How to focus on the positive

It can seem almost impossible to be happy with who we are and what we have. We live in a constant stream of advertising, media and societal pressures that tell us how we should dress, what we should look like, how we should behave, what we should own, how much we should earn, what car we should drive (the list goes on…). It can be tough to be happy with who we are and not feel pressure to change.

Our minds tend to dwell on the bad, the things we feel we should change and less on the good. This is entirely logical; in prehistoric times our survival depended on on our ability to be aware of potential threat. Our brains became expert at being constantly alert to danger, in order for us to stay alive. Whilst humanity has evolved a lot since then, our brains are still trained to cling on to the negative things in our lives. It's instinct to focus on the bad, that's why we're much more likely to lie awake at night remembering that embarrassing thing we did at the office party in 2003 than think about a compliment someone gave us only yesterday.

Focusing on the positive things in your life can help you recognise what you have achieved. This is not to say that negative things in your life aren’t important, or that you should ignore them but that it’s also useful to actively spend time thinking of the good things too.  

By spending time thinking about the good things, your mind relives that happy moment and if you regularly practice focusing on the good, over time your brain learns to spot and hold on to the positive rather than just the negative.

One way to practice this is to keep a gratitude journal. This involves writing down a few good things that happened in your day, the sort of questions to ask yourself could be; what made you smile today? Who or what touched your heart? What made you laugh? What inspired you? What are you proud of? What was fun? What made you feel good about yourself? These don’t have to be big things, in fact it’s better to focus on the everyday small positive things as this helps you notice all the good in your life. It works best if you do it every day, but even just once a week can help. I find that doing this on bad days can be especially cathartic.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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