Striving toward a happier life?
Try this positive psychology challenge: For one week, write down three things that went well at the end of each day. Don’t overthink it; just make note of three things – from making a meal you really enjoy, to your spouse picking up your favourite dessert on the way home from work. Then, after each positive event on your list, answer the question: “What is good about this?” The question highlights the significance of the positive event; it also highlights the idea that it’s not so much what happens to us, but it’s how we think about what happens to us.1
Recently I started my day in a panic and running late. But I took a moment to notice the birds were singing. As I glanced out the window I saw the sunshine. I breathed in deeply and let my rushed morning pass over me. This allowed me to stay in the moment and enjoy what I was seeing and hearing in my backyard. Arriving at work I was greeted by the smiling faces of co-workers that had my schedule and some coffee ready for me. I was truly grateful and took a moment to once again slow down and notice how good it felt to be at work.
Studies of this challenge exercise have shown that: 1) Noticing the positive increases happiness and decreases symptoms of depression for up to 6 months, and 2) Participants who continued the exercise beyond the suggested one week experienced longer-term benefits.
After writing things down, share what went well with your partner, child, parent, etc. Sharing good news helps us experience the event more fully and deepens our appreciation for the people involved and offers them insight into our lives. This brings us closer and removes a focus on the negative in relationships. Lastly, encourage others to share their good news by asking what went well for them today.2
To learn more, visit the Pursuit of Happiness website (www.pursuit-of-happiness.org). Here you’ll find resources, quizzes, education and an online course. For additional information regarding positive psychology, read Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky’s latest book, The How of Happiness (http://thehowofhappiness.com).
1. Happiness Basics coach’s manual, 2014, pg 114
2. Happiness Basics coach’s manual, 2014, pg 115
Karen Martens is a Mental Health Counsellor working in several Medicine Hat clinics.