Gifts of joy: positive thinking and mental health

The veg is peeled, the turkey’s waiting, and the table is set—and as crazy as it seems, Christmas is just hours away. For the first time in a good five years, I’m feeling properly festive and looking forward to celebrating with my family, especially as my sister’s boyfriend’s and his family are joining us for lunch.

But as exciting as the presents under the tree are, I thought now would be a good time to talk about one of my favourite mental-health boosts: the unexpected gifts we all receive on a daily basis.

When you’re down, it’s only too easy to focus on negative stuff that happens, which reinforces your mood. I think most people’s brains are wired that way; I know I often end the day dwelling on some fairly minor crappy event. Believe me, I don’t want this to come across that I think mentally ill people should just ‘cheer up’ and ‘think positive’, because I know that’s often not possible.

mental health at christmas But it is possible to practice this mental health trick. When I’m trying to pick up my mood, I make a conscious mental note of every good thing that happens to me during the day; sometimes I even make a physical list. These little ‘gifts of joy’ are often insignificant, but they’re just one small way you can train your brain to seek out happiness. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true: I now feel like ‘positive thinking’ is a strength of mine, where it used to be anything but.

I tried to come up with 12 gifts of joy (because it’s Christmas, and there’s 12 days of Christmas… or something) but mine are fairly boring, and mainly consist of food/meeting cute dogs. So, I had a whip round the office to round up some of the weird and wonderful joy gifts we all experience on a daily basis. Some are poetic, some are pragmatic—but all of them are a little boost from the universe and a way to increase your positive thoughts.

  1. ‘Unexpectedly good sunsets in the midst of a grey and dreary winter.’
  2. ‘When you wake up before your alarm goes off.’
  3. ‘Getting a seat on the tube/bus/train. A cliché for a reason. Likewise: getting to the platform just as the train/tube arrives.’ (Editor’s note: there’s a set of traffic lights just outside my tube stop that takes ages to change. When I get off the tube just as the lights turn green and get to saunter across without missing a beat, it gives me way too much joy.)
  4. ‘When I get to the gym and the smith machine is free.’
  5. ‘When work has my favourite porridge and almond milk in stock for breakfast.’
  6. ‘When someone’s eating something delicious, and they get full and offer you the remainders.’
  7. ‘When you’re buying a baguette from the bakery and the person behind the counter gives you the most filled, juiciest looking one.’
  8. ‘When you get home late and think you’ve run out of makeup wipes, and then discover you’ve got one
  9. ‘Unexpectedly seeing dogs: especially if they sit next to you on public transport, and the owner is happy for you to pet them.’ (Ed: this was mine, but other people backed it up.)
  10. ‘When your overdraft is at bursting point and you risk it anyway and your card doesn’t get declined. Winning.’
  11. ‘Turning on the radio just as your favourite song comes on.’
  12. ‘When my favourite toilet at work is free.’ (Ed: fair.)

nicer thoughts Give this form of positive thinking a go next time you’re having a crap day—physically make a list of every good thing that happens, no matter how insignificant. I’d love to hear about the weird things that make you guys happy, so let me know in the comments!

And now, go off and enjoy your festivities in whatever way brings you the most joy. Merry Christmas, and lots of love to everybody who has read, commented on or shared my blog this year.

And if you want to get me a last minute present… please scroll down to subscribe and be kept up to date with all my posts!xox

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