Check out this adorable little book! It’s a teeny weeny Moleskine with 365 dated, unlined pages, with a sunny orangey-yellow cover. In 2014 I’m going to write something in this little book every day – even if I can only manage a single word. The restriction is that I can only write down the good things that happened.
This isn’t a new concept. Lots of folks do this. Some people write the good things on slips of paper and keep them in a jar so that when they’re feeling down they can reach in and randomly select an actual happy memory to remind them that life doesn’t always suck. Some folks call these journals “gratitude journals” or “thankfulness journals” or “blessings journals.”
You may have noticed for yourself, or heard anecdotally that accentuating the positive (as the song goes) will sort of perpetuate the positive. You get what you think about, so if you focus on the morbid and depressing things in life, life seems suckier, and if you focus on the happy and uplifting things in life, life seems more pleasant. It turns out this is not just a nice theory – it’s proven.
Dr. Paula Watkins, on elephant, an online journal of mindfulness, says that:
The seminal paper in this field came out 10 years ago with an article titled, Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life (Emmons & McCollough, 2003). The study showed that participants randomly assigned to notice and appreciate up to five things they were grateful for were happier and healthier than participants who recorded neutral events or hassles.
The researchers then worked to figure out what the “optimal dosage” of gratitude was. Should this be done weekly or daily? How often within those time periods? Their research showed that three things a day worked best for most people.
Therefore, three good things a day will be my goal, but the bare minimum will be one. There are days when that will be a stretch and days when one little tiny page won’t be enough, I’m sure, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
[A note from the future: I faithfully wrote in my little journal all the things that made me happy every day – until the Oso landslide. Long story short, my life ran off the rails a little. I resurrected the practice eventually, and now I make a daily happiness post on my Tumblr.]