Here’s a daily practice I learned from Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness.
Once each day, write down three good things that happened in the last 24 hours. You can write them before going to bed or first thing in the morning. You can write them in a journal or in a calendar or on a Post-it. You can include important achievements such as winning a contract or simple pleasures such as eating a good meal. All that matters is that you write down three such items, every day.
As you can guess, the purpose of this practice is to reinforce a positive outlook and avoid feeling overwhelmed by negativity. Even on the worst of days there are a few bright spots, and bringing them to mind helps you maintain perspective.
Dr. Seligman ran controlled experiments to test the technique. Not only did his subjects report being happier and more optimistic during the studies, but they liked participating so much that they continued writing down three good things each day after the experiment was over.
This little bit of thinking each day has large emotional rewards. Why? Because it strengthens two kinds of value judgments:
1) What you hold as good: Every time you decide consciously that something is good, you reinforce, clarify, and concretize what “good” means.
2) What you hold as important: Important means “entitled to attention or consideration.” When you spend a little time focusing on the good in your life, you are implicitly asserting that the good is what’s important.
Not bad for three minutes of thinking each day.
(Note: I have expanded on this article here.)