Let’s go forward into 2018 feeling positive and confident

I love this time of year – the Xmas lights, sparkly outfits and gorgeous smells of mince pies and mulled wine.

However, I am conscious 2017 has been a difficult year for many people, with tragic events taking place across the globe.  Many have felt overwhelmed by worry and concern for those closest to them as well as others across the world. Against this backdrop it can be really easy to spend more time thinking about what is going wrong in life than is helpful. For sound evolutionary reasons, most of us are not nearly as good at dwelling on good events as we are at analysing bad events. So, to overcome our brains’ natural, tendency we need to work on and practice the skill of thinking about what went well.

This isn’t just about reverting to a naïve ‘everything will be alright’ or seeing the world through rose coloured glasses.  There is strong evidence that thinking about 3 good things every day, can really help us feel more positive. Martin Seligman, the founding father of Positive Psychology recommends a simple exercise based on the work he, and his team at the University of Pennsylvania, have validated in the controlled experiments they have been conducting since 2001 to study changes in life-satisfaction and depression levels.

Here’s the exercise: Every night for the next week, set aside five minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.  The three things do not need to be earth shattering for example ‘I had a traffic free drive to work this morning’, but they can be important e.g. ‘We won a great piece of business that we really wanted’ Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote about winning the business you might write ‘because we really listened to what the clients wanted and prepared a great proposal”

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but stick with it for one week. It will get easier.In a study of the exercise’s effectiveness by Martin Seligman, participants were asked to follow those exact instructions for just one week. After one week they were 2% happier than before, but in follow-up tests, their happiness kept on increasing, from 5% at one month, to 9% at six months. And, even though the participants were only instructed to journal for one week, they enjoyed the exercise so much, that they just kept on doing it on their own.

One of my coaching clients has taken this one step further – instead of just noticing good things, he purposefully takes time to create positive experiences and actions for himself and, as a result, has noticed a huge different in his confidence and general outlook on life.

So, this Christmas, why not decide to take some time to count your blessings and think of all the things you have and feel grateful for.

The pressure to have a perfect Xmas can be overwhelming, so this year instead of focusing on what goes wrong – the family members who couldn’t come or the lumpy gravy  – I am going to focus on the things that go well – the precious time with family members who have made it and the wonderful roast potatoes! As we go into the New Year I think feeling more happy, confident and able to cope with whatever 2018 brings can only be a good thing for us all.