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Do you have the feeling that whatever you do, it is never enough? That you actually should have had more published? That you should be further along with your research? That maybe, you just feel like you aren’t good enough?

These are feelings and thoughts countless PhD students have. Achieving your PhD seems like the end-all-be-all, the single most important thing there is. But is that really true?

The advice I typically give PhD students in my one-on-one workshops in the “Back on Track” project is asking them to write down 3 things they are grateful for each night. This routine may sound silly, but it is a habit that can help you become more positive, happier, and more content in your everyday life.

Recently I received an email from Marjolein, she’d found a book that was about exactly this principle, a Book of Thanks, a daily journal for a satisfying and happy life, written by Ernst-Jan Pfauth.

In this Book of Thanks he outlines four strategies he found to be the most beneficial in his studies to help you find some more daily satisfaction, or perhaps even a lot more.



The first is to visualise your work, your hobbies, and projects as practice. Don’t look only at the results, but see what you do for practice. This is one way we can find happiness, and practice helps to achieve your goal more effectively.

The second strategy is to make room for relaxation and flow in your daily life. He calls this supreme concentration, but I’ve called it hyperfocus or deep work in my posts.

The third strategy that Pfauth explains is learning to focus on others. By taking care of others and investing in relationships with other people, you become more happy and satisfied.

Lastly, the fourth strategy he describes as actively learning to be thankful. He bases this on research by Brené Brown – a researcher who has come up in one of my posts about mood where it was discovered that everyone who actively practiced being thankful rated themselves as happy. Many other studies support this finding as well.

Maybe it’s an idea for you to try out, the Book of Thanks, just a simple notebook next to your bed, and simply writing down three things you are thankful for. I can guarantee you that once you start this habit, you will look at your life differently!


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