Growing up in a family of 9 – the parents, 3 girls, 4 boys and right smack in the middle – was tons of fun. I loved always having someone around to play with, chat with, laugh with, and yes even fight with. Just like the rest of the world I have lots of great and happy memories, and some not so great ones too. When I was about 13 years old our family began living something that I don’t wish on anyone but I know many can relate to – our dad was battling addiction. It was a rough time for us all in different ways. We were confused, not really knowing what was going on for a while. Our mom was doing what she felt best and was trying to protect him – hoping he could overcome, and she was trying to protect us all, thinking if we knew the truth our hearts would be broken. We always felt like we were walking on eggshells, hoping that what we said or did would not affect him for the worst. As time wore on and the truth came out, each one of the kids reached out to him in our own way, trying to show him love and support. Its crazy to watch someone you love throw everything that matters away. In the end my dad chose to leave – he chose his addiction over his family, his job, his future.
Through those hard years leading up to when my dad left, and even the last 15 years I have learned something valuable. I have learned that there are some little things we can do to help us not get bogged down by all that is going on around us. We all face hard things in our lives, some of those things are temporary and soon forgotten, while others have life long affects, and the repercussions are something we face on a daily basis.
One of the first things that helped me and still helps me is a gratitude journal. I did not start out calling it that, I called it my “aha moments”. I chose to write three things I was thankful for in the day. In reality all the “aha moments” I wrote down were happy things or blessings I had seen in my day. After a month or two of writing these happy things down and being able to read the one or two sentences I had written brought back a forgotten memory and a smile,and from that moment on I was hooked.
Several years later while attending my local university I took a class called “Intro to Positive Psychology”. The name immediately sparked my interest as all I remembered from Psychology class was disorders, behaviors and all things negative. Positive Psychology is relatively new (1998), but the approach is something I absolutely love. The disorders and behaviors are there, but the strengths of the individual is focused on – what the person CAN do, rather than constantly focusing on their problems or disabilities. “It calls for as much focus on strength as on weakness, as much interest in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst, and as much attention to fulfilling the lives of healthy people as to healing the wounds of the distressed” – Martin Seligman People have thrived with this method. Some of the things they do is try to implement things that people can do that help them have more positive, happier lives – like for instance gratitude, volunteering, having or helping animals, exercise, meditation, etc. All small things that one CAN do, and the benefits are amazing!
One of the first things I learned in that class was the power of looking for the positive in our lives – something I had started doing years prior. Several studies have been done that show people who WRITE DOWN (its not enough to just think about it), 3 things each day that went well, (this could be something you ate for dinner, a kindness someone did for you, a beautiful sunrise etc.). People who did this for a 6 week period were found to be happier and more content with life than those who did nothing at all, or another group that actually wrote down 3 negative things at the end of the day. Those in the “3 good things” group had less symptoms of depression up to 6 months later – this may be that because 60% of those who participated actually kept writing 3 blessings down each day – they saw the difference! If you write down 3 things that are good just before bed, you are going to bed happy, and most likely will wake up happy too!
I have done this for several years, and it is lots of fun to look back and remember the significant and not so significant things that happened to me and my family and see that life really is good – along with all the hard, there is SO much good that happens!
I am sure you have heard the quote by Alice Morse Earl “Everyday may not be good, but there is good in everyday”. Finding a happy little something in each day has amazing effects, and this is not just something you need to take my word for. There are studies that show people who write down things they are thankful for, or things that went well on a daily basis are happier people. In A Primer to Positive Psychology it tells of several studies done dealing with different ways to show gratitude – the common results among all the studies were that counting your blessings on a regular basis makes you happier and more content with life. The name they gave it was “Three Good Things” as at the end of each day you write down three things that went well. This may seem silly and insignificant, but the studies don’t lie. I dare you to try it for 30 days and I guarantee you will see a change in yourself and those you choose to do it with.
I made this free printable which can be found here. You can print it up, or send it to a photo lab and have it printed, just a fun little reminder for you to see a happy little something in everyday!
See the Happy!