Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good Things Day After Day After Day

OK--I'm officially announcing that my family has been on the three good things track for a while now. Amy does blog posts, LB too, and Jen has talked about how much she likes the the idea along with a great description. More people jump on the bandwagon.

I first read about it after signing up for Jean Maroney's free Thinking Directions newsletter over a year ago. The newsletter is a gem of interesting books, ideas, and techniques. Jean Maroney talked about one of the techniques Martin Seligman presents. Martin Seligman wrote Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness. Once each 24 hours, take a small amount of time to journal three good things that happened. The technique is summarized here

I liked the idea, and thought it might work for the whole family. Hanover has a tendency to be a bit gloomy. I don't really know why. It could be that she listened to my husband and I talk about work a bit too much during the time when I decided to quit. She's got some ears on her. She can hear an adult conversation that has nothing to do with her from 50 paces. I didn't quit just because I wanted to spend more time with my kids--work went downhill at the same time. I thought this technique could help her have a more balanced perspective. Seligman also has a book about raising optimistic and resilient children. Hubby can also be a bit of a gloom-and-doomer. We needed a family pick-up!

So we use this technique at dinner. Everyone picks three (or more!) good things about the day. It's a great way to redirect my hubby when discussing his day in the office is heading into rant-land. Which I don't mind myself, but Hanover thinks those particularly bad events are daddy's whole work-life. Hubby thinks it's a bit silly (but he thinks anything 'soft', like catering to emotions, is not worthy), but goes along with it because he knows the kids and I like it. The kids enjoy picking their 'good things' a lot and we recently began including the Filthy Little Monkey. Of course, being 13 months he doesn't get to pick. Each of us picks something for him. We do it so regularly now that the kids remind me when we miss it.

It has been a lot of fun. The kids are always in a good mood by the time dinner is over. They want to remember everything they liked about the day.


LB said...

Hah! I just realized by your comments that we have been doing a version of "1 Good Thing" for about 13 years in our house. Every night at dinner we pass around the question "What was your favorite part of the day?"

It has been a great way to get a general feel for what's important to each person and where his/her priorities lay (or is that lie?). It's sometimes a challenge to limit (excellent day) or mine (bad day) one positive aspect to each day.

It's been a really good exercise and a staple of our family dinners (another thing I find very important, particularly as the kids get older).

Rational Jenn said...

What a great idea, to include the kids! I'd like to do this with my family. My oldest is prone to finding the problem in every solution. He's not negative in his outlook, but tends to get stuck on problems, if that makes any kind of sense.

He's another one with Big Ears, and we've really had to watch what we talk about, and HOW we talk about it lately, as he tends to internalize our negative emotions, too. Speaking of--gotta go!

Kim said...

See, LB, you're way ahead of the curve. We do family dinners, too. I enjoy hearing what each of the kids liked. Imagine my surprise when they each picked doing school! The family dinners are nice. I'm glad to hear that it's a good tradition to continue. I guess it gets hard to find the time as kids get into activities.


Being reminded that my oldest is there watching hubby and I interact about his work is a great way to short circuit the more negatively self-reinforced conversations. Sometimes I think my daughter seems to wallow in her misery (be it long division or writing) and it's like she doesn't know how to break out of it. Is that at all close to what you meant about getting stuck in problems.

Doing the 3 good things with the kids also lets them see what we appreciate--like LB said. Another positive example of values-seeking (not that my 3 good things have been particularly deep).

christinemm said...

An alternative to '3 good things that happened' is the gratitude idea, '3 things I'm grateful for'. That can be something that happened, something you saw, or something you're happy about.

A problem with listing things that happen is then your happiness is based on circumstances outside your control which sometimes change or are negative. Then what can be said? Instead trying to find something to be happy about even when several problems are going on is different.

(Coincidentially that was a topic in the church sermon today.)

I am grateful for heat in my house. The furnace broke twice last week, two totally different things, leaving us without heat when the temps were in the teens. Our whole day was interrupted and the homeschooling was derailed as I had to try to arrange for the repair. And I missed the swearing in of our new President due to being on the phone about the heat. Real life interevenes.

I also thought for all the bad rap that people give heating oil I sure am happy for it. I wonder if those who complain about oil heat have ever had a broken furnace in winter and been freezing cold all day? Worried at any moment their pipes may freeze and cause a major repair bill and physical property damage? Or do those complainers live in the desert or more tropical climates (using air conditioning instead).