When you feel low or stressed everything is rubbish. It’s a fact. You’ll twist everything to suit your bad mood even if it’s genuinely good: “Andy only said he liked my speech because he felt sorry for me”/ “Claire only invited me to her hen party to make up the numbers”.
When you feel you’re careering up Shit’s Creek in a leaky canoe it’s hard to see the good in anything. You focus only on the bad things to back up your negative frame of mind meaning you dismiss or ignore those things that could naturally lift your mood. It’s totally normal, but it means that if you want to feel happier you have to proactively find good things to think about.
Research shows becoming more conscious of good events increases happiness and decreases feelings of depression or low mood. Forcing your grumpy brain to pay attention to positives re-tunes it to recognise and then appreciate good events.
A simple strategy for lifting your mood is to write down three good things that happen to you every day for a week. That’s it. Write them down somewhere before you go to sleep. It could be anything – someone stopping to hand back the railcard you dropped, a bus driver waiting for you, a piano falling from a crane right in front of you rather than on you. Anything. Nothing is too big or too small.
Next, try to think about why these things happened. Maybe the railcard hero gave back your card because you smiled at her, maybe the bus driver waited because it’s your lucky day, maybe the crane driver dropped the piano in front of you to remind you about those piano lessons you never booked. These reasons will make you see the world – and by reflection yourself – in a more positive light.
Properly paying attention to happier things (by writing them down) will make you more open to looking on the bright side. People who appreciate what happens to them and feel grateful for good events tend to be feel happier and more fulfilled. Studies show gratitude can increase levels of well-being, optimism and empathy.
At the end of the week read back through your list of good things. Did your mood improve at all day-to-day? Can you see how good things are happening to you, it’s just a case of recognising them? While at the start of the week you might struggle to think of things to put on the list, by the end hopefully you won’t have any trouble at all. It’s not because more positive things are happening, it’s because you’re allowing yourself to notice them. There’s no reason to stop after one week – incorporate it into your routine and you’ll notice an on-going lift. Even after the most eye-wateringly hideous day remembering that the world isn’t out to get you will make you feel better. Let us know how you get on in the comments below.
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