3 positive things
When my circuits are on full overwhelm, one of my favorite de-stressors is to fold and put away clean laundry while watching a show. The other day, in a moment of underachievement guilt, I decided to combine enrichment activities with decompressing and stumbled across this equal parts hilarious and intriguing TED talk on happiness while separating in-the-dresser pants from in-the-closet pants:
If you can’t see the embedded video, here’s the link.
The talk is given by Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. He explains how the traditional happiness model– which goes something like “If/When X happens, then I’ll be happy”– is actually training our brains the opposite of happiness. When happiness lies on the other side of success, we never get there; the mirage oasis drifts elsewhere as soon as we arrive.
His argument is that true happiness comes from looking within instead of looking forward, and that by adjusting the lens through which we view the world, we can actually change our reality.
Since he’s discussing the subject in context of the workplace (a happy brain is a more functional brain; happy workers are more productive and creative), one of the ways he and his cohorts studied this happiness theory was to have employees write down 3 positive things every day for 21 days in a row. By doing so, neural pathways reroute themselves so the brain begins constantly searching for positive things instead of scanning the horizon for potential disasters.
As a chronic potential-disaster-scanner, I thought– okay, I’ll bite. I absolutely believe we have the power to shift our brain patterns– I mean, hello, Pavlovian response, cognitive behavioral therapy, et al. Surely I can find the time to scribble down 3 positive things a night. Best case scenario: happiness multiplies. Worst case scenario? Not applicable.
Okay, sure. Why not.
I started this project at the end of August. Me being me, I have of course skipped a day here or there, but I’ve been good about catching up the next day. Sometimes my positive things are a quick sentence or two, while others take up a notebook page or more.
As for the difference in my life… “noticeable” isn’t quite the right word. Joy-infused. That’s closer. I spend some workdays with my notebook open and next to me so I can jot down positive things as they come. Other days, I take a few minutes to sit on the porch with the dogs and soak up fresh air and leaf-dappled sunshine along with all of life’s blessings. And on the nights when 3 feels like a lot, I curl up next to the most optimistic human in the world and ask him for suggestions, and I am thankful for my husband as the most definitively positive thing in my life.
I’ve always been obsessed with appreciating the little things, but now they’re magnified. They’re everywhere. I never realized how everywhere. And the unexpected loveliness that enters my life– well, I usually remembered to send a “hey, thanks” out to the universe for that stuff before, but now I make time for a heartfelt “no, but seriously, THANK YOU.”
Any negative that interrupts uninvited washes through weaker, grey, and watered down, and passes quickly as I shrug the shroud away, looking for more happy to take its place instead. And damned if that happy isn’t always there, lurking around the corner with mischievous eyes and giggle at the ready.
And damned if I’m not starting to trust in that fact: the reality that happiness always comes back around. I have more faith than ever that there’s an invisible bridge across every uncrossable chasm. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
All from writing down 3 positive things every day. Like, 2 minutes out of your life.
Try it. Risk being blown away by just how much there is to feel thankful for.