Focusing on the Positive – Part 1

All people are inherently programmed to notice and immediately form lasting and indelible memories from having negative experiences more so than they will from having positive experiences.  For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you are more likely to remember that event than if someone allowed you to merge into traffic.

Generally, our lives are filled with considerably more positive than negative events so our moods tend to be good.  However,  a brain injury invariably brings about a noticeable increase in the number of negative events in a survivor’s life.  These negative events can include such things as the loss of a job, physical pain or a decline in mobility.  As the ratio of positive to negative events shifts, many survivors see a decline in their emotional well-being.

One of the methods that can help improve mood is to deliberately focus on positive events.  A simple way of accomplishing this is by writing down at least five positive things that happened during the day.  This should be done on a daily basis.

Positive events do not have to be large accomplishments such as walking for the first time post-injury.  They can be (and usually are)  smaller events such as having a nice conversation with a spouse or working hard in speech therapy.  Moreover, if the same positive events happen each day, they can be written down each day.  You do not want to ignore positive events just because they happen regularly. The events should  be documented and kept in a format that can be easily accessed and reviewed.  A clear and concise diary-style list is suggested, and survivors with visual deficits may benefit from making a voice recording of events.  This activity should not be done only in one’s head.  When we leave the positive events in our head, it is all too easy to forget or discount them.  As such, it is preferable to have them available in a concrete visual or auditory format.

Here are some sample entries of daily positive events:
11/25

1.  Went out to eat for breakfast

2.  Enjoyed reading a book

3.  Transferred from my wheelchair without help

4.  Showered with only 25% assistance

5.  Had a nice conversation with my mother

11/26

1.  Was complimented by my physical therapist for giving great effort

2.  Was able to share my feelings with my counselor

3.  Conducted a cash transaction without assistance

4.  Told a joke that made everyone laugh

5.  My wife served my favorite dish for dinner

11/27

1.  Woke up without needing my alarm clock

2.  Followed my daily schedule without errors

3.  Received a card from a friend

4.  Found out that I gained 5% range of movement in my right arm

5.  Finished reading my book

By doing this activity every day, it is easier to notice and focus on positive events.  Consequently, many people who engage in this activity experience an improved mood and an expanded appreciation of daily life.

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org

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