I've been doing my 'Reasons to be Cheerful' posts for a while now and thought I'd explain where they came from. There has been some research done in America that reveals that if we spend just a few minutes at the end of the day reflecting on things that have gone well, on the positive aspects of the day, rather than the negative, then we deal better in the long term with stress and anxiety.
They learned from their research that thinking about positive events in a systematic way can be healthy and suggest that instead of ruminating about negative things, we try to ‘savour’ - relive, enjoy, and share - the positive events of your day.
It’s a habit that doesn’t come naturally however, warn the experts. As humans, an evolutionary survival mechanism leads us to instinctively pay closer attention to all things negative - potential risks and threats.
But the ‘three good things’ intervention can help to overcome that, say Bono and Glomb, who conducted an experiment to prove the effects of the rule. “After three weeks, stress levels and mental and physical complaints declined by small but significant amounts. Moreover, on days when participants focused on good things, they were better able to switch off stressful job-related thoughts in the evening at home.”
“Sharing positive events with others creates connections between people and bonds them with one another, further reducing evening stress,” add the researchers.
“Ultimately, this also improves sleep, which our ongoing research suggests leads to greater alertness and better mood - which in turn leads to more positive things happening the next day.”
Participants in the study also noted that they felt more productive and creative at work after trying out the ‘three good things’ rule.
So - with all these good reasons to focus on the positive, what's stopping you....? From the very small things to the big events, relish them all. Here's my three things from last weekend...
1. The late afternoon sunshine slanting across the garden. The soil warm from the day's rays, the raspberries plump and round, sliding easily from their anchor. The warm, sharp explosion of taste in my mouth and a memory that is awakened by the taste and smell - I'm a small child in my Grandad's allotment, sneaking raspberries from the canes and eating them quietly in his warm, wood smelling shed. There is a moment, fleeting, of pure unadulterated childlike happiness.
2. To pick the last of the summer produce. Reaching high up into the branches of the fig tree, feeling the soft fruit under my fingers; twisting the ripe apples from their boughs and feeling their comforting heavy weight in my hands.
3. The waves on the pebbles, swooshing and cackling, back and forth. The sun, warm on my face and limbs.