If there’s one thing I’ve learned about happiness it’s that the smallest changes can have an incredible impact. Winning a million dollars is not, in fact, the only path to happiness (and some would debate if it’s a path at all).
I would argue that happiness is rooted in the way that you look at life. The things that happen to you don’t necessarily have to control your mood, it’s how you perceive and experience them.
Take an example: if you sleep through your alarm and wake up late, rushing through your morning and wishing you had the time to make a nice breakfast might your sour mood for the rest of the day. But, if you instead choose to focus on the extra sleep that you (accidentally) got and how it’ll help you be more alert at work, you’ll notice the silver lining and find it easier to accept your situation. Boom - now you’re HAPPIER.
That’s precisely why gratitude has been a buzzword lately and daily gratitude journals are selling fast. By being thankful for the wonderful moments in your life, both big and small, you train your mind to look for the positive and leave less room for the negative, complaining thoughts. In a study conducted by Robert Emmons, people who wrote down things they were grateful for over three weeks reported being 25% happier for the next six months (from an article by Louisa Kamps for Real Simple). This stuff works. Gratitude is seriously powerful.
What I’m going to show you today is a set of exercises in positive thinking that’ll give you a straightforward way that you can change your mindset. I’ve been doing these daily for years now and they’ve made such an impact on my mood that I knew I had to write a blog post about it.
What you’ll need:
A writing utensil and paper. Typing also works, but it’s not preferable (it’s just less mindful). I like to do this in my journal to keep it all in one place.
When you wake up (or as part of your morning routine):
List three things that you’re looking forward to for the day
They might be big things, like an event you’re excited to go to, or little things, like talking to a friend during lunch.
You might also use this to reframe your thinking around things that are causing you anxiety. For example, if you have a nerve-racking presentation coming up, you can say: I’m excited to blow everyone away with the presentation I’ve worked so hard on. Or if you have a crazy busy day ahead of you, it’s totally okay to just write, I’m excited to be done with everything and climb into bed tonight!
Write three accomplishments from the day that you’re proud of.
Again, this could be something big, like a project you completed, or small, like a positive habit you kept up with. Pat yourself on the back, you deserve it!
Write three things you were grateful for that day.
You might be grateful for something specific from that day, like receiving a thoughtful gift, or something that is consistent in your life but that you especially appreciated that day, like your family.
3 things you are excited for
3 accomplishments you’re proud of
3 things you are grateful for
What this looks like
I flipped back through my journal for examples to illustrate what a day’s worth of positive thinking would look like (these are pulled from different days):
3 things I’m excited for:
Making and eating some nice oatmeal for breakfast
My new shoes coming in the mail
Packing my bags for the trip
Finishing my photography website
Pushed myself in my workout
Got a great start on my rough draft for my English project
3 things I’m grateful for:
A manageable to-do list today
Spending time with family at the farmer’s market
It’s so simple - just three short lists - but the effect it has is incredible. Even if your day wasn’t perfect, if you look at it from this positive point of view, the struggles and low points of the day fall away and you see only the wonderful, happy things.
The time commitment for this technique is so low you really have no excuse. I know I said it takes three minutes but I bet you could do it in under two ;)
So what are you waiting for? You can start this evening. Before you go to bed, write down three things you’re proud of accomplishing today and three things you were grateful for today and notice how the emotions surrounding your memory of the day are different. Notice how you feel when you go to bed.
I’d love to hear how this technique works for you. And to finish out this post with a bit of positivity, what are you grateful for right now?
Have an amazing rest of your Monday!