For too long the science of psychology had focused on what was wrong with people; what was their personality, what was their disorder.
Only in the past 20-30 years has psychology focused what keeps people happy when they are well. This is called the science of Positive Psychology. I am very influenced by this area and by Prof Martin Seligman's work on resilience, optimism and interventions that prevent depression, and build strengths.
A key tools that enhances wellbeing is the Three Good Things technnique, which develops our sense of gratitude.
Too often we take for granted positive things in our lives. We are quick to notice even the smallest of problems, yet we rarely spend any time at all dwelling on the good things.
The challenge is too consciously learn the habit of being grateful. People who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. It can help people to cope with stress and can even have a beneficial effect on heart rate.
It even seems to reduce the importance we place on material goods. And it also may increase our ability to achieve goals.
The Three Good Things action is easy to do yet its benefits have been scientifically proven. People who tried it each night for just one week were happier and less depressed one month, three months and even as much as six months later.
The action is simple but incredibly powerful. If parents remember to talk about the things they're grateful for, this can also help their children get the benefit of a gratitude habit for life.
Even on a bad day there are some good things that happen, however small.
A 'Three Good Things' Exercise
1. Every night - before you go to bed, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened - things that went well, that you enjoyed or were grateful for. These can be small ( a smile, the smell of trees and grass, the sun, a juicy orange, watching a child playing) or of bigger importance for you. You'll probably find it varies. Try doing this for a week to start with.
2. Note them down - this is important. You may want to get a small notebook just for this purpose.
3. Think about why - for each thing you're grateful for, write down why it happened and why you feel good about it. This may feel a bit tricky at first but you'll soon get the hang.
4. Look back - after a week, have a look back on what you've written. How does it feel when you look at all these good things? Do you notice any themes?
5. Keep it up - try keeping it up for another couple of weeks at least. Many people find it becomes a bedtime habit. After a while you may find that you don't need to do it every night. Three times a week or even once a week might be enough. You may also find that you start to appreciate the good things more as they happen.
Three Good Things orientates us towards a sense of appreciation and engagement in life. Remember it works because it changes our focus from the things that go wrong in life and things that we take for granted to things that go well.
Focusing our attention on things that go well acts as a buffer to depression and anxiety and increases our happiness as we reflect and immerse ourselves in that part of the glass that is half-full.
*If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to www.facebook.com/ dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist *
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