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  • Writer's pictureHello Happy Learner

Daily Gratitude

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

Daily gratitude (also known as 'Three Good Things Exercise') is an intervention developed by Martin Seligman.

It is the practice of regularly (you can do daily) recording three good things in your life.

Research shows that making a note of three good things daily can make you feel happier. Once you’ve decided on your three good things for that day, have a think about why they happened and how you can make them happen again.

They don't need to be big things. For example: you could encourage your little one to think of things like they got a big hug when they were sad that day. Why? You hugged them because you love them and wanted them to feel better. How to repeat it? Continue to be themselves.


Find a time that works for you as a family.

  • Before bed can be a good reflection on the day. Note: If they are overtired this could be difficult.

  • In the morning can give the day a good start. Note:Children may find it hard to remember what happened the day before.

  • During family dinner.

Start small.

  • You could start by asking your little one for one good thing.

  • You could start by just doing in verbally (without writing it down) to help develop the habit if time is a pressure.

  • Look for little things.

Resources to help:

  • Read 10 beautiful things by Molly Beth Griffin and Maribel Lechuga

  • Watch Bluey Season 2, episode 7 Favourite Thing

It is important to seek professional support if you think you or your child may be suffering from poor mental health. Although this intervention may offer some support it should not be used as a replacement to professional support. Speak to your GP or other health professional for more information.

The research:

In his 2011 book Flourish, Seligman detailed that although it has provided us with an evolutionary advantage to focus on the negative events in our lives, it can lead to depression and anxiety. To combat this the Three Good Things exercise was developed to encourage individuals to focus on what was going well in their lives and what they can be grateful for.

In his 2005 paper Seligman and fellow researchers instructed participants to each day record in writing three good things that had gone well in the last 24 hours. For each thing, they were also asked to record why they had gone well. They stressed the importance of making a physical record of the task not simply thinking about them. This intervention, along with 5 others were 'rigorously tested with randomized, placebo-controlled design' (Seligman et al., 2005:410). In this test, this exercise produced improvements, which lasted the six months of the study, participants reported happiness and reduction of depressive symptoms.

I have chosen this intervention for our adventures out of those tested as it had a higher initial impact than the other interventions with long-term benefits and is simple enough for young children to take part in, although they may need support in recording and rereading their good things.

Seligman's findings have been supported by other researchers. Emmons and McCullough (2003) found that recording weekly or daily thoughts and feelings of gratitude improved participants, reported wellbeing, however neither the Emmonds and McCullough study nor Seligman et al (2005) could show that the benefits of doing the intervention would continue to be felt in the long-term if you stopped doing the exercise. With this in mind our aim at Hello Happy Learner is to help you and your family develop this as a habit so that you continue to experience any benefits. This is why we encourage you to record your daily gratitude over the course of a month to give enough time to begin to develop it as a habit.

Similarly, Burton and King (2004) found that writing about intensely positive experiences over the course of three days increased the positive mood of participants and reduced the number of visits they made to the health centre in the following three months. Froh and fellow researchers (Froh et al.) in 2008 found that counting blessings daily over a two week period increased children's feelings of gratitude and optimism. These results were still present 3 weeks after the intervention had stopped which suggests that there may be some short term benefit which is continued even once the habit is stopped.

This style of intervention has been used as part of wider programmes to treat adults and older children with depression (Seligman et al., 2006; and Shoshani and Steinmetz, 2014) and has had positive impacts in reducing their reported depression and anxiety and increasing feelings of wellbeing.

Burton, C. and King, L. (2004) The Health Benefits of Writing About Intensely Positive Experiences. Journal of Research and Personality, 38, 150-163. Emmons, R. and McCullough, M. (2003) Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, (2), 377-389. Froh, J., Sefick, W. and Emmons, R. (2008) Counting Blessings in Early Adolescents: AN Experimental Study of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 213-233. Seligman, M (2011) Flourish A new understanding of happiness and well-being - and how to achieve them. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing Seligman, M., Rashid, T. and Parks, A. (2006) Positive Psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 61, (8), 774-788. Seligman, M., Steen, T., Park, N. and Peterson, C. (2005) Positive Psychology Progress Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, 60, (5), 410-421. Shoshani, A. and Steinmetz, S. (2014) Positive Psychology at School: A School-Based Intervention to Promote Adolescents' Mental Health and Well-Being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, (6), 1289-1311.

For more information read Flourish by Martin Seligman.

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