10 minutes/day for at least one week.
How to Do It
For one week, take 10 minutes every day to complete the following:
- Write down the three funniest things you heard, saw, did, or experienced today. Think about the things you found really funny and describe how they made you feel.
- Also write down the reason why these things were funny. In other words, answer the question: “Why did this funny event happen?” It may be a bit tricky to think about the “why” of the funny things in your life, but it will become easier over the course of the week.
It is important to create a physical record of your items by writing them down; it is not enough simply to do this exercise in your head.
Here are some other tips you may find helpful for your writing:
- Give the event a title (e.g., “joked with my friend about parenting”).
- List any funny things you like: They can be relatively small in importance (e.g., “my partner made a silly face”) or relatively large (e.g., “I went to a comedy show”).
- Remember to write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said.
- Use whatever writing style you please, and do not worry about perfect grammar and spelling.
- To make this exercise part of your daily routine, consider writing before bed.
Why You Should Try It
Many of us spend our days on serious matters, doing serious work and having serious conversations. Taking some time to reflect on the silly could help you reclaim some playful lightheartedness in your life.
Indeed, research shows that humor is powerful: It can drive bonding between people and learning in the classroom. Laughter has physical effects on our bodies: It releases dopamine, increases blood flow, and strengthens the heart. And seeing the humor in a tough situation can even be a healthy way to cope.
Perhaps that’s why Three Funny Things, in particular, has been shown to reduce depression and boost happiness for months after just one week of practice.
Why It Works
Three Funny Things encourages us to focus on the good things in life—in particular, those entertaining, absurd, or knee-slapping moments. Rather than ruminating about problems, we direct our attention to particularly fun and pleasant experiences, often ones that involve other people. By spending time reflecting in this way, we have the opportunity to relive that amusement in the present.
Journaling about Three Funny Things could also shift our long-term perspective. Over time, we may become quicker to laugh and more open to seeing the humor in everyday life.
Evidence That It Works
Wellenzohn, S., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2016). Humor-based online positive psychology interventions: A randomized placebo-controlled long-term trial. Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(6), 584-94.
In this study, participants who journaled about Three Funny Things every evening for a week decreased in depression immediately afterward, and increased in happiness up to six months later, compared to a control group who journaled about their early memories.
Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2015). Strengths-based positive psychology interventions: A randomized placebo-controlled online trial on long-term effects for a signature strengths- vs. a lesser-strengths intervention. Frontiers in Psychology 6: 456.
Wellenzohn, S., Proyer, R., & Ruch, W. (2016). How do positive psychology interventions work? A short-term placebo-controlled humor-based study on the role of the time focus. Personality and Individual Differences 96: 1-6.