Three Good Things

From the Headmaster's Desk, October 30, 2018

I spoke to you all earlier in the term about how fascinated I have been reading the latest research on positive psychology. The key message of this research is that it demonstrates that you can change the way you feel by changing the way you think.

One of the simplest aspects of the research is based around the concept of gratitude. Feeling grateful is good for our psychology. When we reflect on things for which we are grateful, this increases positive emotion that we feel, and decreases negative emotions. When we stop to be grateful for what we have, then we feel more satisfied with the moment and with our life in general.

Part of the power of feeling grateful is that it distracts focus from negative things in our life and focuses our mind on the positive. Doing this regularly means that we become more accustomed to focusing on the positive, which quickly can become habitual.  As I mentioned earlier in the term, one can become more positive through thinking positive things.

There are two quick tricks that we all can do to ensure we feel gratitude more often. Both require very little effort.

This first one is to say thank you to people, or indeed write thank you notes. The act of thanking others actually makes us feel positive as we reflect on the good deed of someone else.  And, of course, receiving a thank you, either in person or in writing, makes someone else feel some positive emotions as well. So it is a win-win. You win when you thank someone, because you feel positive, and they win as well, receiving your positive vibes.

The other simple trick that helps us focus on gratitude is called ‘three good things’. This is a rather basic task of concentrating on three good things that happen in your life, and remembering to be thankful for them.  The reason this works so well is that when we take time to notice the good things in our lives, then we get more out of these things.

Research shows that the best way to use this technique is to keep a written journal: at the end of each day, just write down three things that you are thankful for that day.  When you write about three good things, and reflect on the causes and why they went well, it removes any focus from things that went wrong in life, and instead helps you to think positively about things that you might have taken for granted.

Focusing your attention on things that have gone well brings warm feelings of gratitude and positivity that lift your mood in the short term and long term. Experts recommend trying this for one week – they only recommend one week because they find that people who do this for a week quickly see the benefits, and continue to do it over the longer term.  Doing this regularly has been shown to have both an immediate and a long-term positive influence on the psychology of people.

Even if you don’t write it down, it is good to say the three things aloud. It is even good just to think them. The whole point is to savour the good things in life, appreciate them and then we get more joy out of them.

Many people tweet their three good things.  In fact the #threegoodthings is quite uplifting on Twitter.

So, to conclude, being grateful is important.  Remembering to be grateful to each other, and for positive events in your life, will make you happier, healthier and more fulfilled.  Being grateful even helps people cope with stress and lowers your heart rate, in a good way.  So take a moment this week to say thank you, as you reflect on your own three good things, and enjoy the benefits this provides for your well-being.

Have a great week.

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