When we're feeling depressed or anxious, it can be really hard to think of positive or happy memories. It can even be hard to appreciate good things when they happen in front of us. One reason for that is our ability to access certain memories can be impacted by the mood we are in.
Try it. When you are in a good mood, try to think about something really sad or upsetting that happened in the recent past. Chances are, negative memories seem kind of far away, and even if you can recall the memory of the event, you don't feel the painful punch of emotion that you felt at the time. When we are in a good mood, we don't want to think about sad things!
The same is true when we are depressed or anxious. It can be hard for our brains to access positive thoughts and memories, which make it difficult to get through the rough patch we are in. One intervention that I've had my clients start doing is what I call a "positivity" or "feel good" journal.
It is my take on a gratitude journal made broader. Instructions are as follows: list 5 things that are positive. Repeat daily.
I broadened the range of things from gratitude to "anything positive" because I wanted my clients to start intentionally notice positive (or even neutral!) things around them and to strengthen the neural pathways that do the noticing-of-positive-things.
Anything positive goes! Things you are grateful for, things that went well, things that made you smile, things that weren't that bad, things you are grateful for. From simply getting out of bed all the way to winning the lottery. Start noticing.
You can do it in any format you want. You can bullet-journal. You can wax poetic in paragraphs. You can practice fancy calligraphy. You can jot it down on a Post-it or Notepad app. Just write down 5 items. Every day.
After a couple of weeks of this, take a quick mental scan of yourself. You'll find that your brain is getting better at noticing positive things around you even when you're not being intentional. You might even find that you're feeling a little better than you were before you started your "feel good" journal!