Try the 10 Positives Exercise
- We have a choice to see the positive or to see the negative in any given situation.
- We can choose to interpret situations on the positive side to reduce our stress and anxiety.
- Applying the 10 Positives exercise to various challenges can add deeper meaning to our lives.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people told me that they were feeling overwhelmed, lonely, and unfulfilled. Admittedly, the last year has been even more difficult and unprecedented on many levels, social, financial, and existential. This has led to increased stress, anxiety, and even despair, as people struggle to live meaningful lives in unstable conditions. We do, however, have a choice. We can choose a positive attitude no matter what is happening around us. We can choose to interpret situations on the positive side.
This exercise is called the 10 Positive Things or simply, 10 Positives. Here are three ways to apply this exercise:
An exercise to cope with challenges in relationships, work, and family situations
Think of a situation that is challenging in your personal relationship, your family, or your work. Write down your interpretation of the situation and then list 10 Positives that could result from this situation. Write down as many positives as you can without filtering them for realism or social acceptance. This exercise may help you move beyond your disappointment, frustration, stress, and even anger so that you can begin the process of forgiveness and healing.
An exercise to deal with a situation that is extremely stressful
When a situation is particularly stressful such as having a car accident, losing your job, or being diagnosed with an incurable disease, it is very important that you move into higher levels of optimism in order to maintain not only your physical health but your mental health. Starting to see the silver lining or hopeful side in something will also help you start to see the possible solutions or opportunities to address the situation, instead of repeating the same negative thoughts over and over, which is known as "loop thinking." (See my recent Psychology Today post How to Stop a Negative Cycle of Thoughts or Experiences.)
In essence, we see what we want to see. Perception does not always mirror reality; oftentimes, however, it becomes our “reality.” When we believe that there isn’t enough of this or that in our lives, or when we see the negative in everything, we are blocking ourselves from living a full life. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have in your life, or spending your time complaining about a situation, start looking for and be grateful for the positive that is in your life.