With everything being so unsettled in the world, it can be hard to feel good sometimes. It is easy to think that if life could just ‘go back to normal’ you would be able to be happy. It is also tempting to believe that if you could just win the lottery, finally get that promotion, or meet the person of your dreams, life’s problems would all go away. Research, however, shows that isn’t always the case. Having a life that looks perfect on paper doesn’t necessarily mean you will be happy.
In our busy and fast-changing world, we need to focus on the things we can control when it comes to our happiness and how we feel, rather than putting all our attention on the things outside of our control. We need to train our brains to move away from focusing on negativity (which it is naturally inclined to do) and look at reminding ourselves, every day, what is right in the world, what is good and what is working.
Make it your mission to focus on the good in your life this month. Every evening, before you go to bed, write down three things that are good about your life. As well as looking for the small wins in your everyday life right now, also try reflecting on the good times in the past, as well as plans for the future.
Here are some examples:
Past: I am so grateful for my trip to Australia three years ago and look forward to going again. I am so glad I got to see my mum last year.
Present: Someone shouted me a coffee today. My bus arrived on time.
Future: I am seeing my grandkids at the weekend. I am looking forward to going hiking next month with my cousin.
Write them down in a journal or you can download this PDF to help you keep track of your thoughts.
Make it happen
Below are ideas of activities you can try either on your own or, if you like, with friends, family and colleagues.
Celebrate the good in the past
Sometimes it is easier to remember sad things about the past rather than the good, so making a deliberate intention to recall the good times can really help. It is also helpful to recreate moments from the past that bring back happy memories.
- Collect old photos from the past that make you smile. Why not make them into a little video or save them as your screen saver. You can look through these things any time you feel like you need a pick me up. Or go old school, and print your 10 favourite photos from the year past and frame them.
- Cook one of the meals that you used to love as a child
- Look at photos of the place you grew up in and, if you can, plan another trip there to bring back old memories
Look for the small wins every day
Our brains have a negative bias, so it’s often easier to recall all the things that didn’t go right in a day than the things that did. Train your brain to focus on the good by looking for the things that DID work or go well.
- My bus arrived on time
- There was a ‘buy one get one free’ offer on something I bought today
- I have fresh food in the fridge
- My best friend called me
- I have fresh sheets on the bed today
Plans for the future
A sense of hope for the future is important for our mental wellbeing, so commit to some future activities. The dates might need to change, but even having a rough plan or outlining your intentions can be helpful.
- Plan a hike or an adventure with your friends
- Organise regular dinners with friends/family. Why not try it potluck style and each bring your favourite dish from your childhood. Get the board games out, too, for a few extra laughs.
- Sign up for new hobby, so you can look forward to something. From learning a new language to pottery and music, there are all sorts of in-person and online options, these days.
- Plan to read one new book a month
- Write a list of all the places you would like to visit be it in your local area or around the world – if there are ones you can do locally, if you aren’t able to travel now, visit them
- Upskill – enroll in a course or some study
Create a list of things that make you happy
As well as reflecting on things that have happened, create a list of things that can pick you up when you are feeling a bit flat. This could be anything from listing to music, to having a shower, patting your dog, buying yourself a bunch of flowers or walking outside. Make the list unique to you.
Article sources and references
- Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world, Andrew T. Jebb, Louis Tay, Ed Diener & Shigehiro Oishihttps://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0277-0
- Jebb, A.T., Tay, L., Diener, E. et al. Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world. Nat Hum Behav 2, 33–38 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-017-0277-0https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0277-0