People tend to remember the negative side of things more than the positive. It’s a bad habit, and it can have a direct impact on every single aspect of your life. Teresa Amabile, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, says there is a simple solution to this problem: writing down your achievements, even the small wins, will change your brain and your life.
Teresa Amabile, and her husband Steven J. Kramer, an independent researcher and writer, recently conducted a study to find out what would happen if people started writing down the positive events, or achievements, that took place during their day. After examining over 12,000 journal entries written by 238 employees, Amabile discovered what she likes to call “The Progress Principal.”
Over a four month period, participants were asked to complete an end-of-day survey. “The daily survey inquired about participants’ emotions and moods, motivation levels, and perceptions of the work environment that day, as well as what work they did and what events stood out in their minds.” The answers given in these surveys, along with the additional journal entries provided, revealed what events could evoke positive emotions, motivations, and perceptions. Not surprisingly, the majority of these “triggering events” were the same for almost everyone who participated in the study.
“On days when they made progress, our participants reported more positive emotions. They not only were in a more upbeat mood in general but also expressed more joy, warmth, and pride.”
Does a major feat need to be accomplished before something can be considered progress? Not at all. “Many of the progress events our research participants reported represented only minor steps forward. Yet they often evoked outsize positive reactions,” says Amabile and Kramer.
Writing down, or acknowledging our accomplishments in any way can change the functionality of our brain, by improving and strengthening neural pathways, and enhancing dopamine regulation. Psychology Today defines dopamine as, “A neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.” What this means is this: the more we make a habit of acknowledging our “small wins”, the more our brain will be motivated to repeat the very thing which released that surge of dopamine. It is a beneficial loop of happiness and positivity. And who couldn’t use that in their life?
Take 5 minutes at the end of your day and think about your achievements. Ignore the little voice who is telling you about what setbacks occurred, or what is still left to do, and really direct your focus towards the little things you accomplished. Write them down, and pay attention to how you feel. Try this routine for a few weeks and see if you notice any marked improvement in your life- I know you will.
By Raven Fon