You are your best: Write about a time when you were at your best and then reflect on personal strengths displayed in the story. (This only had immediate effects, not as long-lasting as the other interventions.) 

But no need to be overwhelmed!
Start with Three Good Things and see how you like it!

Are you ready to get started?  Dare you to write down Three Good Things every day! 

What good things happened to you TODAY and why?? 


  1. LOVE LOVE this and while it isnt the same as our gratitude jar---our gratitude jar has tremendously helped me get the mindset of HAPPINESS each night....which carries through to the morning.

    1. YES I've seen different variations on the gratitude jar, and I love the idea that you can later pick one out at random to smile at!

  2. Love this idea!! I definitely need to try it!!


  3. I still need to read the Happiness Project, so want to. I agree completely... time to break out the gratitude journal again. No idea why I've gotten away from it!

  4. This is cool I already do a gratitude journal but I love the idea of adding the why.

    1. Yes--apparently this makes a big difference!

  5. I started participating this morning. I attempted to do something similar to this one before, but it only lasted a week. I'm sticking to it this time! Keeping the list on my computer will make it more likely that I'll do it since I spend most of my day on my computer for work anyway. I loved The Happiness Project, too! I bought it for my best friend and got my mom hooked on it. But I never bought a copy for myself. I'm thinking I should probably get on that this week, too.

    1. Awesome!!! Keep up the good work. Yes lol I loaned out my copy of the book, too, and wish I had one to keep on my shelf to review now and then.


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