Do you have times when you wish you could feel just a little more satisfied with life? It is human nature to rever to a kind of set point of contentment. Whether things are going well or badly, we seem to reach a homeostatic point of satisfaction. Unless our routine has produced unusual moments of the things we love, if we do the same each day, have you noticed that we can easily become complacent about how fortunate we are and how pleasant our lives are? It takes a couple of tough days to help us appreciate how good things are when our normal life resumes. That’s why we love weekends – the variety helps us appreciate relief from our work obligations.
For people who are experiencing worry, stress or even depression the exercise of writing down three good things that happened that day and the reason for them, is now well recognised as being an effective way of improving depressive scores or at the least people’s mood before bed! This comes from the theory of hope and optimism – part of the positive psychology literature.
A new study has modified the intervention to focus on future events and activities and found that asking the question, “What awaits you tomorrow (that is positive)?” can do three things:
- reduce pessimism,
- reduce negative feelings/mood and
- reduce emotional exhaustion.
If people struggled to think of good things coming up, they then created a desire for them and often made them happen.
So whether you are aiming to help yourself, or help your clients as a coach, I believe this exercise is worth adding to you bag of tools to use when times are, well, not as appreciated as that might be. Together with “What went well today?”, asking “What’s coming up tomorrow that I will enjoy?” we can turn a bland day into a better day.
(Littman-Ovadia and Nir, the Journal of Positive Psychology, 2013)