The ‘Treasure Chest’ Exercise
An easy-to-do daily habit that’s super powerful – because it strengthens our ‘feeling-good muscle’:
It makes us feel better. Consistently and reliably.
We take just a few minutes every day to intentionally appreciate the good things in our lives:
- the good external stuff that’s happening to us (a nice sunny day, a stranger smiling at us, winning the lottery, etc.)
- and the good things we are doing/accomplishing (smiling at a stranger, cleaning the kitchen, finishing a tough project, getting up at 5 a.m., etc.)
The goal of the exercise is to come up with positive thoughts about the things we value and appreciate in our life, all the stuff we are grateful for and happy about.
These thoughts, in turn, help us to fill up our personal ‘treasure chest’ of positive feelings:
All the appreciation, gratefulness, happiness, pride, and contentment we add to our ‘treasure chest’ today will keep our hearts warm during the cloudy or stormy periods of our lives.
The special feature of the exercise is that we commit ourselves to adhere to a set of rules.
The Rules of the Treasure Chest Exercise
Rule #1 – We do the exercise every day.
Every day, in the morning or in the evening, we take a few minutes to reflect on the day and come up with positive thoughts.
The exercise is particularly powerful if we do it consistently. The goal is to make it a daily habit.
A good way to do this is to make the exercise part of our morning or evening routine. Ideally, we link it to another activity that we are already doing reliably every day.
Example: If you want to do the exercise in the morning, you could decide to sit down and do it after you start the coffee machine. Or to do it while you are having breakfast.
Rule #2 – We write the thoughts down.
We don’t just do the exercise in our head. Writing our thoughts down allows us to look at them and makes them more conscious, even tangible.
It’s also important to keep our daily thought collections in one place. This could be a notebook, a note app on the phone, or a file on our computer. It doesn’t matter what we choose as our thought ‘storage area’ but it needs to be easily accessible.
Ideally, we collect our thoughts in a calendar or diary. Having a visible free space for every day will remind us and motivate us to fill in something every day.
Another great way to ‘store’ our positive thoughts is to write them on little cards that we collect in a glass bowl. (See PS below.)
Rule #3 – We are very specific.
We don’t quickly grap general and broad thoughts. Instead, we are very specific in our descriptions and we focus on the details.
By forcing ourselves to be very specific, we strengthen our ability to discover all the good stuff in our lives – the big important things, but also the smaller great stuff that’s happening every day.
Example: If you feel grateful for your good relationship with your daughter, don’t write, ‘I’m grateful for my relationship with my daughter’. That’s too general. Instead, pick one specific reason why you are today feeling grateful for the relationship you have with your daughter.
How to do the Treasure Chest Exercise
If we want to get used to and then stick to a specific routine, it’s best to make it as easy and simple as possible – and always the same.
We want to ensure that we don’t have to think about how to do the exercise – because too much thinking and preparation could keep us from doing it.
For many people, the easiest and simplest way is to write down whatever comes to their mind. Any thinking guidelines or prompts would make them feel restricted and take the fun and ease away.
If this is you, do it your way. Open your notebook/diary/etc. and just start writing.
Others (including me), however, struggle to start writing on a blank piece of paper. They prefer to move along a ‘thinking guideline’.
If this is you, a prepared set of questions/prompts will make it easier for you to get started. Every day, you just pick one or two questions and answer them in writing.
Examples of questions you could ask yourself:
In the morning:
- What’s the main feeling I want to choose for today? What do I need to think to feel that way?
- What do I want to think and feel about myself this evening? What do I want to do during the day to ensure that I’ll be able to think and feel this way in the evening?
- Why is today a good day?
- What’s on my to-do list for today? What are my top 3 priorities? Why?
- What can I do to make today a good day? What else?
- What difficulties/obstacles could pass my way today and how can I overcome them?
- Which of my talents/abilities do I want to make use of today?
- What is the biggest gift in my life right now?
- etc. (add questions that you’d like to answer)
In the evening:
- What worked well today? Why? What didn’t work? Why? What will I do differently tomorrow? Why?
- What are 3 things I am grateful for today?
- What happened today that brought me joy?
- What am I proud of today?
- What were my 3 best decisions today?
- What were my 3 best actions?
- What made me smile today?
- What is something a friend/family member/stranger did today that made me feel happy/grateful?
- etc. (add questions that you’d like to answer)
It can be nice to have a set of questions to choose from – but it can also be confusing.
Give yourself a good start and pick only one question.
And use this one question for your Treasure Chest Exercise for at least a couple of days. Maybe it’s a question you want to focus on for the whole month, or even for the whole year. If not, you just choose another question whenever you feel like.
Now – start writing!
- Go as quickly as you can,
- don’t judge your thoughts,
- just write down any positive thoughts.
- Try to be very specific.
- And do it every day.
If you do this exercise consistently, day after day, you will soon start to notice the positive effect it has on your mindset, and, of course, on your feelings.
You’ll start feeling better, day by day.
A great way to ‘store’ your positive thoughts is to write them on little cards that you collect in a glass bowl. You can see how your collection is growing every day. And whenever you want to feel better, you pick a positive-thought card from the bowl. 😀