This week’s theme at Brookhaven Retreat is “Onward and Upward” and focuses on building positive emotional experiences. So much of therapy is focused on the problem areas and dysfunction, that even as clinicians we can overlook the positive aspects of a person’s life. Positive psychologists focus on attending to the strengths of the person and on examining why good things have happened in lives rather than just focusing on the problem areas. This week we are integrating the two approaches and working toward reducing vulnerabilities and increasing protective factors to create the emotional hardiness that leads to long-term success.
We carried this theme into our weekly alumnae support call and found many examples of the ladies continuing this focus at home. While it is hard to get well, we know it is harder to stay well, so this is a key component to living well and embracing life. One example given by an alumna was to take the list of things she likes to do to build positive experiences for herself and write each one on a popsicle stick and put them all in a large bowl. The idea is to surprise yourself by grabbing one of these each day or throughout the day and doing in that moment what the stick says. This is her way of staying mindful of the need to build positive experiences each day to help combat long-term depression. This also involves effort in selectively attending to the positives around us every day that may go unrecognized in the hubbub of life and in the pits of depression.
Activity and participation in life is the natural antidote to depression. For me, dancing is the best way to increase my positive emotions. It is not uncommon to catch me listening to music and bouncing around, even at the office. This is an experience I have a sense of mastery with so I feel good about doing it. It further enhances my sense of self confidence which is yet another positive experience. It also reminds me of favorite memories from my childhood when we would put on my father’s Motown records and dance around the house. This layering of connections is great for solidifying your skills and keeping your finger on the pulse of what is going well in life is a great way to further your recovery. Think about ways that you can increase your awareness of the good things in life and how you can create more opportunities to experience joy and you will see a shift.