A simple habit that will make you happier

There is one exercise that has been shown to boost the levels of happiness you experience in your everyday life. No, not the kind of exercise that rely on endorphins to get you high. It’s an exercise in gratitude.

It’s called the Three Good Things and it’s quite simple. Google it and you will find slightly different details in the versions but it mainly boils down to:

  1. Every night, just before you go to bed, sit down for a while and look back at your day.
  2. Then think of 3 things that went well for you during the day.
  3. Write them down. Reflect on the details and write why you feel good about it.

That’s it.

Like many things, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy.

While I haven’t made the Three Good Things exercise part of my habits, I use a similar technique that I got from Jess Lively. She calls it Rampage of Appreciation.

  • Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  • Sit down with pen and paper and start writing down everything you are grateful for and appreciate in your life.
  • Keep going until the timer rings.

If you manage to really get into the emotion, you can find yourself feeling gratitude for even tiny details and the pages just keep filling up.

But the first time I tried it I wasn’t in a very happy place, so the exercise didn’t work well for me.

I started to write down the things I thought I should feel grateful for. All the good things I had in life that I could observe with my head. I had a roof over my head, I could eat every day, I had a family that loved me, blah blah blah.

Writing down the things I thought I ought to feel grateful for and happy about but I actually didn’t, was doing the opposite thing for me. I felt bad instead of happy. It became a journal of guilt instead of gratitude.

So I made a promise to myself to only write things that I could really honestly feel the feeling of appreciation about. Including the smallest thing.

In the crappiest of crappy days, I did manage to make my favourite cup of tea. I took an extra long shower right before bedtime. I had bought blueberries for breakfast the next day.

Slowly, slowly, I started to get the hang of it.

After some time – I don’t remember how long it took me – I could more easily get into the mood and just start writing. I didn’t write any details or anything, just stating something that I appreciated in life.

If it turned out to be the same thing I wrote earlier, or yesterday, I just wrote it again. The point is not to get unique things, the point is to tap into the emotion.

On twitter, Dana Severson at RightMessage revealed that they had started writing “3 Good RightMessage Things” per day in their company slack as a team. I think it’s a brilliant idea, to shift focus towards the positive things as a team effort. Especially when the team is fully remote like they are.

If you haven’t tried it, then this is the perfect candidate for doing a 30 trial. Commit to writing Three Good Things before going to bed for 30 days and see how it makes you feel during the day. You might be surprised what difference it can make.

Three good things

In that vein, I want to finish off with sharing three things with you:

  • Dana’s thread on twitter on Three Good Things
  • Research has shown that muscles can gain nuclei, but never lose them. This means that it’s easier to regain lost strength than it was to acquire it in the first place.
  • The next book I’m reading will be The Company of One by Paul Jarvis. I enjoy his newsletter the Sunday Dispatches and I’m looking forward to digging into the book, where he argues that growth is not the ultimate thing to aim for in business.
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