Shortest Guide To Three Good Things (TGT) or What Went Well

— By Dr. Sandip Roy.

The Three Good Things (TGT) is a simple but powerful exercise to boost our daily happiness. It only takes three minutes.

It comes from positive psychology—the science that explores the healthy side of mental health, like our psychological strengths, eudaimonia, and how we can flourish. By the way, experts refer to happiness as positive affect or subjective well-being (SWB).

TGT has been scientifically proven to raise our happiness level.

This short and easy guide to the Three Good Things (TGT) will tell you how to practice it, overcome its hurdles, and maximize its benefits, with examples and research.

Introducing Three Good Things (TGT)

Three Good Things (TGT) is a journaling activity that urges you to focus on 3 positive events in your day.

Results in about a week:

  • More gratefulness, optimism, self-compassion, and happiness.
  • Less negativity bias in noticing/recalling events.

How to do the Three Good Things (TGT)?

Here’s how to practice the Three Good Things (TGT), a proven happiness-boosting exercise:

Step 1. Look back upon your day.

  • As you finish your day and prepare to go to bed, sit down on your bed or a chair nearby.
  • Keep a notepad and pen ready. Close your eyes and look back on your day.
  • Recall the things you did and things that happened during the day.
Three Good Things - Step 1 - Look back on your-day

Problems in Step 1: Humans are born with a negative focus bias. So, when you reflect on your day, your mind veers toward negative things — a little accident, an unwanted event, a rude remark, or a negativity-spouting person.

Solution: Let the thoughts about any negative event pass without dwelling on it. Gently redirect your attention to the next experience.

Step 2. Think of 3 good things that happened.

  • Ask yourself what went well today.
  • Pick out three positive highlights of your day.
  • Make sure these are positive things, not the least negative ones.
Three Good Things - Step 2 - Recall three good things that happened in your day

Problems in Step 2: Your negative bias may make it difficult to sift three positive things in a routine day.

Solution: Take a few deep breaths and release your thoughts about the negative events. Note down a positive event as it comes to your mind.

Step 3. Write down the good things.

Once you find three events that made you smile and feel happy, write them down.

Even if they were small events, as long as they were positive, write them down. I suggest you use a paper journal and a pen. Avoid writing on your mobile or a digital journal.

Three Good Things - Step 3 - Write down the three good things that happenned during the day

Problems in Step 3: The act of physically writing down the three good things can feel tedious or like an unnecessary chore, making you rush through this step.

Solution: Reframe writing as a chance to savor and expand upon the positive experiences, rather than just a rote task. Encourage yourself to take your time, and add a few descriptive details about why each good thing mattered.

Step 4. Reflect on the good things.

  • Close your eyes and spend 15 to 20 seconds reflecting on each event.
  • Visualize the event in detail, and think about what made it memorable.
  • Think about how it was different, why it helped you, and how it was meaningful.
Three Good Things - Step 4 - Reflect on each of the 3 things you wrote down

Problems in Step 4: Your mind may try to rush you through the reflection step, not allowing enough time to savor and internalize the positive experiences.

Solution: Take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Then, as you reflect on each good thing, silently affirm to yourself, “This moment brought me joy/peace/gratitude.” Allow yourself to feel the positive emotions associated with each experience.

That’s all there is to it. That is the shortest guide to TGT. Take up this positive challenge for your greater good—I urge you.

The picture-quote version below is for those who want it even simpler:

3-Good-Things picture instruction

Think of 3 things that went well during the day. Write them down. Reflect on them. See your happiness rise.

How frequently to do the TGT?

  • Do the 3 good things in life exercise for a week initially.
  • Thereafter, do it weekly as long as you want, but do it for at least six weeks.

The key is to build in a simple, sustainable ritual that enables genuine reflection, rather than a rigid structure that may feel burdensome.

What are some themes of TGT?

Five themes you could explore by asking yourself:

  1. What one way I made the most meaningful use of my time today?
  2. What one helpful support did I have from my relationships today?
  3. What one good thing happened at my work/office/college today?
  4. What one good act of generosity or kindness did I do today?
  5. What one thing brought a smile to my heart today?
What Went Well Today
Something that went well today was…

3 Good Things Examples

Stuck still about how to do it? Take a look at these examples to help you:

  • A great feeling of love you felt when someone checked to find out how you were doing.
  • It could be a token of appreciation someone gave you at your workplace. Or good feedback from a customer.
  • It could be a simple, enjoyable occasion, such as a shared time of conversation and laughter with your family during supper.
  • It may be a fruitful discussion on a sensitive topic (like relationship boundaries or personal space) you had with your children, parents, spouse, friends, or online connections.
  • A joyful moment when you stopped to see a fabulous flower in bloom or a few cute puppies playing in abandon.
  • It could be you looking at some old pictures of your friends and being flooded with positive thoughts and memories about them.

