One of my longtime memoir workshop students, David Thoele, MD, is a pediatric cardiologist, but he also serves as the Director of Narrative Medicine at Advocate Children’s Hospital because he passionately believes in the healing power of writing. He developed and often uses what he calls the Three Minute Mental Makeover as a tool to get people to write who don’t want to write (i.e. his colleagues and patients), and by doing this exercise together, doctors and patients and other health care providers are suddenly talking to each other, having real conversations, and discovering that–guess what?–they’re all humans, with human trials and triumphs. Real connections are made and human bonds are formed where before there was only a sterile professional relationship.

David recently did the Three Minute Mental Makeover with our workshop. Sure enough, we not only found it insightful, we were also soon chatting with each other in a way that we had not done before. And it occurred to us that this would make a great activity for the Thanksgiving dinner table, particularly when you’re stuck exchanging pleasantries, or as a way to avoid a divisive political discussion!

So with thanks to David, and with his permission, I hereby present you with:

The Three Minute Mental Makeover


  1. Pen/pencil & paper
  2. Everybody participates
  3. Timer
How to:
One person, i.e. you, dear reader, facilitates, i.e. gives the three prompts but also participates in the exercise, and each prompt gets a minute of time:
  1. Write down three things you’re thankful for. (Great for Thanksgiving, right?)
  2. Write the story of your life in six words – example: “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn” (Hemingway); another example from David’s trove: “Born in California, then nothing happened.”
  3. Write down three wishes.
Last step: Share what you wrote with the person sitting next to you–of course the whole dinner table could share, too. But talking to your seat neighbor is a good start!
See how this could be quite interesting? 
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!