My book club read Flourish this month (subtitled: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being) by Martin Seligman, a professor at UPenn and one of the contemporary founders of the field of Positive Psychology.
In it, he states that depression is the world’s most expensive disease, costing about $5,000 per year to treat with ten million Americans suffering from depression each year! (Pg. 45) He goes on to write that while there is a 65% relief rate from taking psychotherapy drugs, there is a staggering 45-55% relief rate from taking a placebo alone.
In fact, in half of the studies on which the FDA based its official approval of antidepressant drugs, there was no difference between the placebo and the drug! (Pg. 47) One of the exercises that Positive Psychology employs (and that Seligman has tested extensively and determined will make you “less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now”–Pg. 34) is the “What Went Well” exercise.
My husband and I have been doing it in a miniature journal for the last few weeks and have developed our own twists in the process. It’s a lovely couples activity as well as a tranquil way to wind down at the end of each day before you go to bed.
Here’s how to try it for yourself:
- Write down each night (in a notebook, on the computer, on your phone, etc.) 3 things that went well that day. The act of writing your WWWs down is key.
- Write down why each event/activity/experience went well (e.g., if you got a promotion, your why might be, “Because I’m smart. Because I’m lucky. Or, because I worked hard to deserve it.”).
Here are a few twists we’ve enjoyed adding:
- Add something funny that happened that day (usually this relates to something horrid or adorable Judah did, such as drinking toilet water or pretending to clean the floor with his sock).
- Track on a scale from -10 to 10 how you’re feeling before the exercise and after the exercise. This is fascinating to observe on a long-term basis to see if your numbers gradually increase over time (and by how much).
- Get your spouse, kids, friends, and family involved too.
- Spend a few minutes before or after you write taking a few deep breaths (inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth).
- Store your WWW journal in the same place, so it’s easy to find every night.
- Don’t stop at 3! See how many WWWs you can list for each day.
Give it a try for a week, and see what you think!