By Markham Heid, Prevention
Bridget Jones may have been onto something. Keeping a diary of positive life experiences has already been shown to offer heaps of psychological benefits. But if you share those good-time diary entries with others? Turns out, the perks can skyrocket, finds new research.
Researchers from Brigham Young and several other universities divided more than 100 people into groups, and asked everyone to keep a daily journal for four weeks. While one group was instructed to write only about positive experiences for which they were grateful, another group wrote generally about their day. Compared to people who wrote more generally, the grateful journal keepers experienced significant boosts in happiness and life satisfaction. Keeping a diary helps you savor your positive experiences, which enhances their impact on your overall outlook, the study explains. But that's not all. When the study participants also called a friend or loved one to share their positive journal entries, their gains in happiness and life satisfaction doubled and sometimes even tripled.
Why? "It may have to do with reliving the positive experience through someone else's eyes," says study co-author Nathaniel Lambert, PhD, an assistant professor at BYU's School of Family Life. Lambert says the added benefits may also spring from your friend's observations or insights, which can reinforce your own positive feelings. Here's how to put the study's findings into practice. Start by spending five minutes each evening recording the top events from your day. At least twice a week, pull out your journal and bring up a few of those positive experiences to a friend or loved one. Then, Lambert advises asking them to share their own list with you.
One important caveat: Share with someone you know will give you positive, upbeat responses and insights--and offer the same in return. "Be a great listener to others and show them how happy you are for their good news," Lambert says. "They'll be likely to reciprocate when something good happens to you."
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