Dan Lippmann LCSW. Practical, Sustainable Happiness

A simple positive thinking exercise that will have you feeling better fast

How many of your days are overrun by negative thinking? Whether you come home and say to yourself, “That was a lousy day,” or you just feel bored with your ordinary routine, are you resigned to the fact that good things just don’t happen to you?

My client, Laura, was consumed by this type of negative thinking. She was sure that good things rarely happened in her self-described, “dull life.” So, I asked her to do the following homework: Right before you go to bed, write down three positive things that happened to you that day. They don’t have to be huge events – small ones are fine.

A Positive Discovery

When Laura came back the next week, she was surprised by what she had discovered: Positive things were happening much more than she thought. In her words, “The good things that are happening in my life are not monumental, but they are good. And I feel better when I’m aware of them.”

The good things on Laura’s list included:

I talked to my best friend.

Went for a walk and the sky was pretty.

Someone held the door open for me at work.

My daughter told me I looked nice.

Laura also said that since she knew she’d be doing this writing assignment each night, she began looking for good things to remember. That made her more aware of small positive things happening all around her.

How much of a difference can this make? Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, gave the same homework to clients coping with major depression. His research showed that it helped lift them out of their depression. He also discovered that positive thinking improves physical health and boosts the immune system.

So try this experiment in optimism for a week. At bedtime, write down three positive things that happened to you. Choose specific sensations, images, and interactions that were particular to that day — even if they were as common place as, My dog greeted me at the door! Then, be sure to let me know if you start feeling better about your “lousy” days.

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