Seemingly too simple, the “Three Good Things” is a proven and powerfully effective mind exercise to increase your happiness levels. Speaking of which, experts call happiness by the term positive affect.
This happiness-boosting exercise comes from positive psychology — the science that explores the positive side of mental health and psychological wellbeing.
Remember, the activity is easy and takes around 3 good minutes of your day, but doing it sincerely and regularly is the actual challenge. We show you how to get it right with examples and themes. So, take up this positive challenge for your greater good—we urge you.
Three Good Things (TGT): Simple, Short Guide
The Three Good Things or What-Went-Well Exercise is a gratitude journal exercise you adopt as a daily habit to increase your happiness. Once you start the practice of Three Good Things, your happiness, hope, and optimism levels rise.
Basically, it is a positivity-focused gratitude-exercise you do at the end of the day while living a normal daily life. Here’s the short and simple guide to the 3 Good Things or Three Good Things (TGT) exercise:
3 Good Things Exercise
- Every night, just before you go to bed, sit down for a while and look back on your day.
- Then think of 3 things that went well for you during the day, that is, the positive things of the day.
- Write down each positive event. Then reflect and brood upon all three of them.
That’s all there is to it. That is the shortest guide to the TGT.
Want it still simpler? Here goes the 3-sentence version:
And here goes the image-quote version:
There are 3 conditions for this happiness exercise (these are easy as well):
- Writing down is vital as it helps you to focus on the events in a structured way.
- Reflecting on what you did is essential as it adds to your sense of perceived control and well-being.
- Timing is significant. Research says, to get the first good results, either do it every day for one week, or, try it once a week for six weeks.
Important rules: Writing. Reflecting. Timing.Three Good Things (TGT): Think of 3 things that went well during the day. Write them down. Reflect on them. See your happiness rise. Click To Tweet
Problems, Themes, Examples of TGT
Now that we are done with the briefest guide on Three Good Things, let us talk about a few problematic areas of the practice. And how can you find your way around them?
Problems of TGT
It seems hard at first to dig out the 3 good things that happened in the day. Almost everyone faces this issue. But keep this in mind: The 3 Good Things do not have to be grand.
Just any 3 simple good things would be enough.
They need not be things like winning a state championship, grabbing a promotion to kill for, or getting engaged to your long-lost-found-again love.
Or even finding the marriage-heaven, whatever that means. Or something as earthshaking as escaping a prison sentence, though that counts.
Any three good things that happened in your day would count. After a few days of taking too long to think up the 3 good things, eventually, you will easily start seeing the good things in your life light up like tiny sparkles.
Beware: Your monkey mind may pull you towards a terrible event or a moment of stress. If your mind tries to go over a negative event from the day, tell yourself:
“Okay (your name), that happened. Let’s keep it away for another time. Right now, let’s find a good thing that happened today!”
The idea is to stay vigilant, and not let your mind drift off with thoughts about negative events. When it happens, the best strategy is to acknowledge it and then let it go.
Themes of TGT
Here are five themes you could explore in your Three Good Things journal:
- What one way you made the most meaningful use of your time today?
- What one good thing happened at your work/school/college today?
- What one useful support you had from your relationships today?
- What one good act of generosity or kindness you did today?
- What one thing brought a smile to your heart today?
Examples of TGT
A few helpful examples you may write could be these:
- 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 work. It could be a simple, pleasant event as a shared time of talk and laughter at dinner-time with your family.
- It could be a useful discussion you had with your children, parents, spouse, or friends. It could be a joyful moment when you stopped to see a fabulous flower in full bloom or a few cute puppies playing in abandon.
- It could be a great feeling you got after spending some “me-time” taking care of yourself. It could be looking at some pictures of your loved ones and having positive thoughts about your bonds.
Don’t limit yourself to these above. Explore your own possibilities. A positive moment in your day is waiting for you to take note.
Happiness Benefits of Three Good Things
Research suggests people can increase their happiness through simple, intentional positive activities, like practicing kindness or expressing gratitude.
A study that combined results from 51 randomized controlled interventions found people asked to do positive intentional activities, such as thinking gratefully, optimistically, or mindfully, became significantly happier (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009).
Three Good Things (TGT) is one of the most powerful positive psychology interventions to raise your happiness and wellbeing levels. Though, they have not found it helpful in improving symptoms of depression.
TGT increases both hope and optimism (these are two different things). It helps create a stronger immune system and greater job satisfaction.
A Japanese study found the 3 Good Things exercise may be effective in increasing the general trust level in the participant.
Along with the above positive effects, it may also be possible to increase one’s resilience via TGT practice.
As psychologist Martin Seligman, fondly referred to as the Father of Modern Positive Psychology, author of the groundbreaking book, Flourish, says,
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 to overcome our brains’ natural catastrophic bent, we need to work on and practice this skill of thinking about what went well.
They found, after just one week, the participants were 2% happier.
But the magic started here onward. The researchers followed up with the study participants and checked their happiness levels over time.
Surprisingly, they were getting happier by the week. Their happiness rose to 5% at the end of one month. And to 9% by the end of six months.
To sum up, Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the first modern positive psychologists and author of the immensely popular science-book The How of Happiness, says,
The Three Good Things exercise has been found to increase happiness and decrease depression for up to 6 months. Click To Tweet
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 any kind of exercise), 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.
Video: How To Practice Three Good Things
Here’s a short video on the 3 Good Things Exercise by Dr Martin Seligman:
The Three Good Things or What-Went-Well Exercise is a gratitude journal exercise you adopt as a daily habit to increase your happiness.
Once you start the practice of Three Good Things, your happiness, hope, and optimism levels rise. It could become the best 3 minutes of your day!
Please check out the 50 Greatest Quotes of Positive Psychology (like the one below):
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.
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