Sharing happy experiences, like sharing a good meal, warms and strengthens friendships and family bonds. There are other benefits to savoring positive experiences. Even in the privacy of your own thoughts, reflecting on pleasant memories is an easy and effective way to increase your overall happiness.
Hard wired to focus on the negative
Have you noticed that even a small negative event can grab your attention repeatedly over the day? Positive events, by contrast, rarely come back to mind. That’s human. Our brains are hard wired to pay attention to threats.
Retraining our brains
As a family caregiver, you may find yourself focused on the things that aren’t going well. This zaps your energy. It also sets you up for depression, a common occurrence when caregiving. Fortunately, as humans we can retrain our brains to notice the positive for a more-balanced assessment of our days.
Try this exercise
- Before bed, write down three good things that happened over the day. They don’t have to be big events. Just things that felt positive. Maybe a good conversation or a leisurely walk. Include as much detail as you can.
- For each one, also write down “why” it was positive. Knowing what uplifts you tunes you into future opportunities for positive activities.
- Take 30 seconds to relive or savor each memory. Close your eyes. Were there particular smells at the time? Sounds? Thoughts? Immerse yourself in the full memory of the event.
- If possible, tell others about the event over the next few days. The recounting of it helps seal it in your awareness.
Why it works
“Neurons that fire together wire together.” The more memory traces you create of positive experiences, the more adept your brain will become at recognizing the positives. You won’t lose your ability to identify threats. But you will form more-accurate assessments of your life and increase your overall sense of happiness.