By Allison Task
Did you know that the time before bed is notorious for piquing people's anxiety? That's when you think about things you should have said during the day when you start wondering about logistics, a big presentation for tomorrow, or if your kid is coming down with the flu.
Therapists know it's a notorious time for anxiety. Plus, if you're sleeping with your smartphone, or watching media at the end of the night, let's hope there are lots of positive images or else all that negativity stresses your conscious and subconscious and can sent you straight to nightmares (literally).
So, let's flip that switch. Instead of stressing about life, or watching media, try this practice. It's called "Three Good Things".
Take a look at your day, from the moment you woke up until now, and think of something good that happened. Did you have lunch with an old friend? Did you stick to your new diet? Did someone give you their seat on the subway? Did you buy a meal for a homeless person? Did someone get a coffee for you, just because?
Now, take a few minutes to really think about one of those good things. Let's say it was a coworker that bought you a coffee. When they gave you the coffee, what did they say? What did you say? How did you feel? Did you give them a hug? What was the reason?
How did the coffee taste? Were you hoping for one? How did you feel for the next 10-15 minutes as you sipped the coffee? Did this lead to a conversation with a coworker? Did you think about paying it forward to someone else tomorrow?
By taking 3 to 5 minutes to sit in the moment, to relive it, your brain is able to experience the same happiness you felt at that moment. If you imagine yourself back in the situation (the more details the better), you literally re-live it in your brain.
Ah. Feeling good? I hope so. Now repeat. You'll find that thinking of a second good thing is even easier than the first - you've primed the pump. Continue to flesh out your memory, asking yourself detailed questions about how you felt and putting yourself back in the moment.
Repeat one last time, for a total of 3 memories. Try to spend at least 5 minutes on each memory to maximize your brain's ability to return to the scene of the sublime.
Aside from the straight-up joy you'll be feeling, the good news is that this exercise, if completed every day for a week, has been proven to increase happiness immediately, as well as one week, one month, three months and six months later, according to a 2005 study by Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Sometimes, in my practice, I'll find myself dozing off to sleep as I relive these memories, dozing with a smile on my face. It sure beats making lists, planning the commute or some other stressful activity. And I sleep much better.
I've had clients who enjoy practicing this with their partner, as a way to recall and share the very best moments of their day. It can help bring couples closer together, especially after they start families and so much of their lives are focused on logistics. This simple act of focusing on what's good makes life better.
Allison Task is a career and life coach who helps clients move from insight to action. She has been practicing coaching for more than 10 years and sees local clients in her Montclair, NJ office and global clients virtually. She is a speaker, best-selling author, and on-camera host. For more, please visit www.allisontask.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.