Accumulating Positivity in the Present

Accumulating Positivity in the Present

We are over three months into a world pandemic, and many people are understandably struggling with their mental health. In order to prevent the spread of a deadly illness people are being asked to manage so many variables: new hygiene practices such as masks and social distancing, working from home, managing unemployment, childcare, and/or daily fears of the unknown.

At the same time, we can witness each other’s hunger for connection, meaning and joy. People are struggling to try and create a sense of normalcy in an abnormal time.

As a dialectical behavior therapist, we have a toolbox of skills we teach in order to best manage emotions. One of them is to accumulate positive experiences prior to feeling emotionally overwhelmed. It is helpful to be proactive and increase positive experience in order to increase positive feelings.

Furthermore, by routinely integrating these small pleasures into your life, it can reduce your vulnerability to becoming overwhelmed.

The following are ideas for planning short-term positive experiences:

Create a list

Take a moment and create a list of pleasant activities that can be done in the present moment. These are actions (simple or multi-step) that bring you joy. The list needs to be individualized to you. It also needs to be easily accessible to you. Therefore, write it down and post it somewhere visible or type it into the notes section of your phone.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Listening to uplifting music
  • Taking a bubble bath
  • Playing video games
  • Dancing
  • Cooking a meal or baking something sweet
  • Petting an animal
  • Putting on make-up or dressing up
  • Building something
  • Coloring
  • Walking somewhere new
  • Arranging flowers (or just looking at them on a walk)
  • Playing a sport or exercising

Try to plan at least one (or more) of these activities daily

Now more than ever we need small joys. Being intentional about creating positive emotions will be necessary in order to carry us through all the difficult life situations. If you plan these activities into your day routinely, they will provide a scaffolding of positivity in your life.

Be mindful of the experience

Connect to the present moment by being fully in your body. Focus your attention on the actual task. Sometimes when engaging in positive experiences, there may be negative or judgmental thoughts. If you find your mind is wandering and starting to think about other things, gently nudge it back to the activity you are doing. This will help you be present in your experience.

Try doing the activity even if you aren’t feeling positive

It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but it actually can be what you need the most. It is helpful to do a positive experience activity from your list in order to shift your negative emotions or maintain your happiness. It may not always work, but sometimes these activities can actually lift one from a bad mood.

We are all doing the best we can during really difficult times. Sometimes it is hard to access self-care when we need it. Taking time to create a positive experience list and practicing these tasks can allow you access to the parts of life that bring joy and pleasure.

Authored by:  Alison Trenk MA LCSW