This guest article from YourTango was written by Larissa Rzemienski.
Every once in a while, I like to do a quick quasi-experiment with my psychology classes. I hand out slips of paper to everyone in the class. It appears to the students that all of these papers are the same, although they in fact are quite different.
Half of the class has just received a slip asking them to name the three best events that happened to them over the past week. The other half of the class receives a paper that asks them to list the three worst events that happened to them during the past week.
I ask my students to work on this activity quietly so they do not accidentally ruin the secret. After making their lists, my students are asked to rate how their week was overall on a scale of 1-10.
We then regroup and I share the secret that half the class received one set of papers, while the other half received a different set.
I ask the students to shout out their overall scores on a scale of 1-10 and I write them on the board under “best” or “worst”, and we look at the differences between the sets of data.
This quasi-experiment has never failed!! The group that was asked to recall the worst things about their week undoubtedly scored their week around a 4, 5 or 6.
The group that was asked to recall the best points scored their week as an 8, 9, or 10.
It is amazing to see in just a few minutes how these thoughts play out for us. By just having different perspectives on our lives, it can have an incredibly strong influence on our moods.
It is true that human beings naturally have some levels of sadness, anxiety, or worry. From the evolutionary perspective, this anxiety can be viewed as healthy, as it kept us safe from dangers.
In modern times, the anxiety and worry may keep us financially solvent or healthy, although too much stress and anxiety can build up and have devastating health consequences. In addition, we may take the stress and anxiety out on our loved ones.
So maybe a better state of mind can be found by simply making lists of everything that is going fantastically well in our lives.
I sometimes find myself getting upset about little things that happen in my daily life. For example, a conversation that upset me or a little situation that did not go my way might eat away at me. Sometimes an hour later I still have a bad feeling, but I have to think hard to even remember what created my bad mood. I consciously tell myself to instead reflect back on my day and think about all the things that went well that day.
The biggest piece of advice that I have learned from my quasi-experiment is to remember to focus on those things that are going well. Instead of getting upset about the traffic or the early alarm, be thankful and positive about the fact that you have a job to wake up to in the morning.
Try this experiment with a group of your friends or family and see what happens. I would love to hear about the results that you have! Share them in the comments below.
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