3 Quick Positive Thinking Exercises

It’s easy enough to say that the key to happiness is being able to focus on the good things in life. But how to actually do that?

There may not be a simple answer, but researchers from Harvard Medical School have identified three quick exercises that will help. In different ways, these exercises seem to encourage embracing life’s positive moments while still acknowledging its challenges.

In a recently published study, the researchers administered five happiness exercises (and two control exercises) to a group of 531 adults who were recovering from problematic substance use. They specifically chose exercises that anyone could do on their own in a matter of minutes.

It turned out that three of the exercises were especially helpful in boosting people’s happiness. These were:

  1. Reliving happy moments: Go through your photos and find a photo capturing a happy moment. Write a description of that moment.
  2. Savoring: Describe two experiences that you’ve savored today.
  3. Rose, Thorn, Bud: Identify the highlight of your day, a challenge you faced today, and something you look forward to tomorrow.

In the experiment, participants did these exercises by entering their responses in an online form. Of course, these exercises could also be done in writing, verbally or even in your head.

It’s worth noting that the effect of these exercises was relatively small – unsurprisingly, there are many other factors that contribute to happiness besides whether you do these exercises. But the exercises did make a difference.

As the researchers note, these exercises could easily be turned into a routine that you do at the end of the day, for example. Intuitively, it makes a certain sense that if your goal is to develop a more positive mindset, it would be more helpful to do these exercises regularly.

Granted, we would have to do more studies to be able to say for sure. In the meantime, though, if you want to be on the cutting edge of positive psychology, feel free to make these exercises a habit and report back with your results!