Journal of Practical & Professional Nursing Category: Clinical Type: Research Article

Experiences of People Keeping a Three Good Things Daily

Yamashita M1* and Ito M2
1 Department Of Nursing, The Jikei University School Of Nursing, Japan
2 Department Of Religious Culture, Aichi Gakuin University, Japan

*Corresponding Author(s):
Yamashita M
Department Of Nursing, The Jikei University School Of Nursing, Japan
Tel:(+81) 3-3480-1151,
Fax:(+81) 3-3488-7452
Email:myamashita@jikei.ac.jp

Received Date: Jun 09, 2021
Accepted Date: Jun 22, 2021
Published Date: Jun 29, 2021

Abstract

The Three Good Things Daily is considered an approach using positive psychology to enhance human happiness. For this study, we conducted an interview survey of seven people to clarify their experiences of using the Three Good Things Daily. The survey results revealed that participants’ negative emotional experiences decreased, information processing process was invigorated, and self-understanding deepened based on positive emotional experiences. Accordingly, their actions were activated, which changed their daily life experiences and promoted positive aspects of interpersonal relationships. The Three Good Things Daily is expected to be of help in increasing people’s well-being.

Introduction

In 1998, Martin Seligman, the president of the American Psychological Association at the time, advocated positive psychology, asserting the need to emphasize positive aspects of human beings. Positive psychology aims at achieving long-lasting human happiness not from the traditional perspectives of human pathology and problem treatment but through devoting attention to the strengths and good aspects that people have [1]. The method, which specifically examines the positive aspects of human beings, has been used in various fields, including economics, pedagogy, psychiatry, and brain science, not limited to psychology. Positive psychology proposes intervention based on strength, gratitude exercises, and the Three Good Things Daily as simple approaches to increase the level of human happiness [2]. The representative approaches include the Three Good Things exercise, for which participants write three good things every day. Doing the exercise every day for a week has effects on increasing happiness levels and decreasing depression. Results show that the effects last for six months [3]. The exercise is world famous because the simple method promises a high level of effectiveness. In Japan, some scattered studies have examined whether diaries to praise oneself or record positive experiences influence subjective feelings of happiness and positive emotions [4-6]. Overall, the studies found effects on positive emotions. However, they are all investigations in quantitative research and have elucidated no specific effects related to thoughts, emotions, or life. Clarifying individual qualitative experiences that cannot be measured by numbers is important. This study clarifies what experiences participants have through the use of the Three Good Things Daily.

Definitions of Terms

The Three Good Things Daily is an exercise done at the end of each day whereby one chooses and writes down three good things (positive experiences) that happened during the day along with the reasons for them.

Methods

Study design

This study was designed to be qualitative and descriptive, using an interview survey.

Participants

We studied seven people who participated in online yoga training delivered via Zoom and who consented to participation in this study.

Data collection period

Data were collected during November 2020 through December 2020.

Data collection methods

A yoga training program in which a co-investigator in this study serves as an instructor implements a one-week exercise of the Three Good Things Daily. After the yoga training, the co-investigator asked training participants to participate in the study via email. The principal investigator gave an explanation based on the informed consent document only to those who expressed their intention of participation via email. After a two-week consideration period, we asked the principal investigator to make email contact with people only if they consented. The principal investigator arranged the interview schedule with participants who expressed their consent and conducted Zoom interviews on their desired date and time. The interviews were conducted on a one-to-one basis in a private room where the privacy of both the principal investigator and the participant were ensured. With the consent of participants, the interviews were recorded using the Zoom Recording function.

Investigation items

Participants were asked for their age, gender, occupation, highest level of education completed, and family composition. We conducted semi-structured interviews to explore their experiences with the Three Good Things Daily.

Data analysis methods

We calculated the descriptive statistics values of participants’ basic attributes. The audio data recorded using the Zoom Recording function were converted into text data as a word-for-word record. Researchers conducting the study read the word-for-word record repeatedly, underlined the phrases describing the experiences of the Three Good Things Daily in the description, and extracted phrases that showed the cohesion of meaning. The researchers added their interpretations of what meaning the extracted phrases had. Being careful not to lose the characteristics of the participant’s description, we deleted obvious digressions and repetitions. Each extracted phrase was given a code related to the effects of the Three Good Things Daily after being checked against our research questions. Some parts of the participants’ descriptions were used as codes. We examined the relations between each code, elucidating patterns and deriving sub-categories. Furthermore, we examined the relations among sub-categories, identifying patterns and generating categories. To ensure the rigour of our results by elucidating whether the authors’ interpretations and categorisation were distorted or biased, a discussion was held with three researchers who have conducted qualitative research.

