Sign up FAST! Login

This One Simple Thing Can Make Your Life Much Better | TIME

Stashed in: Best PandaWhale Posts, @ifindkarma, @bakadesuyo, Awesome, Writing!, Writing, Life Hacks, Happiness, happiness, Notebooks!, success, creativity!

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Write a little every day.

Incorporating a lot of the blog’s strategies can be as easy as buying a notebook.

(No, it doesn’t need to have glitter on it or say “MY SECRET DIARY” on the front.)

Others might think: “I don’t need to write stuff down. Reading is enough.”


A lot of research shows your brain sees writing differently than thinking or talking.

Writing forces you to organize and clarify your thoughts. You learn better when you write things down and are more likely to follow through.

So what should you be writing in this notebook?

1) Write down what you’re looking forward to

People who devote time to anticipating fun experiences are happier.

So at least once a week, make plans, write them down and when you need a boost, look at the great things you have coming up.

From Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

(For more activities that will make you happier, click here.)

anticipation is fun!

And anticipating experiences makes us happier.

It's good to have things we're looking forward to.

like happy memories in reverse!

Like premembering instead of remembering?

omg, did you just coin a word??

If I did then I'm sad I didn't premember inventing it!

that would have made it more fun!!

I wonder if premembering is like déjà Vu. 

deja vu is when you remember what you premembered!

There's gotta be an interesting story idea in there somewhere.

7) Write down the good things that happen to you

Long time readers have heard me beat the drum on this one a million times. (Which makes me wonder: Have you guys ever actually tried it?)

Professor Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, who developed the technique, refers to it as 3 blessings. It’s been shown again and again to help people improve their outlook.

Seligman explains it in his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“ My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“ My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?”

Give it a shot. Only takes a minute every night.

(For more secrets of the happiest people, click here.)

Here's what's going to really cook your noodle: What about when you do these things, but you do them mentally without actually writing them down?

I never was much of a note taker, not on paper.  All the physicality is mainly noise, and it limits the speed at which you can output and, essentially, the speed at which you think. Instead, I mentally connect and place things that I care about.

There are some good links and points in those links.  I haven't met Scott Achor yet, but I may and I'd like to since I have a very close connection to him and his wife.  Hopefully we'll get to talk a bit.  I really should write my happiness related book, which has a different target than his.  Although his target has worked out well!

I believe the Seligman research has shown that the act of writing something down helps solidify it in your brain. I remember asking Geege once if typing was as good as writing and she said no.

I know they say that. It hasn't been my experience.  I don't know anyone who does it with any substantial amount of things that they learn, except college students who need condensed material to study.  I just never found it useful.  My point is that perhaps, given no well-developed compensating reflexes, it is better.  But is it really better in the long term?  Is it better than a well-developed mental alternative?  Is there a big difference between internally driven purposeful acquisition of knowledge vs. a typical class structure?  I think those are still open questions.

Writing makes a difference. It forces you to expend more effort and with the brain, more effort strengthens connections and produces results. Active beats passive. We all think about 1000 unimportant things a day and follow up on very few of them. We're overly confident about the results merely thinking about something produces:

Research shows actually writing about concerns, worries and anxieties helps us organize those thoughts and quells them as opposed to rumination which only exacerbates problems:

We learn far better when we write summaries. It forces us to really consider what we have read, put it in our own words, and this dramatically increases retention:

When people write things down they are more likely to follow through with what they say:

Not only does writing produce results but writing longhand actually produces better results than typing when it comes to memory and learning:

I prefer taking meeting minutes by hand; I find I recall more detail than when I type them.

i pretty much just do what eric barker tells me to do!  he seems to know what he's talking about.  :)

and things i haven't written down that i though i'd remember, like which son used to say which adorable word, have gotten lost in this steel trap of mine!

Do you have a notebook of adorable words said by your kids?

no, but i see now that would be best.

i tend to jump for the phone to record it, which often leads to a frustrating phone search and missing the moment!

I can see how a nightly notebook where you jot down a line or two each evening would be useful. 

yes, indeed!

There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. 

One of the best versions of "write a summary" is to teach something to someone else.  That similarly causes you to think things through, work at molding someone else's mind to that shape.  Often, you'll learn new things about something you know by doing this.

I agree that you don't really know something until you can teach it to someone else.

You May Also Like: