“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” Anon
Keep a ‘Happiness Journal’
by Vicki Nunn
Gratitude can have a major impact on our attitude and a ‘Happiness Journal’ can help us to focus on the good things in our lives and distract us from the negative ones. Too many negatives can overwhelm us and make it hard for us to keep going.
At this point you may be thinking to yourself, “I’ve heard all of this rot before.” Perhaps you may consider that a ‘Happiness Journal’ is a complete waste of time, or that it’s only for girls, or for wimps. If you have trouble with negativity, then a ‘Happiness Journal’ is exactly what you need.
In a way, gratitude is a bit like an air-pump: every time we feel grateful for the positive things in our lives, it’s like a burst of air goes into our floatation device which helps keep us afloat and buoyant, which is especially helpful when waves of trouble threaten to swamp us.
Buy a writing book and a pen (they don’t have to be expensive), and place them somewhere you’ll easily find them, such as on the table next to your lounge or in the bedside drawer. The book should only be used for your journal and not for anything else.
Put aside a few minutes at the end of each day and after noting the day’s date, write down all of the good things that happened to you. It could be something as simple as finding a car-park right when you needed it, or noticing a funny face in a cloud. Perhaps it was something delicious that you ate or a joke or a humorous situation. Maybe it was the simple pleasure of taking the dog for a walk or the fact that you didn’t have as many aches and pains as usual. Perhaps it was the enjoyment of a lovely shower and the appreciation of having clean, drinking water.
Writing them down before bed can help improve your mood which may help you to sleep better. The following morning, remind yourself to look out for the good things in your day.
Oddly for some of us, there’s a strange appeal in indulging in pessimistic thoughts. In a way it’s a protective mechanism that tells us that if we look on the bright side, we’re sure to be disappointed. Unfortunately, pessimism can be quite habit-forming which can suck us into a spiral of unhappy thoughts that grow darker as the weeks and years pass.
I’ve personally indulged in both camps, but found that continually looking at one’s life as a half-empty glass ultimately made me feel miserable, and I decided one day that I didn’t want to live like that anymore. Since then I’ve come to know several people who are active pessimists. Frankly, they’re not pleasant to be around and their negativity impacts badly on their relationships with others. For people like me who struggle with negative thoughts, I avoid pessimists because it’s hard work to stay positive or feel good around them.
The following quote from Elisabeth Elliott really got me thinking:
“It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld – one attitude or the other becomes a way of life.”
I’ve learned that we can be both an optimist and a realist at the same time. Being a realist doesn’t mean we have to be a pessimist, rather that we understand there are bad things and bad people in the world, but we choose not to focus on them, but rather look for the good. We choose therefore not to let the negative things in the world overwhelm us or impact on our thoughts and feelings.
If you struggle with negativity and pessimism, and notice that watching the news or reading the newspaper often make you feel more depressed afterwards, then perhaps you may need to consider omitting them from your life. The media loves to tell us about horrible events and rarely about the good ones, and I personally find it impossible to maintain my optimism if I listen to the media on a regular basis.
Finally, let’s look at that ‘Happiness Journal’ again. If you keep up the journal for a year or so, at some point, go back and re-read some of your earlier entries. There will sometimes be events that you’d quite forgotten about that will make you smile. It can also be a good reminder that perhaps you did after all, have a very good year. [End]