Don’t limit yourself to the above. Explore your possibilities. Many positive moments are waiting for you; seek them out.

Even if you find it difficult to bring up some good things at first, keep a glass-half-full attitude. Let’s find out how you can get them sooner.

Three Good Things Happiness Exercise
Good Things Need Good Thinks!

Are there any rules for practicing TGT?

Rules of TGT: Writing, Reflecting, Timing.

The TGT practice needs three conditions to work well:

  1. Writing down is vital as it helps you to focus on the events in a properly structured way.
  2. Reflecting on what you did is essential, as it adds to your sense of control and perceived well-being.
  3. Timing is significant. Research says to get good results, do it daily for a week (or once a week for six weeks).

The real task is to approach your TGT practice sincerely and consistently. No one is judging you for it, and you too shouldn’t judge yourself for the low positivity in your days.

It is a happiness-boosting exercise. So, if it feels like an unhappy, tedious task you must endure every day, then it’s okay not to do it every day.

Do it for one week, then stop.

If you feel like it, come back to it for another week sometime later. Or do it specifically on days that had extraordinary positive events.

Why is TGT difficult at first?

Humanity evolved with a negative bias, and survival meant that our brains constantly checked for dangers around us. So, it is tough to spot 3 good things at the start.

Martin Seligman, fondly called the Father of Modern Positive Psychology, explains it:

“For sound evolutionary reasons, most of us are not nearly as good at dwelling on good events as we are at analyzing bad events. Those of our ancestors who spent a lot of time basking in the sunshine of good events, when they should have been preparing for disaster, did not survive the Ice Age. So, overcoming our brains’ natural catastrophic bent, we need to work on and practice this skill of thinking about what went well.”

Solution: Remind yourself that your 3 good things don’t have to be special or spectacular. Your good things need not be winning a championship, grabbing a promotion, or getting engaged to your long-lost-found-again love.

Even finding marriage-heaven, whatever that means. Or something as earthshaking as escaping a prison sentence, though that counts.

Any three simple things that you are thankful for and are glad they happened, will count. Eventually, with a little practice, you will see good things light up like tiny sparkles.

everything can be happy

What Are The Happiness Benefits of TGT?

Three Good Things (TGT) practitioners had their happiness levels rise by 2% after one week, 5% in one month, and 9% in six months.

Sheldon and Lyubomirsky investigated the effects of three good things in 2004, and Seligman, Steen, Park, and Peterson in 2005.

Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2004):

  • At the one-month follow-up, participants in this exercise were happier and less depressed than they had been at baseline, and they stayed happier and less depressed at the three-month and six-month follow-ups.
  • As we expected, our simple exercise was effective in producing higher levels of thankfulness and appreciation. More important, those participants who counted their blessings on a regular basis became happier as a result.
  • Compared with a control group (i.e., people who did not practice TGT), the gratitude group reported significantly bigger increases in their happiness levels from before to after the intervention. Interestingly, this effect was observed only for those who expressed gratitude every Sunday night.

In 2009, Sin & Lyubomirsky combed through 51 studies on positive psychology interventions (like being asked to count their blessings), and found that people became noticeably happier when they were given individual positive interventions.

‘What Went Well’ in Positive Psychology?

Martin Seligman, widely known as the Father of Positive Psychology, explains the “What-Went-Well” happiness intervention in this video:

How To Practice TGT by Martin Seligman

Transcript of the video (slightly edited for ease of reading):

The Three Good Things exercise has you write down for a week, before you go to sleep, three things that went well today, and then reflect on why they went well.

It works because it changes your focus from the things that go wrong in life to the things that you might take for granted that go well. And focusing your attention on things that go well breaks up depression and increases happiness.

I don’t need to recommend it beyond a week, typically for three good things, because when you do this, you’ll find you like it so much. Most people just keep doing it.

We ask people to write down the causes because we want people to reflect on and immerse themselves in the good events.

Final Words

TGT is simply finding and writing down three things that went well each day.

Try the TGT tonight—it may be the best 3 minutes of your day!

√ Also Read: Mindfulness For Beginners: 7-Step Guide

√ Please spread the word if you found this helpful.

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When it comes to mental well-being, you don't have to do it alone. Going to therapy to feel better is a positive choice. Therapists can help you work through your trauma triggers and emotional patterns.