In my online counselling practice, we often talk about how important it is to turn the gaze away from the negative and towards the positive. Of course, this often includes profound changes in behaviour and feelings and is not something that happens overnight. But sometimes even small exercises can have a big effect! So if you also have the impression that you see life too often through grey or black glasses, then let’s sharpen your eye for the positive with these exercises!
Sharpen the view for the positive
The gratitude journal is an exercise I recently did with one of my clients. The aim of the exercise is to sharpen the view for the positive and, in the case of my client, it was one element of our work to help her get out of her depressed mood.
Exercise 1: Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal is an incredibly impressive way to sharpen one’s eye for the positive and change one’s life in a better direction. Basically, it is a very simple exercise that only takes a few minutes. For the gratitude journal to unfold its full effect, however, it is important that you fill it out daily, over a longer period of time (best at least a month, but the longer the better!). You will see, once you make it a habit, you won’t want to stop!
How does it work?
Take 5-10 minutes each evening and record (at least)
- 3 things you have achieved that day
- 3 things you are thankful for
You can write down anything you can think of. You should pay special attention to your personal qualities, to successes and generally to things you have achieved. But also important people in your surroundings, beautiful event, and other good things can have a place here. It doesn’t have to be huge things! Your boss praised you? The sun was finally shining again? Did you complete a task on time? You managed to get up as soon as the alarm went off? You took the time and enjoyed reading your child a bedtime story? Did you watch a nice movie with your partner?
You will see, the more you write down what you are thankful for, the more you will notice! Some days you might even pause and make sure to experience and notice something positive just because you know the exercise is waiting for you at the end of the day. That’s ok too!
Exercise 2: Review of the year
For many people, the end of the year is a good opportunity to look back. This is how I personally do it on my blog, where I look back and reflect at the end of every year. But any other time of the year can also be a good time to stop and look back. No matter if on a birthday, a certain anniversary or just any other day, why not today?
Take some time and write down everything that comes to mind spontaneously. Remember, this is an exercise just for you. Of course, you can share it with others, but you don’t have to. It is much more important that you write openly and honestly. Without censoring yourself or thinking too much!
Ask yourself and answer the following questions:
- If you look back on the last 12 months, what are you grateful for?
- If you look back on the last 12 months, what are you proud of?
If you want to go one step further, you can ask yourself this question and answer it as well:
- If in 12 months you look back at the year ahead of you, what will you be proud of?
Exercise 3: Strengths and resources
The third exercise looks at our strengths and resources. Write down the following on an empty sheet of paper or in a notebook:
- Things you are good at
- Things you like about yourself
Write as long a list as possible. Just keep writing, without thinking too much. Start small if you find it difficult, and add a little more each day. You can also ask your partner or friends to help you by asking them what they like about you.
Here are a few ideas for things that you could put on that list: How about a part of your body? Even if you may not be completely satisfied with your body, there are probably small parts that you think are actually quite good, aren’t there? Is it your left ear? Your feet? Your eyes or hands? Or are you slim? Muscular? Big? Maybe it’s your eyes, that let you discover new things every day? Your brain, working so hard for you? Your feet carrying you wherever you want to go? No matter what it is, write it down! And what about your qualities? Do you help your friends when they need you? Are you friendly to strangers in the street? Generous? Are you a good listener or good at getting things done? What else are you good at?
Again, write down as much as possible.
Sharpen your eye for the positive. You don’t have to show your answers to anyone! But keep the list handy and if you ever doubt yourself again (who am I kidding, of course, you will), take a look at your lists!
What other exercises do you know that can sharpen your eye for the positive? Have you tried these exercises and still feel like it’s not enough? Maybe it’s time to reach out and talk to a psychologist! You know where to find me.