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.