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Can Writing Down 3 Things You Did Well Help With Depression?


You know what’s a pain in the ass? When you’re depressed, believe something could help you feel better, but don’t have the energy to do it.

It’s… well, depressing.

When I was in treatment, I picked up the habit of doing a nightly inventory. The spiritual director of the treatment center suggested it. He said to write down:

1. Things you’re grateful for.
2. Things you did well that day.
3. Things you could have done better.
4. Things you’ll improve tomorrow.

I found it valuable. But, over time, I fell out of practice. It became yet another thing I should be doing but didn’t have the energy or give-a-damn to do.

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s new book “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” suggests a smaller form of the practice. Instead of doing the full inventory, simply write down three things you did well every day.

Sheryl doubted the suggestion at first, writing, “I was barely functioning; what moments of success could I find? Got dressed today. Trophy please!”

But really — in depression, there were some days where I wasn’t able to get dressed, where I couldn’t get out of bed or brush my teeth or shower or function. Days where I would have deserved a trophy for doing those things.

Maybe it’s the same for you.

Over time, Sheryl came to trust the process. Focusing on “small wins” (and writing them down) can reduce stress levels and decrease mental and physical health complaints.

Some days, your small wins might not include getting dressed. Some days, your small wins might be:

1. I drank a glass of water.
2. I continued breathing.
3. I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else.

Some days your small wins might be even smaller, and that’s OK. Depression is hard. You’re a badass just for surviving.

The point of the practice is to focus on your contributions and eventually build confidence.

I think doing it right before bed is useful. How many of us go to bed beating ourselves up over all the things we’ve done wrong, instead of focusing on a few things we’ve done well?

A lot of times, your depression will try to tell you that you haven’t done anything well — that you’re a loser and a failure and a waste of oxygen.

Fuck depression.

You’re a survivor and a warrior and worthy of every drop of oxygen. Now let’s see if you can convince yourself of that…

My suggestion: try it for a month. Every night before bed, write down three things you did well that day, no matter how small. Keep a notebook by your bed or write it down on your phone. You might feel better.

Follow this journey on Depression Free.

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Thinkstock photo via Stockbyte


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