Thursday, June 16, 2011

Attitude adjustment

I am normally an optimistic person. When I started this blog in November of 2007, it was a tool to help me focus on life's possibilities and small joys instead of allowing myself to be washed away by the challenges and grief of dealing with my husband's disease. For the first year and a half, it worked really well.

The last year or so of our lives, and especially the last two months, have been difficult. A month ago, when we were at a very low point, I heard about a webinar called The Importance of Positive Emotions for Caregivers, by a speaker named Janet Edmonson. I could really have used it at the time I signed up, but it wasn't going to be held until June 14th. Tuesday night I logged on and listened; it was short but effective. Most of the information shared I knew already but had allowed to get buried by life's distractions: that scientific studies show again and again what Norman Vincent Peale knew from his own observations - positive thinking can impact lives in profoundly powerful ways. Priming people with positive words helps them perform better on tests, for instance. Positive thinking improves our cognition and our physical health, increases our longevity, and gives us more resilience.

Ms. Edmonson gave a homework assignment that turned out to be something that I had read about in our local paper a couple of months ago. She called it "What went well today." The newspaper article I read in April called it "Three good things that happened today." Both techniques are to recall at the end of the day three positive things, big or small, that happened that day. The newspaper article said some studies showed that most people who use this technique start to feel better within two to four weeks.

I had started my "Three good things" journal in mid April, during the 12 days G was in rehab. Kept up with it very well until he came home a week later and was so very ill and miserable - then my entries became less frequent and often quite terse. It was an effort to find something positive to write, and I was mentally exhausted.

Life is calmer, more stable at the moment, so now is the time to re-start that habit and to hang on to it. Last night I opened the journal and posted an entry of three good things that happened yesterday:

Made a dinner that G really enjoyed
(roast chicken with herbs, broccoli and kale gratin, mashed potatoes).
It was delicious, if I do say so myself.

The rain came after I had cut the grass the previous night.
Love that timing.

I sold all 4 of my university yearbooks on ebay.
I'm a few dollars richer and a chunk of shelf space lighter.

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