Life’s pretty tough going at the minute, isn’t it?
The only way I can describe Sunday is as emotionally intense, topped and tailed by news from London Bridge and the One Love Manchester concert. This was at the end of an already tough week. Trump, well, being Trump. If I gave an example it would probably be surpassed by another one between drafting and publishing. The awful bombing in Kabul; you know things must be really bad when the Afghans say it’s the worst attack they’ve seen. Plus in the UK we’re enduring the scaremongering, lies and bad mouthing that come with a parliamentary election campaign. I’d say roll on polling day but that will just mark the beginning of the next phase of anxiety-inducing awfulness.
Most of us find it tough to not let macro events influence the micro ones of our lives. Mental health issues aside, world news is definitely making me more edgy and irritable. I only have a certain amount of resilience and right now it’s stretched pretty thinly.
Scheduling a smear test for this afternoon was probably not the greatest idea I’ve ever had given these circumstances.
Yet there is relief to be found. As I write I’m burning a gorgeous Pink Grapefruit scented candle from Join and staring at the newly blossomed roses outside the window between sentences. I’ve also just eaten a lovely mini bar of Green & Black’s Sea Salt milk chocolate (#sorrynotsorry, Mark, for eating your birthday goodies while you’re at work).
Small actions though these may be, they help to encourage positive emotions. Anecdotally we may feel that tiny gestures can give us a boost but psychological research proves this too. This week in my Dialetical Behavioural Therapy group, we explored reducing vulnerability to overwhelming emotions by building a life worth living. A crucial step in this process is to ‘accumulate positive emotions’.* In the short term, this involves doing pleasant things right now.
I have a handout telling me to ‘BUILD POSITIVE EXPERIENCES NOW. INCREASE PLEASANT EVENTS that lead to positive emotions.’
In practice, this means keeping a Pleasant Events Diary ahead of next Monday’s session. I even have a Pleasant Events List with 225 suggestions to try should I struggle to come up with ideas.
Some of the suggestions are pretty funny. I’m not sure I’ll get chance during the next seven days to attend a school reunion (#60), go hunting (#71), go sledding in a snowfall (#186) or ride a dune buggy (#217). However I can eat (#29), go to a party (#43), go to the beauty parlour (#91), think about sex (#100 – just think. Sexual activity itself doesn’t make the list) and get a haircut (#187).
How about you?
Would you like to join me in keeping a pleasant event diary this week? Science says it’ll help you manage difficult emotions.
Simply pick a pleasant activity to do each day, however small, and observe how it makes you feel. I’ll be recording mine on social media.
I’d love to know how you get on with this. Does it support you in managing the crazy world we’re living in? You can comment below or on social media, tag me or respond to my posts. Plus if you enjoyed reading this, please do tell others about it – it really helps! Sharing buttons are also below.
Thank you for reading, and have a pleasant week in spite of it all.
* All quotations and images taken from handouts from DBT Skills Training and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan (2015).