• David Unger PhD

Alphabet Series - T is for Three Good Things


Martin Seligman, PhD is a researcher and author who is often referred to as the father of Positive Psychology. For many years, I have been sharing his findings with students, clients and friends. I am going to share a little of his work with you, and some of my own thoughts, and hopefully there will be something in it that is beneficial for you.


Seligman has a simple exercise called Three Good Things. I imagine throughout history people have been doing their own version of this exercise, and you are certainly free to modify it as you see fit. In its basic form, the exercise asks you at the end of the day to think of three good things that occurred during that day, and to write them down and reflect on why they happened. That is it.


Seligman and others have researched this exercise and found it increases happiness and a sense of well being. Why is that you might ask. It turns out people spend more time thinking about negative things than they do positive things. We spend a lot of time thinking about what is bothering us and what is not working well in our lives and what we can do to make things better. Certainly thinking about how to repair matters is helpful, but the anguish and worry that we carry around has a toll. You don't have to stop worrying and planning if you don't want to. Just add more positives to the mix and it will help balance things out in your life. According to the research, it turns out that by re-directing our thoughts towards positive events, we can do a lot to correct this negative bias. In this video, Martin Seligman describes the purpose and effects of this exercise. Here he uses the alternate name, the "Three Blessings."


Each night before you go to sleep: 1. Think of three good things that happened today. 2. Write them down. 3. Reflect on why they happened.


Long Version

This exercise is to be done each night before going to sleep. Step 1: Think about anything good that happened to you today. It can be anything at all that seems positive to you. It need not be anything big or important. For example, you might recall the fact that you enjoyed the oatmeal you had for breakfast. On the other hand, you might also recall that your child took her/his first step today. Anything from the most mundane to the most exalted works, as long as it seems to you like a good, positive, happy thing. Step 2: Write down these three positive things. Step 3: Reflect on why each good thing happened. Determining the "why" of the event is the most important part of the exercise. For example, you might say that your oatmeal tasted really good this morning because your partner took the time to go shopping at the local farmer's market, where they have fresh, organic fruit to add to the oatmeal. Or you might say that your child took her/his first step today because she/he was growing up, or because she/he really wanted to get to some cookies on the table. You get to decide why the event is positive.


The take-away is that not only do you get to feel more positive about your life, but you may also see the things you can do to continue to make positive contributions to your life. Why something happens may sometimes be out of your control, while other times you may see a pathway to creating more positives in your life.

#ThreeGoodThings #MartinSeligman

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