I recently heard from a friend who was having a bit of difficulty with positive thinking. She’d been set the challenge of writing down three positive things about her life every day. This was fine until she had a migraine and just couldn’t face it.
Various people tried to help. One suggested that “I haven’t been stung by a wasp” could be counted as something positive. But it’s not, is it? It’s just a potential negative thing that didn’t happen. I could spend hours listing the potential disasters that haven’t happened to me; while I’m very grateful for that fact it’s stretching things a bit to call it a positive thing about my day.
Someone else suggested, rather more helpfully, that if thinking of positive things was causing my friend stress then maybe she shouldn’t try to do it. This is a valid point, but it really shouldn’t be a stressful exercise. The whole point of thinking of a few positive things about your life is that it should be easy. The trouble is we make it difficult for ourselves.
We think we should be coming up with things like “I love my career as an international top model.” Or maybe “It’s great living here in my palatial home with my incredibly handsome/beautiful partner and our two perfect children.” Or even, “Ever since I won the Lottery jackpot my life has been amazing.”
But that’s not what most people’s lives are like. And they don’t need to be. Do you have a roof over your head? Can you put food on your table? Do you have access to clean water? I’m guessing you’re answering “Yes” so that’s three positives straight away.
Do you have friends? Family? Someone to love who loves you in return? Do you feel safe in your environment? Do you have a job you enjoy and a bit of spare cash? Maybe you can’t answer “Yes” to all of those but take pleasure in the ones you can.
Once you stop expecting positive things to be huge it gets much easier to find them. Someone smiles at you in the street. The sun’s shining. You find £2.37 down the back of the sofa. Celebrate the little things. And recycle them – it’s great if you can think of three new positive things every day, but it’s okay to go back to some of your old favourites.
Positive thinking really doesn’t have to be difficult.