We find it increasingly difficult to consciously enjoy things. Negative thoughts also tend to stick in the mind more than positive ones. FOCUS Online expert Ilona Burgel tells you how to focus more on the good things in your life again.
"I’m glad you exist," a head of office recently said to me as feedback after a lecture. When did you last hear such a compliment?
Are you now inclined to answer: I can’t remember? Or: Never before? That I can’t imagine. To say something so nice to yourself, you don’t even need a special occasion, such as a birthday or Christmas.
The brain gets used to good things too quickly
There are so many good things in our lives. We just don’t see them anymore. Because our brain automatically focuses on negative things faster, more intensively and for longer – a mechanism that dates back to evolutionary times and was once, as it still is today, a protective mechanism. Times have long since changed, but our brain has not yet adapted to this development. We no longer live in constant danger of starvation or being eaten, but more securely than any generation has ever lived before. Infant mortality, fatal accidents at work, epidemics: These used to be taken for granted. Not anymore today. Nevertheless, we often feel insecure or afraid.
Every life is full of gifts of the good, the beautiful, the successful, the special. Only we take them for granted very quickly. Isn’t it the same with the annual review?? We’re going at an even faster pace than usual in December, and we’re desperate to finish everything that’s been lying around forever. We’ve turned celebrating into a sport and take in as many events as we can. To then lament after the holidays what a stress it was again.
If I were to ask you what comes to mind about this year, I’m sure many a negative event would be included. Assassinations, storm damage, losses, quarrels, unsuccessful vacations, etc. – all this would be immediately present. But if we look closely, they are a minority in a large quantity of good things. Because the media, neighbors, colleagues, friends – and yes, even we ourselves – prefer to communicate negative things, it seems as if the world is like this. No. We just have a different approach to information. And we are so stressed that we use tunnel vision to narrow our perception and prefer to focus on problems.
Therefore, be sure to use the end of the year to rejoice in the past twelve months. Take a friendly inventory. What have you succeeded? What was better than expected? Where was there a solution to a problem? What have you learned or dared to do? How often did you feel efficient and well in your body? Turning your attention to it strengthens your health. What pleasant people have you met? And who among them has told you: I’m glad you exist?
The brain forgets many things above the amount of events
Perhaps this friendly look back is not easy for you at all. Because we all experience so much every day, every week and every month, that some things are forgotten. Or could you tell at once what you experienced last Wednesday?
In the face of an overabundance of experiences and opportunities, we try not to miss anything. In all areas of life we want to get the best out of ourselves. There is one thing that comes up far too short: conscious enjoyment. We are sitting in a concert or lying on a massage bench, but our thoughts are already on dinner or the due tax return. Our precious life slips through our hands because we are not attentive. As if we had endless time.
Use the friendly year in review to recall wonderful experiences. What exactly did you get excited about when you were traveling? What special concerts or sporting events did you attend? What restaurant has given you a culinary revelation? Which friends have been by your side and made you feel good and showed that they care about you?
I have the following ritual with my family: At the end of the year, each of us writes down what we have experienced. In four categories: Cities, hotels/vacations, events, restaurant visits. First, everyone consult their memory. It really takes time. Then we help with the calendar to then compare together and give ratings for gold, silver, bronze in all categories. It’s great fun every time and we realize how rich the year was, no matter what else happened.
We can take the first step
When did you last say to another person: "I’m glad you’re here"?? Not meaningful. But just the same – direct and powerful. Where, when, to whom?
"Not reprimanded is praised enough" – do you know the proverb as well? It reflects our culture and mindset. Regrettably. In many surveys on the subject of stress, people complain about the lack of appreciation. It’s easy to imagine that you have a boss who never praises you or a mother who is always critical. Your neighbors may also be among those who don’t say thank you when you help clear away the snow outside their front door. So what? You can do it better. Most people think they act kindly and appreciatively themselves, but just keep an honest tally for once. The good intention is certainly there, but the execution sometimes gets lost in the pace and tension of everyday life.
How good are you to yourself?
Finally, when was the last time you said to yourself, "I’m glad you’re here"?? We are not our harshest and most ungracious critics? The desk not cleaned up, the tax return not finished, sports once again postponed. Why the waistband is already pinching again. That may be all. And yet you are and have so much that needs to be appreciated. Include yourself in the friendly end of the year inventory. What do you like about yourself? Are you helpful, generous, charming, stylish? Can plan well or make others laugh? Do you have beautiful hair? This is not only good for you, but also for the way you look to others. Also useful: the adage to treat others the way you would like to be treated. But it is not enough if we do not include ourselves. Look yourself in the eye every once in a while and say to yourself: it’s nice that you exist. Your soul will be happy and you will start a new year with good energy.
It’s good that you exist, dear readers. Because without you, my column would not exist. Couldn’t I do what I’m passionate about: writing. Write and create a field of positive thoughts. Because we all benefit from each of us being more generous and benevolent with ourselves. Then we have something to give away and approach others more positively. Everyone who reads this and takes the thoughts into heart and mind will infect others with them. In the best sense. The more people in our world, so rich in beauty, are positively on the move, the more we all, each and every one of us, benefit from it. Let’s work together to create positive cycles in which we stay healthy and feel well. If you want to train with me to look at the world in a positive way, this is the way to do it.