In a commencement speech at UC Berkeley on Saturday, May 14, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg revealed some of the psychological strategies she’s been using to cope with her husband’s death.
Dave Goldberg died suddenly on May 1, 2015, during a trip to Mexico. The commencement speech marked the first time Sandberg had spoken publicly about her experience.
One of the coping mechanisms she mentioned was her New Year’s resolution for 2016: “Write down three moments of joy before I go to bed each night.”
“This simple practice has changed my life,” Sandberg said. “Because no matter what happens each day, I go to sleep thinking of something cheerful.”
This practice sounds similar to an exercise used by Martin Seligman, founder of the positive psychology movement. (Sandberg didn’t say she’d gotten the exercise from Seligman, but she did mention him at other points during the speech.)
Here’s how the “three good things” exercise that Seligman uses works, according to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center:
Every night before bed, write down three things that went well for you, along with an explanation of why they went well. The good things can be as seemingly small as your partner taking out the garbage or as big as getting a promotion.
Make sure you include as much detail as possible, as well as how the event made you feel.
Seligman and colleagues found that people who used the three good things exercise felt happier and less depressed for six months.
No matter what kind of trauma or difficulty you’re coping with, the three good things exercise is a relatively easy way to try focusing on what’s currently going well for you. And if Sandberg’s experience is any indication, it might even change your life.