The Magic In Small Things

Gioia–Altoid Shrine

Think about three things that have gone well thus far in your day. Find a piece of paper and write them down. If the list gets longer as you’re writing, go ahead and add more

When we start our workshops with this simple exercise, what we usually hear are comment such as “I got to work without running into traffic”; “I got to have breakfast with my children before I went to work”, “I had time to stop and get coffee before I came here”, “my cat woke me up by curling up on top of my head.” Sometimes it will include something that started out poorly but got better, such as “I ran into traffic, but I found a good parking spot”, “My car wouldn’t start this morning but the neighbor was driving by and gave me a jump start” “The bus didn’t come but there was a fresh breeze that kept me cool when I walked to the subway.” We also hear more global gratitude such as “I’m grateful for family and my friends,” “that I can walk and talk,” “that I woke up!”

It is often small things—easy commute, brief but pleasant exchanges with others, a moment to savor a tasty bite, having the opportunity to enjoy nature, bonding with a pet—that impact us most.

The “three blessings” exercise falls under the “gratitude” category, obviously perfect for this time of year. However, it is subtly different from more global gratitude lists of “things for which we are grateful.” It is designed to shift our focus from a natural tendency to notice what is problematic in our environment and, instead, take stock of what is functional and working, to “attend to the good” (as Ed Diener, one of our favorite positive psychologists, suggests).

To use a visual metaphor, you could say that our attention is like a photograph. The “good” forms the background of everyday human experience, it frames the picture but it is less distinct and may even go unnoticed; whereas the “bad” appears to sharply pop out and commands our attention. This is helpful because it identifies that something needs to be dealt with. However, we have to consciously practice “attending to the good” in order to counteract this bias towards the negative.

So as you go throughout your day, think about what is going well in your environment, however insignificant.

Positive yours, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive:
Make a collage in which you include small things that have a large impact on the quality of your daily life. If you want to share what you’ve made, take a photo and post it on our Facebook page!