“I want to get rid of my stress right away!”

Many people feel that way, but don’t know how to handle their struggles of daily stress. When negative emotions such as irritation and anxiety are left untreated, they can eventually lead to serious stress reactions in our bodies and minds. In some cases, it can lead to mental illnesses such as depression. As a preventative measure, it’s important to eliminate stress as soon as you feel it.

Let us introduce you to a stress care technique that’s scientifically proven to have positive effects on our mental health. It’s easy to implement. It’s called the “Four Good Things”.

The Basics of The Four Good Things

This technique is a modified version of the “Three Good Things” method.
You can read more about that in the article below:


In mental health care, keeping a diary is a rudimentary approach to stress-coping. A record of our daily state of mind allows us to see our situation objectively. This also helps us recognize cognitive biases so that we can correct them in the right direction. Given the benefits, it’s a frequently used technique in cognitive behavioral therapy.

The “Four Good Things” method was created by Professor Elaine Fox at the University of Oxford. The use of the diary format through this method effectively relieves stress and steers our thoughts towards a more positive direction. Here is the simple way to do it:

1. Write down one negative thing that happened that day.
2. Write down four positive events

The positive events can be anything at all, as long as it’s something that makes you feel happy. Here are some examples:

・I was complimented on my work today.
・My family was in a good mood.
・I woke up feeling well-rested.
・The food I ate today was delicious.
・I saw my favorite actor on TV today.

The key is to write down one negative event that happened. In the same way that sprinkling a pinch of salt into a cookie dough can help bring out sweetness, awareness of a negative event will serve as a contrast against the positive. This allows positive events to really shine through to make a stronger impression on the brain.

While there is still little data on this Four Good Things method, Professor Fox’s experiments have confirmed that it has a higher stress-relieving effect than just writing down three good things.

A powerful tool; diary

Outshine Negativity With More Positivity

Unfortunately, negative events are more likely to leave an impression in our brains, creating a cognitive bias. For example, let’s say we hop on a train and feel pleased that “the train arrived on time smoothly”. This thought fades away pretty quickly. On the other hand, a negative thought like, “I just missed the train by a few seconds, and now I have to wait until the next one,” will leave a stronger impression on the brain. The stronger the impression, the longer the memory will be retained. Soon, we find ourselves repeatedly experiencing the same feelings every time a similar event happens. As a result, a cognitive bias is created in our minds, leading us to believe that, “I always miss the train by a few seconds. I’m so unlucky.”

In order to avoid creating this bias in our thinking, we need to counteract the impressions of negative events as they occur. Since negative events leave stronger impressions than positive events, counteracting one negative event with one positive event is not enough to achieve our desired outcome. The Four Good Things method aims to eliminate the impact of a negative event by fighting it with four positive events. The idea is simple. Even if something negative happened, if there are even more positive events to remember, the overall impression will turn positive.

If you’re asking yourself, “why am I always so unlucky?” or hold beliefs that, “things just don’t work out the way I want them to,” you may need to correct your own cognitive biases. We can definitely try to increase our stress tolerance and positivity using the Four Good Things.

Waiting for a train

Throw Away the Negative, Turn to the Positive

The Four Good Things method can potentially eliminate your negative cognitive biases and create a more positive mindset. Give it a try if you want to build a strong mentality to combat stress.

Having a coping mechanism on hand, such as the Four Good Things, keeps our mental health in check. This is just one of the many easy stress-care techniques you can try. Figure out what works for you and get into the habit of practicing. One of the keys to living a healthy and happy life is knowing how to properly cope with stress.

Fox, E. (2013). Rainy brain, sunny brain: The new science of optimism and pessimism. London: Arrow Books.

About the Author


As a writer, worked on many medical-related articles based on academic papers. Specializes in articles on mental health and stress care.

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