Each evening, at the end of my night-time hour-long meditation, I post the question: what three things went well today, and why? The question comes from Martin Seligman, a psychologist who spearheaded the Positive Psychology movement—a subfield interested in the promotion of well-being and human thriving. Interestingly, it was Seligman’s early research that led to the learned helplessness theory. I have deep respect for colleagues who continue to grow and expand.
Seligman’s research generated some support for the question posed above. There are two key components: (a) think of three distinct things and (b) be sure to explore why they went well. Directing the mind to multiple successes at the end of the day reinforces neural networks supporting optimistic behavior. Exploring why, the specific mechanisms and circumstances that led to the successes, builds your memory for the successful strategies and supportive resources already present in your life. This primes you to make more frequent use of them.
As Seligman says in his book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.
What three things went well today? And why?