The design site ApartmentTherapy.com is one of my favourite places to surf. In January, I came across Jackie Ashton’s 4 Goals to Boost Happiness at Home in the New Year. I was expecting to hear about the merits of making your bed every morning, categorizing your linen cupboard, and arranging flowers in every room (which I support, in theory if not in practice). Instead, the piece focused on contentment as a skill, and specific daily ways to develop it. Happiness as an inside job and all that. Interesting.
I clipped the piece for a future post about cultivating contentment at work. And on this rainy late winter’s day, with enough shades of gray to fluster E.L. James, finding some inside light seems just the thing.
Accentuate the positive
Ashton reports that one way to boost your mood is to take a bit of time at the end of the day to note down three things that went well. This “what went well” exercise has been scientifically proven to boost one’s mood. The idea here is not to butter yourself up with a few sweet words and then commit harakiri over the thing or things that didn’t go well. The idea is just to stop at the very end of your working day to focus on the positive. Offer yourself a pat on the back and walk away with a spring in your step:
I got all my bills done.
The extra prep for that meeting paid off.
I didn’t lose my cool about the late delivery.
Sam and I broke the back of that project. I’m really starting to enjoy working with him.
Closing my door and unplugging for an hour was just what I needed to finish that report.
Focusing on the positive may feel strange at first. You may need to dig deep. After all, many of us have been programmed (and in the case of lawyers, trained) to zero in on the negative—on what went wrong and what needs to be fixed. But the practice of “three things that went well” has helped even the clinically depressed (which, let’s face it, includes a lot of professionals we know) to re-focus on the positive and enjoy increased contentment. It also helps to build the career resilience we all need. When it’s time to debrief and act on things that didn’t go well, you’ll be glad of the extra strength.
The Positivity Project
For the next three weeks, I’m going to try it: jot down three things that went well at the end of every working day. I’ll report back on my Positivity Project on April 4th. I hope you’ll try it, too, and that you’ll treat you and your desk to some spring flowers.