Having the impression that only bad things happen to you? Every day is a struggle and you are simply reacting to the next problem ahead?
The good thing is that you are not alone and there is even a scientific explanation for your feeling. Evolutionary, as an aid to surviving, we naturally focused on the negative or dangerous things and did not just ignore them (well, the people who chose to ignore the tiger instead of running away, are definitely not our ancestors…).
Additionally, analysing negative situations can help us to improve ourselves by preventing the repetition of the same mistake over and over again.
See? There are logical reasons for the negative focus, but I think you will agree that, nowadays, we are safe enough and don’t need this instinct any more to such an extent. Including, I’m 100% sure that loads of good things happen to you as well, but over time you might have unlearned to see them!
Why is it so important to learn how to shift our focus? Getting stuck on the negative things can become dangerous for our wellbeing and, over time, builds the foundation for anxiety and depression.
In the beginning, it may be hard to learn the shift, but it will be so worth it! Opening up to the positive things in life will not only show you new ways of living but will also help you to achieve your goals faster.
But how to do it?
Thank god, there exist awesome techniques that teach us how to give attention to positive things. For example, one of the most important professors in the field of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, Ph. D., suggests the following two exercises.
The first one, the Gratitude Visit, serves as a “quick fix” as it boosts your mood immediately. It helps you by turning your focus away from yourself and directs it towards another person.
The other one, the Gratitude Diary, is meant to be practised over a longer period of time and will give you long-term effects. Excited to learn about these techniques?
The Gratitude Visit
Close your eyes and think about a person that made your life better but who you never really thanked for it. Oftentimes, we say a quick “thank you” but don’t truly take the time to let the other person know how much he or she actually improved our life
So take your time to write a letter in which you describe the situation where the other person was helpful. You should be specific and also mention how this improved your life. Let the person know what you are doing now and how often you think about it situation (or about the person in general).
Once you are done with writing, call the person and make an appointment for a visit (if that’s not possible at the moment then schedule a video call). Bring your letter with you and read the text aloud. Please ask the person to carefully listen and don’t interrupt you until you have finished. I know this might feel a little awkward at the beginning but it’s really worth stepping out of the comfort zone and trying it.
When you reach the end of the letter you can both talk about your emotions towards it and your feelings for each other. Trust me, this will not only make your day(s) so much better but will also improve the mood of the other person immediately. And who knows, maybe you build a new friendship through this practice? 🙂
The Gratitude Diary
At night, take a notebook or create a dedicated word file on your computer (although I would highly recommend using a notebook) and write down 3 things that went well that day and how it came about. This can be simple things like meeting a friend for coffee, catching the train on time etc. or bigger events like getting a new job.
Q: What went well today and why did it happen?
A: “Today I met my sister because she called me and asked me if I would like to drink coffee with her”.
A: “Today I caught the train on time because I woke up earlier than usual”.
A: “Today my husband brought me flowers because he is always very attentive.”
Although it may feel weird to write about the reasons for the things that went well, stick to it for a couple of weeks. You will notice how your mood improves and your “negative focus” shifts
“Where attention goes, energy flows.”
As I mentioned in my blog “Good Morning”, it’s extremely helpful to embed gratitude into your morning routine. Therefore, for the quickest results, I would suggest answering the: “what went well” questions by Seligman at night before going to bed and to write down the things that you are grateful for as part of your morning routine.
At night: “Today I met my sister because she called me and asked me if I would like to drink coffee with her.” (plus 2 more)
In the morning: “I’m grateful for having an amazing sister”
I hope that you found these exercises helpful and that you will try them out! It only takes a couple of minutes each day and is extremely powerful. I tried it myself and noticed amazing improvements in my mood and energy level.
PS: In case you have any questions, you are more than welcome to message me at any time at email@example.com