Ethical Consideration

This study was implemented after obtaining approval from the ethics review committee at the affiliated university (approved number 10322). All participants provided informed consent after receiving the following explanations orally and in writing: participation is on a voluntary basis; there is no disadvantage for not participating in the study or for revoking the consent given; careful consideration is given so that individuals are not identified; and data are managed strictly.

Results

Attributes of participants

The seven participants, all women, were of 33.8 years mean age (SD 10.4). The participants comprised four working people, including office workers and self-employed persons, one student, and two people without occupation. Of the participants, two had graduated from high school (one of whom was enrolled in a university), three had graduated from university, and two had graduated from junior college and vocational school as their highest level of education completed. All lived with their respective families.

Experiences of the three good things Daily

Seven elements were extracted as changes and effects induced by implementation of the Three Good Things Daily: {Experiences of positive emotions}, {Experiences of decreased negative emotions}, {Invigoration of the information processing process}, {Deepening of self-understanding}, {Activation of actions}, {Changes in daily life experiences}, and {Promotion of the positive aspects of interpersonal relationships}. Hereinafter, categories are marked with { } brackets, sub-categories with square [ ] brackets, and codes with angular < > brackets. {Experiences of positive emotions} Participants experienced various positive emotions, including [Feel calm in mind], [Create room in mind], [Increase a sense of happiness], [Develop a sense of gratitude], [Increase a sense of fulfilment], [Feel relieved], and [Become positive]. 

{Experiences of decreased negative emotions} Participants experienced that [Negative emotions decrease], including and . In addition, their experiences of negative emotions decreased by the fact that [Negative emotions do not last], including and . {Invigoration of the information processing process} Participants had experiences of [Expanded attention] such as . They also had experiences of [Filter out unimportant information], including and . Participants had the experience of invigorating the information processing process as follows: [Pay attention to positive information], including , and ; [Process information positively] such as ; [Reduce excessive expectations for self] such as ; [Increase a sense of expectation] such as ; and [Accept phenomena] including , and . 

{Deepening of self-understanding} [Confrontation with self] such as became possible. Accordingly, [Awareness of own thoughts] such as and [Awareness of own emotions] such as occurred. Participants had the experience of deepening self-understanding. {Activation of actions} Participants found the following activation of actions: [Improve action planning] such as , [Increase the speed of action], [Raise the efficacy of action], [Expand the sphere of action] and [Reduce the burden of action].{Changes in daily life experiences} Participants experienced that their lives had changed positively as follows: [Enjoy daily life] including and ; [Have positive experiences] such as ; and [Have a better quality of sleep] including and . {Promotion of the positive aspects of interpersonal relationships} The category comprises the following sub-categories and codes: [A sense of gratitude toward others] such as ; [A sense of compassion for others] including and ; [Compassionate actions for others] including and ; [Positive changes occur in the relationship] such as ; [Increase of extroversion], including and ; [Changes in the mode of relating to others], including and ; and [Care about connections with others] such as . The positive aspects of interpersonal relationships were promoted by caring feelings and actions (Figure 1).  

Figure 1: Construction of the effects for the Three Good Things Daily

Discussion

We conducted interviews with seven participants about their experience of keeping the Three Good Things Daily. The interview results revealed effects on personal emotions, such as increased positive emotions and decreased levels of depression, which have been evident as effects of the implementation of the Three Good Things Daily. Additionally, it was revealed that the implementation had effects on widely various matters, from cognition and action to interpersonal relationships and daily life. Negativity bias exists as a phenomenon associated with our information processing. It is a function to keep negative information in memory for a long time by paying more attention to and valuing it than positive information. [7] The human brain has developed to be sensitive to matters that put us at risk and to remember those matters for long periods to avoid danger. Negativity bias is a function that is necessary for self-protection. However, retaining memories of negative information selectively for a long time increases the ratio of negative emotions. Some researchers report that negative emotions activate the autonomic nervous system and maintain that such a state has adverse effects on mental and physical health [8]. This study showed that participants’ positive emotional experiences significantly increased by keeping a Three Good Things Daily. The exercise, for which participants write down three good things from the events that happened during the day, enabled them to reduce negativity bias by devoting attention to positive information consciously and to re-experience positive emotions that occur along with good events. It has been pointed out that negative emotions narrow attention and enhance local cognition whereas positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and improve overall cognition and processing [9]. Moreover, in this study, participants’ information processing process was invigorated because of the increased experiences of positive emotions. For example, participants expanded attention, filtered out unimportant information, and processed information positively. Our findings support those of the earlier study. In the area of social cognition research, some researchers have pointed out the mood-congruent judgment effect [10]. It is an effect by which positive and favourable evaluations are more likely to be given when people are in positive moods. Negative and unfavourable evaluations are given in negative moods. In this study, participants processed information not only quickly and efficiently but also processed positively. It is inferred that the implementation of the Three Good Things Daily caused positive, favourable evaluations based on the experience of positive emotions. 

