A few months ago, Bryan Sexton, PhD of the Duke Patient Safety Center (and fellow Carolina Friends parent) came to talk at Medicine Grand Rounds. The topic? The amazing benefits of retraining your brain to focus on the positive things vs the negative things. We are inherently hard wired to focus and remember the negative, and we engage behaviors that reinforce this habit. My worst example? Making a to do list of things that I did not accomplish today and need to complete the next day.
The husband came home from that Grand Rounds talk and said we were going to institute Three Good Things at dinner each night. (Technically you are supposed to do it right before bed, but with 2 teenagers who stay up super late and parents who are really lame and head to bed at 9pm, the better accountability would be to do this exercise at dinner).
So every night at dinner, each family member shares three good things from their day. It takes just a few minutes, and the research is pretty shocking.
By writing down three good things for only one week and fast forward 6 mos later, research participants reported being happier and less depressed. Dr. Sexton calls this “skills not pills.” Another interesting fact is that after day 4 or 5 of practicing Three Good Things, you start to notice those good things during the day, and not just at the end of the day. This change is the equivalent to 4-5 weeks of meditative training.
Our three good things are often really small things. Some of my examples involve our silly dog (and right now being grateful for my basketball team advancing in the ACC tournament), but others are more serious. I will not share those here. Those examples are just for our family. But oh how important it is to take a moment to say out loud (or write down) those good things that happen. And the research agrees.
We also started a gratitude jar so that if something happens and a family member wants to write it down, it goes in the jar. We will read all of the entries on New Year’s Day next year.
So what ways do you focus on the positive at your house? Give Three Good Things a try!
Want to chat about parenting in the teenage years? Check out the Let’s Talk Parenting link and get in touch. I would love to talk with you!