Paying Attention to Positives
This section is about practicing increasing our positive emotions. This is another step in learning to deal with our difficult emotions. We need some positive emotions to put in the place of the negative emotions, or to share their space. This, like all of our DBT skills, may take some practice. If we are very used to dealing with negative emotions a lot, it may take a while to make some space for positive emotions and pleasant experiences.
Short Term Experiences
Short-term positive experiences could be something like a swim, a walk in the park, going out for pizza, watching a favorite TV show, talking on the phone to a friend. Most of us probably already do something like this in our lives. We are asking you to INCREASE doing pleasant things that give you positive emotions. Doing more of this makes us feel good, which we deserve, even in the midst of all the turmoil, and it gets us in the habit of having positive feelings.
Long Term Experiences
In addition to having short term pleasant experiences, we also want to do things and make changes in our lives that will make positive events happen more often. Marsha Linehan often speaks of having "a life worth living." This is part of what makes life worth living.
Another important area to work on for a more positive future is relationships. This is not an easy area for most of us. But we can do some things that will help.
If you really care about a relationship that has gone bad or just lapsed, work on repairing it. In my own life, I had a relationship that I had let go for 20 years. L. was my best friend all through school. The last time I saw her, she was headed to Europe, and the meeting wasn't totally comfortable. I let 20 years go by, feeling hurt and abandoned. And then somehow it came to me that I did not have wait for her to write. I could write myself. Maybe she would answer and maybe she wouldn't. Well, she did and we have since gotten together, and that big knot I felt because she didn't write to me is gone. (By the way, I learned that she is an absolutely terrible letter writer! That's why the long silence.)
2. Create a New Relationship
We can also reach out for new relationships. This is hard for a lot of us. One thing I have found helpful is to choose a community activity, like a club, bowling, singing, church, community gardening, etc. Go every week, and you will see the same people over and over, and begin to chat and feel familiar. Invite someone you like for coffee or a walk. Maybe you might try something like that for one of your Pleasant Events for this week.
3. Work on a Current Relationship
This could include spouses, partners, children, parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, any one who is close to you or with whom you spend a lot of time. If you think that your positive feelings would improve by working on a present relationship, then give it a try. Don't let all your happiness depend on one person. Try to cultivate a variety of relationships.
These last two points are really important if you are going to have and keep positive experiences in your life.
1. BE MINDFUL OF POSITIVE EXPERIENCES
Remember when we talked about and practiced mindfulness? To be mindful of positive experiences means applying mindfulness to the things that give you pleasure. Focus your attention on the positive things that happen or that you do - a talk with a friend, a walk in the woods, an ice cream cone, a good night's sleep, anything that you enjoy. Focus your attention on it, and if your attention wanders, refocus as many times as necessary. This will help to get you into the habit of experiencing pleasure.
2. BE UNMINDFUL OF WORRIES
Distract yourself from:
For example, if you find yourself thinking, "Gee, I'm having fun at the circus, but I am so messed-up, I don't deserve this," distract yourself. Focus on the experience. Keep those worry thoughts away.
This lesson on focusing on positive experiences is a lot of material. You don't need to do it all at once. Just work down the list, and remember that actually practicing the skills is the most important thing, practicing them every day, until they become second-nature to you. Because we are trying to change thought and behavior patterns that have been with us for many years, you can expect that it's going to take a while to change things. But stick with it, because you CAN change, and it is SO worth it.
What are you doing to put some more positive experiences in your life? Maybe schedule something nice for what is usually a down time of day for you. Try something you've never done before. Ask someone to do a pleasant events with you. Anytime you are feeling really down or blah, check out the Adult Pleasant Event Schedule and see what might appeal to you.