According to positive psychology research, one of the simplest, most effective, and most popular exercises for increasing your happiness and sense of well-being is the emotional intelligence activity known as the "3 Blessings” or “3 Good Things.”
Here’s how it works: Each night, before you go to bed, write down 3 things that went well during the day or for which you are grateful. Make sure you write them down (don’t just do it in your head) and take a few moments to reflect on each experience.
Do this 10 minutes a day, for at least 1 week.
Via Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, here are the specific steps to follow:
- Give the event a title (e.g., “co-worker complimented my work on a project”).
- Write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said.
- Include how this event made you feel at the time and how this event made you feel later (including now, as you remember it).
- Explain what you think caused this event—why it came to pass.
- Use whatever writing style you please, and do not worry about perfect grammar and spelling. Use as much detail as you'd like.
- If you find yourself focusing on negative feelings, refocus your mind on the good event and the positive feelings that came with it. This can take effort but gets easier with practice and can make a real difference in how you feel.
Gratitude List: 50 Great and/or Random Things
While the “3 Good Things” activity is intended to focus on events that happened earlier in the day, I would also recommend creating a list of 50 things—anything that makes you smile, trivial or profound, no matter how weird it may sound to others—and keeping it nearby. When you start to feel your stress levels rise, this list gives you something to keep things in perspective and help support emotional resilience.
For example, here is my current list:
- The sound of rain.
- Out of 8+ million species of animal, we’re the apex predator. Humans aren’t hunted by another organism or the machines (yet).
- Literacy. About 1 billion people can’t read and write.
- “Scaramouche. Scaramouche. Will you do the fandango?”
- Freedom of speech.
- Not having to work in a sweat shop or toil the fields 7 days a week.
- Peace time. WW3 hasn’t started (yet).
- Being above the poverty line. About 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day.
- Rick from "Rick and Morty."
- Health. Millions live with serious illness or injury.
- Eyesight. About 285 million worldwide are visually impaired.
- "Hi, I'm Troy McClure."
- Paperback books. Don't get me started on hardcovers.
- Clear instructions.
- Airplanes. I'm sitting in a freakin’ chair in the sky!
- Working with people who are smart and ethical.
- My figurine of Goku from Japan.
- The writing style of Joss Whedon.
- Washing machines.
- "Leeloo Dallas mul-ti-pass."
- Social progress. We don’t burn "witches" at the stake or hang people for their skin colour.
- The size of the universe.
- A logical argument.
- Command-Shift-4 on Mac.
- Google autocomplete.
- "97% of all articles in Wikipedia eventually lead to the article Philosophy." - Wikipedia
- The people who write those online answers to help you solve tech issues.
- British humour.
- Quiet neighbours.
- "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
- The taste of water after a workout.
- A hot meal on a cold day.
- "If it bleeds, we can kill it."
- Unexpected kindness from a stranger.
- Pain. Because it helps me grow stronger.
- People who aren't in it just for the money.
- Scenes set in the courtroom.
- Clean sheets.
- Pay day!
- Philosoraptor memes.
- Mother nature.
- The Darth Jar Jar theory.
- Finding a pen that writes really well.
- Tyrion from "Game of Thrones."
- The question, "Is mathematics invented or discovered?"
- Leaving the world a little better than I found it.
- Finishing a “50 things” list.
Update the list over time as your interests change and you encounter new things that give you a warm fuzzy feeling. Remember, it's not about writing down things that sound impressive or interesting to others; it's about having a relatively large stack of items, in the one place and within sight, that make you feel genuinely good.
Stack the good, minimise the bad.