It is familiar territory, going over problems, talking about what went wrong. We are good at dissecting our failures, short-comings, how we could improve this or that. It can be a habit, a default setting. We take turns relating our recent set backs or screw-ups. We say things like, “You are not going to believe this awful mess I am in,” explaining in detail how we made a real hash of things. Or, “this really terrible thing happened,” and we launch into the telling of how we have been wronged. It is useful to go over mistakes or bad things that have happened to avoid repeats. However, it can add to feelings of anxiety and depression, especially if this is the primary way of processing events. It has to been done sometimes, this going over of what went wrong but, here is a thought about the counterbalance. The recalling of what went right.
In last week’s Brain Pickings, the book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, by Dr Martin Seligman, is noted as a great source for simple exercises to increase happiness. One of which counteracts our nature to talk about the bad things of the day, by practicing paying attention to the good. Seligman calls it the What-Went-Well or Three Blessings exercise.
What-Went-Well: at the end of the day take ten minutes to write down three things that went well and why they went well. It doesn’t have to be a big momentous event. It could be simple things that felt positive but, it is important to note why. Here are some examples from Flourish.
“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.”
It is similar to a gratitude list, though goes a step further in recognizing the why and how of what worked. Seligman assures we will be “less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.” So, here it goes…
What went well for me today: I had a great time with my friends, because I decided to reschedule my
week and go to the movies with them. I also woke up with out pain in my shoulder because I have been diligent about my physical therapy. And the birds at the feeder are reminding me of spring. My husband always keeps the feeder full of seed so that we can enjoy watching the birds. He is good like that.
I look forward to hearing what went well for you today.
Peace & Love,