The Three Good Things Daily is not an ordinary Daily in which people can write whatever they like. Rather, participants must write down three good events and why they occurred. To write the Daily, people must confront and interpret the situation and the self at that time. Participants experienced having an awareness of their own thoughts and emotions by writing the Three Good Things Daily, which deepened their self-understanding. [11] points out that, whereas negative emotions limit people’s repertoires of thoughts and actions, positive emotions have the effect of broadening them. In addition, positive emotions improve efficiency [12,13] generate an expansion of choices, and broaden selectable behavioural options [14] Researchers point out positive emotions as a phenomenon of the expansion of thought-action repertoires. This study revealed the activation of actions by positive emotional experiences. Participants improved planning, increased the speed and efficiency of actions, and expanded the sphere of action. 

Participants’ actions were activated based on positive emotions, which brought positive effects on their daily life experiences and interpersonal relationships. Although it might be inferred that activation of actions increased positive experiences themselves, the information processing process that interprets experiences positively might affect daily life experiences and interpersonal relationships. The more positive emotions one experiences, the greater is one’s increased sense of trust for others [15]. Accordingly, some researchers point out that the opportunity to develop diverse ties increases, which increases the opportunity to foster mutual dependence [16] positive emotions, can be characterized as effective to improve interpersonal relationships. The implementation of the Three Good Things Daily in this study brought to light that it had effects not only on positive emotions but also on widely various areas, from the information processing process and the activation of actions to daily life and interpersonal relationships. The Three Good Things Daily is a simple exercise that anyone can do before going to bed, simply by writing three good things and why they happened. The act of recalling positive events reduces negativity bias and forms the habit of turning attention to positive events. The experience of positive emotions increases by turning attention to positive events. Participants’ negative emotional experiences decreased, information processing process was invigorated, and self-understanding deepened based on positive emotional experiences. Accordingly, their actions were activated, which changed their daily life experiences and which promoted the positive aspects of interpersonal relationships. We think that changes in daily life experiences and good interpersonal relationships further increase positive emotions and create a positive cycle (Table 1). 

Category

Sub-category

Experiences of positive emotions

Feel calm in mind

Create room in mind

Increase a sense of happiness

Develop a sense of gratitude

Increase a sense of fulfilment

Feel relieved

Become positive

Experiences of decreased negative emotions

Negative emotions do not last.

Negative emotions decrease.

Invigoration of the information processing process

Expand attention

Filter out unimportant information

Devote attention to positive information

Process information positively

Reduce excessive expectations for self

Increase a sense of expectation

Accept phenomena

Deepening of self-understanding

Awareness of own thoughts

Awareness of own emotions

Confrontation with self

Activation of actions

Improve action planning

Increase the speed of action

Raise the efficacy of action

Expand the sphere of action

Reduce burdens of action

Changes in daily life experiences

Have positive experiences

Enjoy daily life

Have better quality of sleep

Promotion of the positive aspects of interpersonal relationships

A sense of gratitude towards others

A sense of compassion for others

Compassionate actions for others

Positive changes occur in the relationship.

Increase of extroversion

Changes in the way of relating to others

Care about connections with others

Table 1: Effects of the Three Good Things Daily 

The Three Good Things Daily will be of help in increasing people’s well-being. This study, a summary of the experiences of seven participants, was limited to persons with no disease or physical or medical condition. Future studies must be conducted with persons who have various disorders and backgrounds, in addition to persons like those examined in the present study, to examine the presence or absence and differences of effects arising from implementation the Three Good Things Daily.

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Citation: Yamashita M and Ito M (2021) Experiences of People Keeping a Three Good Things Daily. J Pract Prof Nurs 5: 027.

Copyright: © 2021  Yamashita M, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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