Wednesday, May 10th

Three Good Things

I need this today. Yesterday evening I could feel myself getting grumpier and grumpier, which for me meant that over the course of the evening I was more and more resistant to dealing with children. When I couldn’t avoid it, I struggled against being snappish and unreasonable.

So this morning I’ve been digging into my positive psychology toolkit for ways to get back to a more even keel. I’ve already let myself off the hook for something today, which has eased my sense of the day’s obligations, and I’ve gone outside for a few minutes to vent my spleen on some weeds. I’m planning more outside time, and I’m considering adding a short guided meditation to my schedule.

I’ve also doubled up on today’s exercise. I did it this morning, listing three good things from yesterday, and I intend to do it again this evening, which hopefully will keep me looking out for good things over the course of the day. And I feel that all this is helping. Just the act of looking for things to improve my state has generated a sense of optimism.

Happy Wednesday!

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Wednesday, May 3rd

CBT An Anxiety

While at the Positive Psychology Program website recently, I ran across a list of CBT resources and exercises. Reading down through it, I found many ideas that I’d never tried, and some I’d never heard of.

The section that caught my eye for today was titled Behavioral Experiments. Ever since I had such a vivid moment of awareness of my “Should,” I’ve been thinking about its impact on my life. Almost everything I do is pushed, at least in part, by “Should.” (I think this is why taking mini vacations is so difficult for me.) Even things I want to do get tangled up in “Should,” especially if they’re part of longer-term goals.

Intellectually I know that not everyone operates this way. “Should” is basically an expression of fear, that if I don’t do something, I’ll have failed in some way. My best friend finds this way of living simply strange. Back when I was struggling with depression, he advised me once not to do anything for a day unless I wanted to do it, and I found that idea utterly unworkable. If I didn’t have my “Should” driving me, why would I ever do anything?

And that’s what I want to test today. I’m not proposing to only do things I want to do; I’m not sure I could. But today I want to pause and notice, when I’m about to do something, to what extent I actually want to do it, and to what extent “Should” is driving me. Do I really need to rely so heavily on “Should”? Or could I dial it down a little?

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 1st

Best Possible Self

When I was first toying with the idea of setting myself daily happiness exercises, I did what any compulsive-list-making person would do — I started collecting possible ideas for exercises into a long list. Over time I winnowed that list down, separated out the things that felt too big to do on a daily basis or just didn’t seem repeatable, and selected out the ones that seemed most interesting to me.

And then I mostly ignored everything but my final selection. But feeling energetic and a little restless this morning, I did not want to any of my usual exercises. I wanted to do something different, maybe a little exciting. So I went back to my list and chose one of the exercise that I’d previously rejected because I couldn’t imagine doing it over and over. That seemed perfect for today.

Today’s exercise is from Positive Psychology Program. It’s called Best Possible Self, and basically you spend about ten minutes writing about your best possible future self — how you would be in the future if everything went right in your life. You then spend some more time thinking about what you’ve written, whether it inspires you, what changes you’d like to make in your life, etc.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, Apr 26th

Reflect On Social Connections

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Some days are just more social than others, and this was one of them. That made this exercise easier and more satisfying than it sometimes is, when I need to fall back on a conversation I had with a two-year-old.

My three social connections for today:

  • A conversation with my best friend, whose business partnership is breaking up, about what he’ll be doing next.
  • Some quiet minutes before bedtime with my two sons, treading the line between snuggling and playing.
  • A discussion with a colleague about a video project, and the interplay of an interview and the images he’d chosen to go with it.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, Apr 24th

Gratitude Journal

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

In an excellent mood today, I found it difficult to narrow in on a single thing I wanted to journal about. This is typical of me when I’m in a very good mood — my brain likes to jump around from one thing to another. For a few minutes I debated between one or another topic, trying to get my mind to settle down, and then I remembered a useful life rule: Choose your battles.

So today, instead of selecting a single thing I’m grateful for and trying to dig deep into it, I let myself write a long, rambling list of things, in exactly as much detail as I liked. The structure of these exercises is after all not the point; the point is the focus on positivity, and whatever gets me there is just fine.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, Apr 19th

Three Good Things

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Most of my family (including me) has been fighting through a long, dragging cold for the past few days, so when I woke up and remembered my exercise for today, it served as an excellent reminder: look for the good. Even when I’m tired and cranky.

Today’s three good things:

  • At a council meeting for a non-profit I’m part of, I got to see the finished product of a video project I’ve been collaborating on, which was very exciting.
  • I shared a special lunch and errand with my two-year-old.
  • I found the first little seedlings of the year in my garden!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, Apr 4th

Reflect On Social Connections

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Sometimes I think that my lack of a normal nine-to-five job really cuts down on my social connections during the day. Or maybe it’s just the effect of being an introvert. For whatever reason, I sometimes cast my mind back over my day and am surprised by how little I interacted with people. (Other than my children, of course. They routinely top my list of social interactions, but I try to find at least some other interactions to include in this exercise.)

For most of my life I considered that rather as a good thing. One of the calmest and most creative periods of my life, in fact, was the term in college when my roommate was abroad and I had no particularly close friends. But knowing what I do now about how social interactions impact happiness, I’m less certain that so much alone time is good for me, at least long-term.

The three interactions I focused on today:

  • Talking to another parent at the boys’ school.
  • A brief, light conversation with a friend in the evening.
  • My oldest son showing me something he’s building Minecraft.

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, Mar 31st

Gratitude Journal

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Today I focused my gratitude on my father. Nothing has increased my appreciation of my parents more than having children of my own, but I rarely pause to really acknowledge all their wonderful qualities.

I think that this exercise’s best use, for me, is in focusing on the people in my life. Each time I take the time to think through my gratitude for a specific person, my life is better for it.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, Mar 28th

Three Good Things

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Just knowing that this exercise is coming up has an interesting effect on me – I start to notice good things more. I’m noting them for future reference, so that I’ll have an easy three to hand when it comes time to actually write in my journal. This is quite possibly the entire point.

However, when in the past I’ve tried to do this exercise every day, I didn’t develop that awareness as a habit. Instead I seemed to acclimate fairly quickly, stopped thinking about good things during the day, and then struggled to come up with three when I sat down with my journal. So I need a slightly different way to hack my brain. I’m still working on it.

Today’s three good things:

  • A good talk with someone who may be a new friend.
  • Being “adopted” for a few minutes of play by a small child not my own.
  • An unexpected bonus of quiet time last night, courtesy of tired children.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, Mar 13th

Reflect On Social Connections

There’s a description of this exercise on the Exercise page.

I think I need to rotate when these exercises occur, since which people I see tends to be somewhat day-dependent. For today, one of my longest social connections was with a two-year-old, and I have to wonder whether that even counts. But I decided to include it anyway. The contrast between my interaction with my daughter and my viola instructor was interesting and amusing.

Happy Monday!