Happiness Tip: Write Down Good Things

I am not a journaler; after sitting in front of my computer all day, it doesn’t usually occur to me to end the day by whipping out pen and paper to document life’s events.

But I’ve long preached the benefits of ending the day by noting “3 good things” that happened. And I’ve practiced this research-tested happiness-boosting technique by asking my kids about “3 good things” that occurred during their day at bedtime for nearly a decade. It has come to be my favorite part of the day — when it happens. Which increasingly, it doesn’t. My kids are are now tweeners and teenagers. They share rooms, and they no longer always want to end the day by cuddling with me.


Clearly our family’s “3 good things” practice is ripe for reinvention. And I was recently reminded by the Greater Good Science Center’s wonderful (free!) Science of Happiness online class that the power of this exercise often comes from writing down three good things that happened to you during the day. Here is the suggested practice:

  • At about the same time each day (I recommend the evening, just before bed), take about 10 minutes to write down three things that went well for you.
  • In addition to just jotting down what happened (e.g., “I finally finished a project I’d been procrastinating”) add some details, like what you did or said, or what others did or said.
  • Focus on your feelings. How did you feel when the good thing happened? How did you feel afterwards? How do you feel now?

I’ve decided to start doing this expanded “3 good things” with my kids…via text. Even if they are under the same roof. I like this because sometimes I am not with them at bedtime, but am in a place where I can still text with them. I also like it because the practice includes me more: I prompt them with something good that happened to me during my day, sometimes sending them a picture. (Again, even if they are just in the next room.)

Text doesn’t really lend itself to detail, so for each good thing I typically send two texts, one for what happened, and one for how it made me feel. I use the voice recognition on my phone and speak the texts, which saves me time.

My kids and I exchange just one good thing now, typically, since we are trying to go into detail. I also have been jotting down one private good thing for myself, and talking to my husband about a third.

Even though this isn’t the exact exercise that was tested by researchers, I think it is better to modify an exercise to make it something that you find inherently enjoyable than to try to stick to something that doesn’t feel like as good a fit.

Take Action: How can you integrate detailed reflection about three good things that happened during your day? Block off time on your calendar, or set a reminder on your phone, and try to do this practice for 10 days in a row.

Join the Discussion: Are you planning to try out the “3 Good Things” exercise? If so, what format do you think will work best for you? If you’ve done something similar before, what worked for you? Share in the comments!

Friday Inspiration: Blended Family

I think most of us divorced people with kids never thought we’d ever be the ones to get divorced. This week is the anniversary of my blended family, and we are celebrating our wholeness, or our “notbrokenness” — we wouldn’t have it any other way.

How are you and your family whole in places where others see cracks?

Happiness Tip: Fall in Love All Over Again

my hubby

Last weekend was my first wedding anniversary with my husband, the first of what I hope will be many in a long marriage. But because this is my second marriage, I’m all too aware of how fragile relationships can be. I know how much work a good relationship is. Fortunately, a lot of the work in a committed relationship can be really fun to do; it’s only “work” in the sense that it takes conscious effort.

To that end, I asked Linda Carroll, author of my favorite relationship book, Love Cycles, for some relationship happiness tips — ridiculously easy things that Mark and I can do to celebrate our anniversary and that will help us keep the love alive. Here are her suggestions:

#1 Reminisce about the beginning of your relationship over a relaxing dinner together: how you met, your first dates, and the “eureka moment” when you realized you’d found the right partner.

#2 Find a photograph of your partner as a child, one that is especially endearing. (I found the above picture of Mark in a pile of old photos in a kitchen cabinet, of all places.) Carry it in your wallet or put it on your iPhone and feel your heart touched whenever you see it.

#3 Think of what might make you hard to live with, and list the ways your partner has shown patience, forgiveness, and acceptance of you over time.

#4 List the top three most clever, courageous, or caring things your partner has ever said or done for you (or for someone else). Remind yourself of these gifts bestowed by your partner. Bear them in mind as you go through your daily life.

#5 List the top three qualities of your partner and use them to play a private game where you catch your partner in the act of displaying these admirable qualities.

Take Action: Choose one of Carroll’s tips to do with someone special tonight. If it feels hokey, or makes you feel vulnerable, be courageous and go for it anyway — you’ll be happier in the long run.

Join the discussion: What other ideas do you have for falling in love all over again? What works for you?  


In her fantastic book Love Cycles, author and veteran couples therapist Linda Carroll explains that love is cyclical and comprised of five distinct stages: the Merge, Doubt and Denial, Disillusionment, Decision, and Wholehearted Loving.  She explains that love’s more challenging stages are part of genuine intimacy, rather than signs of its demise, and promises that the greatest benefit of our intimate relationships is the opportunity they provide to grow and develop as a human being.

Thursday Thought

No one can give you anything–love, shame, self-esteem–until you give it to yourself. Today, give yourself good things.”
–Martha Beck

Friday Inspiration: Chloe’s Wedding Day

We all have so many gifts to share that can change the course of other people’s lives profoundly for the better. Here, the father of a little girl with cancer gives one of the biggest gifts imaginable to his daughter’s doctor: meaning and fulfillment.

Thursday Thought

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
– Japanese proverb

Happiness Tip: Take a Free Happiness Class

Did you know that happiness is much better thought of as a set of skills you can learn and practice than it is an inborn personality trait? Believe it or not, it is! Research suggests that 40% of our happiness depends on our daily activities.

This means that we can become markedly happier by changing our habits and simple day-to-day-behaviors! How happy we are is as much knowing what to practice as anything else.

Guess what? UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center is offering a free, eight-week online course, called “The Science of Happiness.” This class will offer you practical strategies for nurturing your own happiness, and you’ll be able to engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from this science. Each week, you’ll learn a new research-tested practice that fosters social and emotional well-being—and be able to track your progress along the way.

The course’s co-instructors, Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, are both leading authorities on positive psychology and gifted teachers skilled at making science fun. They’ll be joined by world-renowned experts discussing themes like empathy, mindfulness, and gratitude—experts including Rick Hanson, Barbara Fredrickson, Paul Ekman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Kabat-Zinn and yours truly!

Register now for this FREE online class – goes live tomorrow, September 9!

Friday Inspiration: End Bullying

I love this! A great way to foster compassion and make sure no one is made to feel less-than. Empower kids to #endbullying.

Thursday Thought

Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.”
– Jesse Jackson

Happiness Tip: Say Cheese

Say CheeseAre you documenting this Labor Day with lots of pictures? (My kids are certainly smiling–only 3 days of school and already a holiday!) Say cheese along with your friends and family and boost your own happiness in the process.

Here’s an amazing fact: facial expressions and body postures alone can actually make us feel. Facial expressions alone, without first feeling the corresponding emotions, are enough to create the discernible changes in your nervous system. Tighten your jaw and narrow your eyes as if you are really angry. Your body will usually release adrenaline and your heart rate will speed up as if you are actually angry. The same thing is true for positive emotions. This means that sometimes we should just smile, even if we don’t feel like it.

Take Action: Move your facial muscles so that you are technically smiling. When you lift up your lips and crinkle your eyes, your body will release all kinds of feel-good brain chemicals into your system after a couple of minutes. You can hold a pencil between your teeth or mimic the act and you will likely slow your heart rate and start to feel calmer, happier. Warning: I’ve found that the pencil clenching trick works, but it makes me drool.

Join the Discussion: Do you feel a little happier? Share in the comments.