Sometimes, unexpected events (injury, disease, unemployment, a break-up) happen and change all our plans in a fraction of a second. Obviously, those moments of shake-up destabilize us and, once we’re back on our feet, let us with two options to choose : the first one is to stay focused on the past by thinking about what we could have done differently and what life could have been without this unexpected event. But being focused on events on which we don’t have any control only brings negative reactions, sadness, regrets and rumination of negative thoughts. The second option is to look forward and focus on aspects of your life that you control and influence. Let’s focus on this one today !
« Easier said than done » you’ll tell me ! That’s why I propose you to try the « happiness barometer » exercise that will give you the opportunity to evaluate your satisfaction level concerning different important domains of your life. This exercise will allow you to focus on what’s going well in your life instead of being blocked on a negative aspect.
The happiness barometer
- Take a piece of paper and write down the domains that you value the most in your life. You should have around 4 or 6 of them. For example : your partner, your family, your friends, your job and your hobbies.
- For every domain selected, evaluate your satisfaction level. You can use percentages, grades from 1 to 10, colors, pick your favorite ! The important thing is to have an approximation of your satisfaction level concerning a specific domain.
- Below this domain, write the positive and negative aspects of it. For example : I get on very well with my family members but I don’t see them often enough and don’t do specific activities with them.
- For every positive point, determine what actions you have to keep on doing in order to maintain it at its level. It will highlight all the positive and efficient actions that you already do. For example : I almost never « fight » with my girlfriend because we take time to talk about important subjects and things that question us. For every negative aspect, write the actions that you have to take to improve the situation. If we get back to the example of the family in point 3, the actions to take could be to free some scheduled time for my family members and propose them specific activities instead of just meeting them for dinner.
Why should you do this exercise ?
Like it has been said in the introduction, focusing on the past will only bring negative thoughts, regrets and rumination. When a negative event disturbs our routine, it’s easy to stay focused on it and only see the negative in our daily life. By creating your happiness barometer, you’ll shift your vision from the negative event to a full picture of your life and its positive aspects. If we take the example of the loss of a job, it would be easy to get depressed by thinking that we don’t have value and are not capable of anything. By visualizing the other domains of your life, you’ll see that even if the evaluation of the « job » domain is bad, you evaluate very positively the relationship with your partner and your friends and you’re totally satisfied to have started salsa courses or to go for a run twice a week.
By highlighting the positive in your life, you’ll notice your abilities and ressources that are already present and activated and you’ll be able to relativize the negative events that occur in certain domains of your life. You lost your job ? Enjoy your free time by seeing your friends more. You can’t do sports anymore ? Take a book out of your shelf and learn something new ! This will allow you to compensate your sadness and frustration by investing even more energy in the domains that function, until you’ll start to take action to improve the evaluation of the problematic domains.