With the holiday season in full force, I’d like to take some time today to talk about being thankful and happy. This time of the year, we are probably more thankful than others. Surrounded by family with a roof over our heads, we are often reminded of all that we have that others do not. BUT, I think we can all say that little negative voice inside our heads can become a bit too loud at times. It’s easy to wallow and focus on the things we wish we had but don’t, or when things don’t go our way. This kind of thinking can make life seem downright crummy.
We actually are genetically inclined to focus on the negative things in life. The reason for this is because hundreds of years ago, people had to be hyper-vigilant in order to survive. In addition, focusing on the negative forced us to seek something better – better shelter, better food, arrows that were pointier. It led to the society we have now.
However, despite all of the improvements we make and cool things we buy, we always want more. It’s because we have a pretty stable level of happiness and we tend to return to this. Think of the last time you bought a new pair of shoes – you were pretty happy when you first bought them – they fit better, look cooler, you’re feet don’t hurt at the end of the day. After a few weeks though, they are just another pair of shoes and they don’t really make you happy any more. It’s called hedonic adaptation for all of you who want to get down and nerdy.
The problem is, what helped us to progress as a society, can really bring down our mood. Yes, we now have new threats forcing us to buckle our seat-belts and look both ways before crossing the street…and the biggest threat to existence of all – a bad selfie. In order to shift our minds to positive thinking, we actually have to make some strong efforts and form new habits. That is where this bomb-dot-com exercise comes in.
Three Good Things is an exercise that stems from a study by Martin Seligman in 2005 which showed that this conscientious awareness and focus on the positive can lead to a 10% improvement in happiness over the course of 6 months. What’s more, it doesn’t appear your happiness levels off at any point, but continues to increase. Granted, the longest study is 6 months, but the data suggests this. Pretty soon, you could find yourself feeling like Will Farrell in Elf. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Here is how the exercise works: every night, before you go to bed, write down three good things that happened in your day and why they happened. That’s it. You’ll be dreaming sweet dreams without care as well as improving your happiness in no time. You have three weeks until Christmas – challenge yourself not to be the crabby cousin this year and go out and buy a gratitude journal! Here’s to happiness!
XOXO – Emily