In Lisa Napoli’s book, Radio Shangri-La: What I Discovered on My Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth, I learned of a very simple and surprisingly effective way to become a more positive, happy and content person. The book is about the author’s experiences living in Bhutan, and it’s interesting in that regard. But what really struck me is something the author learned from attending a “happiness” class. Ms Napoli describes it like this.
From Radio Shangri-La
“[The teacher] assigned an exercise that really started to bring the jumble in my brain to order. It was a simple nightly ritual, and it taught me how to appreciate life in the most basic terms.
“‘I want you to keep a notebook by your bed,’ he said. ‘And every night, before you go to sleep, I want you to review your day. Make a short list of three things that happened that were good.’”
“‘What if three good things didn’t happen?’ several of us asked in unison. Clearly, we weren’t wired with a positive way of looking at the world.
“‘Well, that’s the point,’ he said. ‘This exercise challenges you to find three good things in each day. They don’t have to be big things. In fact, most of the time, they’re not going to be big things. * * * The idea here is that little things have power. * * * I want you to see that every single day, three good things do happen. It will make you discover that goodness exists all around us, already.”
The teacher explained to them, “Over time, you’ll start to see which things make you the happiest. It probably isn’t what you think.”
I started doing this “three good things” exercise last summer, basically as a lark. I figured I’d do it for a week, couldn’t hurt, but I didn’t really expect it to make a difference. Boy, was I wrong! Writing down three good things each day has made a tremendous difference and is now an important ritual in my life.
Ms. Napoli’s “happiness” class instructor was right that doing this simple thing helps you see what makes you happy. For me, it’s generally little things like a beautiful day, a good run, a good book, a phone conversation with my sister, dinner with friends, achieving a worthy goal, or feeling the breeze through the windows in my condo. Just as importantly, it focuses you on finding the positive in every day, even taking something negative and seeing the positive in it, like staying calm and not reacting when a co-worker sends me a nasty-gram/e-mail. Some days I have an abundance of good things to choose from. Every once in a while, I have to be creative to find three good things, but I always manage to do it.
Give it a try for a week or two. Put a notepad by your bed, or use the “notes” function on your smart phone. Every night before you go to bed (or any time during the day), take a few minutes and jot down three good things that happened that day. I’d love to hear about your experiences with this “happiness” exercise. Are you surprised by the types of “good things” that you write down? Does focusing on finding the “good things” in each day make you a more positive person in general, like it does for me?