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Can the ‘three good things’ rule make you happier?

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We all enjoy a moan at the end of the working day, whether it’s a Whatsapp rant on the train or a long-winded account of your terrible day over dinner.

But are our ‘therapeutic’ rants actually making us more stressed?

One research group certainly thinks so, and they’ve formulated a new intervention technique to combat it.

The ‘three good things’ rule is simple; at the end of each day take time to think about three positive things that happened.

Dwelling on the positives rather than solely focusing on the negatives, say the researchers, can reduce all kinds of stress and even tackle physical symptoms.

“For most people, this doesn’t come naturally,” explain Joyce E. Bono and Theresa M. Glomb in the Harvard Business Review.

Woman happy at work in office

“Evolution and the survival imperative have attuned human beings to pay careful attention to all things negative; in addition, people quickly become so accustomed to positives in their environments that they hardly notice them.”

“But a simple intervention can help overcome both tendencies.”

Focusing on the day’s positive notes, say the researchers, provides us with resources that can be used to boost out wellbeing, fight stress levels and even relieve headaches and muscle tension.

In an experiment to test the effectiveness of the ‘three good things’ intervention, the team also noted that after three weeks of making their daily lists, people felt more creative at work, and were able to switch off from work more easily once at home.

“This simple practice — writing about three good things that happened — creates a real shift in what people think about, and can change how they perceive their work lives,” write Bono and Glomb.

“It can also create a feedback loop that enhances its impact: we believe that people who reflect on good things that happened during the day are more likely to share those things with family and friends. Sharing positive events with others creates connections between people and bonds them with one another, further reducing evening stress.

“Ultimately, this also improves sleep, which our ongoing research suggests leads to greater alertness and better mood — which in turn leads to more positive things happening the next day.”

 

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