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An Exercise in Positive Psycology

Sunday, June 05, 2011

I decided to post an exercise yesterday, that Dr. Martin Seligman uses in his Positive Psychology classes (from the book Flourish 2011), as a weekly challenge in my Survivors team.

It's designed to help us see the happy moments in our daily lives. Too often, (especially as survivors of trauma), we are focused too much on the past and negative events. He says that people spend too much time thinking about what is bad in life, than what is helpful. He also says that it's the way are brains are wired due to evolution. If our caveman ancestors didn't spend all their time worrying about what could go wrong and only had happy thoughts, they would have never survived the ice age. "So to overcome our brains natural catastrophic bent, we need to work on and practice this skill of thinking about what went well."(p. 33)

Here is the exercise called The "Three Blessings" or the What-Went-Well Exercise (p.33):

"Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down 3 things that went well today and WHY they went well. You may use your journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance"," My DH grilled chicken for dinner" (my example), "but they can be important, 'my sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy", ( his example).

"Next to each positive event, answer the question 'Why did this happen?'" I would write next to my "DH grilled chicken" - Why? "Because he is supportive of my diet plan" or using Dr. Seligman's example - "My sister gave birth..." you might pick as a cause "God was looking out for her" or "she did everything right during her pregnancy".

He says that "writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise 6 months from now" (p.34)

I tried it last night and didn't find it awkward, I found it downright difficult. How could I not find 3 happy events that occurred during my day? My DH didn't even grill. I made that up so I had an example to use! I consider myself a glass half full kind of person, but It was so much easier to think about the negative events that happened throughout the day. The only really happy event I could think of at first, didn't even happen to me - it happened to a Spark friend who got to onederland.
Then I thought that I should look for smaller things. That helped. I came up with:
1) I really enjoyed my leftovers from the Italian restaurant the night before. Why? Because I ordered delicious food that was on my plan and saved half.
2.) I enjoyed participating in Spark team topics all day - because it rained and I couldn't work out in the garden and I have a lot of very nice, supportive, and fun people on my teams.
3.) I enjoyed moments cuddling my cat - because I'm a kind person and chose to keep her when I found her on my porch.

So they're not earthshaking events, and I'm sure that I will do better as he says, with practice. Today as soon as I woke up I found myself focusing more on the little things around me, looking for things I could write in my journal tonight. I noticed how good the sun felt on my face and yet how nice the gentle breeze was. I could smell the peony bushes as I walked past the flowers. I appreciated my Dh helping me with a new garden bed. It's only noon - who knows what other little blessings I will find throughout the day?! Maybe that's the whole purpose of the exercise.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    3531 days ago
    Thanks for sharing! You brought up so many good points!
    3563 days ago
  • SPARKIE1964
    Great message! The power of gratitude in truly a miracle for it's effects can make a meaningful difference in our outlook on life. I have been blogging "5 Minutes of Contemplation" through out my journey on SP and my life seems happier even though it hasn't changed significantly. It is all about the perspective with which we choose to seee life...
    3563 days ago
  • CHRISS1225
    Sounds easy, fun, and very beneficial. I'm going to give it a whirl and thanks for sharing Gabby emoticon
    3563 days ago
    Beautiful exercise. I was told by a very wise person a few years ago that I had to let go of the past. I thought I had - but I realized through everything I hadn't forgiven myself. It's been a long road toward growth but I am getting there. I'm so much further along today than I was at the end of last year. I'm slowly learning to live for me - something a lot of women have difficulty with.

    Thank you Gabby for sharing this exercise. I will incorporate it into my life as I believe it can only help! emoticon
    3563 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

    The above is my attempt at conveying Rose Colored Glasses!

    I've often wished that simply putting on a pair of rose-colored glasses would immediately help me only see the positives around me! I would wear them all the time!

    Thank you, Gabby, for sharing the exercise. I want to be more of a person of gratitude.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3563 days ago
    Good exercise!
    3564 days ago
  • DR1939
    I've always found it interesting that despite extensive research with hassles and uplifts (Lazarus & Folkman), there is very little evidence for uplifts improving mood/attitude/health, whereas there is extensive evidence for hassles having a major impact on these areas. I've always argued that when people do positive things for us it provides us with little information. Perhaps they really care for us or perhaps they want something or maybe they're just nice people or mean people planning to hurt us. But negative behaviors convey a clear message of danger and, thus, of far more informative.

    However, regardless of the lack of empirical evidence supporting uplifts/positive thinking/Rogerian positivism, I do believe (note belief vs know) that counting the good things in our lives does make for a better life. I've always agreed with Shelley Taylor's concept of positive illusions and their role in mental health.
    3564 days ago
    Good to know pessimism is hard-wired. I thought it was just me! I may try this exercise. Thanks for sharing! emoticon
    3564 days ago
  • NANA419
    We can all use more ideas on how to think positive.
    3564 days ago
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