Late in the day every day, spend a few minutes reviewing and thinking about everything that went right for you that day – even the small things.
What did you enjoy?
What felt good?
Take a moment to really savour them, think about their value, then write them down in your diary or journal or a pad of paper you keep by the bed.
Most importantly, it should be the first thing you read in the morning and well ahead of news consumption and ahead of your email and overnight messages.
This type of reflection is one of the most powerful ways of maintaining and increasing optimism. It can help you program positive thoughts and images into your mind for the night. In some senses it's similar to the “Hunt for the good stuff” training exercise used by the American military in which soldiers are encouraged to search for and focus on what they can be grateful for.
Regular recording of your gratitude should help you sleep better and awake more ready to face the day.
Ideally, keep a journal - best in hard-copy - buy a beautiful or elegant notebook for this purpose.
Some people prefer to keep this as a file on their computer or smart-phone, that’s fine too - whatever works best for you.
Professor Martin Seligman’s authentic formula for this is:
“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).
“Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause … “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”
Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier.”
Personally, I have adapted Seligman’s three blessings to use on a daily basis and my family and I share three good things that went well over dinner.
Action: Take a piece of paper or start a new document on your computer and list the things you are grateful for. Keep it somewhere easily found and go back to that list in a week and see what you can add to it.
Action: Buy a nice notebook or journal, keep it by your bedside and write three things in it that you are grateful for today. First thing in the morning, after toilet or on the toilet, read what you wrote yesterday.
Be intentional about being grateful so that it becomes strong enough to counteract the negativity bias. One year, my wife and I kept a huge glass candy jar in our living room with a pen and Post-It pad next to it. Every day we would write down one or two things that happened that day that brought us joy. With each passing day it made a real difference in our awareness of how good we had it.
Also, try expressing gratitude to others more frequently. Use your smartphone to send text messages of appreciation to others. This will get the happy neurochemicals flowing with a “twofer” benefit -- it will improve your attitude and improve your relationships at the same time.
Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D.
Many studies now show that people who regularly keep a gratitude journal report better physical health, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the future. To keep a gratitude journal, set aside time daily to record several things that you are grateful for. I encourage my clients to write three to five gratitudes in their journal either when they wake up or when they go to bed.
I used to keep a gratitude journal, but more recently, to change things up, and keep my gratitude practice feeling "fresh", I started keeping a "Gratitude Jar." It really is a wonderful way for me to feel happier, even on some of my darker days. I write down what I am grateful for on colored Post-it notes, and every so often I reach my hand in and review them. For those more technology-oriented, go to the App Store and search "gratitude" and you will find many user-friendly free and minimal fee-based apps offering innovative, appealing ways to record and track your gratitude.
"The most successful optimists never forget what they have to be thankful for. While striving to reach our goals and achieve more, it’s important to feel grateful for what we have in the present. Otherwise we cultivate dissatisfaction alongside ambition. Personally, I keep a gratitude notebook where I record at least 10 things that I’m grateful for at the very start of my day. It helps me approach each morning with a positive frame of mind and gives me comfort knowing that I have a wonderful foundation to build upon every day–no matter what may happen."
Cultivate your gratitude. Sharpen your daily attention. Our five senses, our fantastic curiosity, our exhilarating emotional capacity are just a few of our avenues to gladness. Even when headlines clamor, or life deals tough challenges, we can find numberless reasons to feel grateful and hopeful. We find them in simple moments as we repot our plants or tackle creative projects; as we explore other cultures down the street or over the sea; and as we witness or perform acts of beauty in the face of our common sorrows.
"The old Arabic proverb, “I complained about having no shoes until I met a man with no feet”, still counts. No matter how glum we feel, it’s always worth counting our blessings. Making a habit of writing down three things to be grateful for, regardless of how small, can bring more mindfulness to everyday life and enable us to actively express gratitude for significant but forgotten things like life, health, a home and friends."
"One of the most simple things that people can do to foster optimism is to reflect on what they’re grateful for."
“Some people keep a gratefulness journal, and it can be just a day-to-day kind of thing where they reflect on something that they feel grateful for, or maybe they’ve noticed some positive thing that happened."
"You may want to consciously stop and savor any positive stories when you come across them, as tempting as it may be to just quickly file them away with the rest of the daily news."
“Every evening, write in your journal the things for which you may be grateful in your life, and focus on the benefits or ‘gifts’ received in your day, week, or in your life. It deals with simple everyday pleasures, people, moments of beauty of nature, or acts of kindness from others. We do not usually consider them as a gift but, today, think of it from this perspective. Take a moment to really savour them, think about their value, then write them down in your diary.”
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