Your Newest Journaling Exercise: A Three Things Reflection
I don’t know about you, but I’m a person who sometimes has a tendency to generalize situations—or, you know, the overall state of my life—because of one or two mishaps.
For instance: I could get great news on Monday and be super productive the next few days—but if something goes wrong on Friday, I throw my hands up and say it’s been a rough week.
Quite dramatic, I know, which is why it’s important for me to find time to reflect—and reflect often.
When I take a moment to sit back and actually reflect on all areas of my life—not just fixate on one or two situations—I feel much more clarity and satisfaction.
An easy way to reflect is by writing things out. It allows you to make sense of the many thoughts crowding your mind.
A recent reflection we’ve been discussing here at Shine builds on Greater Good Science Center’s research-backed Three Good Things exercise. We’ve modified it to create a full-circle reflection on not only things that went well, but also things that didn’t go well and what you are grateful for.
It's a perfect reflection for the end of a day, week, or even month—and it’ll help you boost motivation, identify patterns, and find ways to change things moving forward.
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Here’s how to do the exercise—feel free to write it out in your favorite journal, on your notes app during your subway commute, or even just think through it in your head:
3 Things That Went Well
What areas of your life, rewards, or moments did you have that positively impacted you recently? They can be as simple as getting outside more or scoring concert tickets.
Once you’ve brought these three things to mind, jot down why you think they went well. What did you do to make them happen or what did someone else contribute to get you there?
Maybe, now that the weather is warmer, you've prioritized morning walks. Or, that great conversation with a friend about music prompted the concert tickets.
Writing down what went well and why will not only help you savor a good moment, but also have action steps to recreate it moving forward.
3 Things That Didn’t Go Well
The importance of writing down what didn’t go so well isn’t to rehash the upset feelings—it’s to help you reflect on how to move forward from it.
By writing down what didn’t go well, and why, you can gain more insight into the situation. When you address the why, it’ll allow you to more easily find a solution. And sometimes, there isn’t always a solution to the issue at that moment. But at least when you write it out, you can give yourself the mental space to do things differently next time.
As Albert Einstein famously said: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
3 Things You’re Grateful For
Even if you haven't had any big wins recently, you can still find something to be grateful for—whether it's as small as your new morning coffee spot or even having the right jacket for the current temps outside.
By leaning into gratitude, you can teach yourself to "notice, remember, and savor the better things in life," according to Greater Good Science Center. These are the things in your life that bring you joy, and the more you savor them, the more you can guard against negative thinking.
As Greater Good explains, gratitude is "a habit that can change the emotional tone of your life." And I, for one, am ready to stop writing off my weeks as "bad" when something small goes wrong and embrace all that went right, too.
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