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Three Things to Feel Positive About

Posted on 7 min read

One of the things my doctor has suggested to help me deal with my health anxiety is that, every single day, I write down three positive/happy things that have happened that day.

His theory is that people who suffer from health anxiety (or generalised anxiety disorder, which I also have: my brain is a fun, fun, place to be, people!) have a tendency to be fairly negative in general: to worry about every little thing, and to zero in on the bad or upsetting things that happen, instead of looking for the positives.

Now, I’m not a doctor (and to be perfectly honest with you, there have been times when I’ve wondered if HE’S one, either: mostly that one time I told him I thought I might be having a miscarriage, and he showed me a picture of a cartoon snake, which, he informed me, he’d had to pay $1 for on a stock photo site, but which he felt had been worth it, because it it WAS a very cute snake, didn’t I agree? But I digress…), so I have absolutely no idea whether this idea is a good one or not, but I also know that, well, that DOES sound like me, doesn’t it? I mean, I DO have a very ‘glass-half-full’ approach to life: it’s always been one of my biggest faults. I DO have a tendency to focus more on the bad things than the good ones. And I DO also have a stack of really great notebooks I’ve been looking for an excuse to use, so I figured I might as well give it a go. Well, it’s not like it can do me any harm, is it?

fear less diary
The doctor gave me a couple of  rules for this exercise: 

  1. I must write down three happy things every day.
  2. I must not repeat any of these things: so, for instance, I can’t just write “I’m grateful for my health, my family and Christian Louboutin” every day, and be done with it.

Er, he also told me I didn’t need to share my ‘3 Things’ with anyone, but at that point I was just like, “So… I write things down… but then I DON’T share them with the internet? THE HELL IS THE POINT OF THAT?!”

Blogging: it’s a hard habit to break. Possibly even harder than health anxiety, but I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?

Anyway, shortly after my miscarriage, Terry and I decided we would try to put some of this theory into practise. We immediately broke two of the rules because 1) We didn’t bother writing any of it down, and b) We told each other about our ‘Three Things’ every day. Some days it helped, and made me feel like there were still good things in the world, even although it was hard for me to see them right then; other days I’d struggle so much to come up with even ONE happy thing that it would end up being something like, “Well, I thought I’d burnt the toast this morning, but it turned out to be just really hard and borderline inedible, rather than totally carcinogenic, so I’m calling it a win…” And when the high-point in your day is a slice of only slightly burnt toast… well, that’s NOT quite so encouraging, is it?

Despite this, I’ve decided to try again with the whole ‘three things a day’ project. After the euphoria of Tuesday’s good blood results, I’ve actually been feeling quite ill most of the week (probably due to the methotrexate I’ve had…), and I’m also feeling quite nervous about tomorrow’s blood draw, which could just put me right back where I started, health and anxiety-wise. Reflecting on some positive things, rather than dwelling on those negative ones, however, is, quite literally, what the doctor ordered, so the plan is that every day I’ll write down my three happy things, and then, once a week, I’ll publish the list here. I’m calling this ‘Three Things Friday’, even although there will (often) be MORE than three things: partly because the main point of the exercise is for it to be three things per day, but mostly because, let’s be honest, it sounds better.

(Also, some weeks I might not share every single point, purely for privacy/laziness reasons, so who knows how many ACTUAL happy things there will be each week? And who really cares, either?)

I re-started this on Tuesday, so here’s the list to date…

img_6392
Sainsbury's tea light holder
TUESDAY DECEMBER 13th

01. Got good news from the blood draw that morning, and basically felt like Wonder Woman or something for the rest of the day.

02. While we were sitting in Costa Coffee, waiting for That Call with the blood results, I moved my chair aside to make way for an elderly gentleman with a walking frame. As he passed me, he said, ‘Thank you: and, by the way, congratulations on having such beautiful hair!” My hair hadn’t been washed for 3 days at that point, and is long overdue a trim, so I’m sure he was just being kind, but a small act of kindness is all it takes sometimes, no?

03. My parents had bought Terry and I this awesome Yankee Candle Advent Calendar (which gives you a festive-scented tea light every day), plus a gorgeous tea-light holder to go with it. As anyone who knows me is aware, I have a bit of a Yankee candle obsession, so when we got back from the hospital, we filled up the holder, lit all the lights, and the house was filled with the scent of Christmas. We haven’t bothered putting up the tree, or any other decorations this year, what with everything that’s been going on, so this will probably have to suffice for now. Oh, and if you’re thinking I’m too old to have an advent calendar, especially one bought by my parents, well, I will just storm off to my room now, slam the door and shout, “WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH? I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN, YOU KNOW!” into my pillow, while playing all of my favourite emo music on repeat. SO THERE.

dog disguised by rug
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 14th

01. Our friend Douglas popped round in the morning, with a card and some movies, as he knows we’re essentially house-bound right now, other than the hospital visits etc. When I went to answer the door, I was actually expecting it to be a delivery courier, coming to collect one of the many pieces of comfort shopping I’d indulged in over the last few weeks, and I was so sure that’s who it would be that not only did it take me a good few seconds to recognise Douglas, I ALMOST handed him a parcel to deliver, too: whoops! Sorry, Douglas!

02. In the afternoon, we went round to Terry’s mum’s, for dinner with the family. I’ve seen Terry’s mum a few times since this whole health saga started, and the rest of the family have also been awesome, and have kept in touch every day, but this was the first time we’d all been able to get together for a few weeks, and it was also my first non-hospital-related excursion in weeks, so it was just really nice to catch up with everyone, and do something ‘normal’ for a change. Also, my mother-in-law has the house in full-on ‘Christmas’ mode now, which makes up for our complete lack of decoration, I think!

03. In the evening, I had a hilarious text conversation with my friend Irene. Irene and I have been close since high school, and although we rarely get to see each other these days, it’s one of those friendships where you can not see each other for years, but then just pick up exactly where you left off, which is nice. My friends and family all obviously know about what’s been going on in our lives lately, and while I was worried that it might cause awkwardness at first, everyone has been so amazingly supportive, and I actually feel it’s brought me closer to a lot of people, which is never a bad thing.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15th
How Harry Potter basically saved my sanity

01. Today (or yesterday, by the time you read this…) is the 11th anniversary of Terry’s kidney transplant. This is the first year we won’t be doing anything to celebrate, as I’m just not feeling well enough, but, purely by coincidence, Terry’s brother, John, who donated the kidney, got the results of his own health check-up today (kidney donors need regular monitoring, as they obviously only have one kidney now, too…), and everything was looking good, which was the best news we could have had.

02. Whenever I’m feeling anxious or ill, I find that reading is the only thing that really distracts me. Unfortunately, ever since I had my miscarriage, I’ve found that almost every book I try to read turns out to have either a miscarriage plot, or some other scary medical situation in it, which obviously does the opposite of distracting me! Because of that, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks re-reading the Harry Potter series, and I actually feel like I should write J.K. Rowling a personal note of thanks or something, because I seriously don’t know how I’d have coped without it. I’m now up to ‘Deathly Hallows’, so it’s not exactly cheerful reading, obviously, but it’s absorbing, I love it, and I’ve learned that no matter what happens to you in life, there’s a Dumbledore quote to make you feel better, so there’s that, too,

03. I hit a new Instagram milestone today: 11,600 followers, which I realise is nothing compared to some people (And I’m almost definitely not going to meet that end-of-year target I set myself), but given that I’ve barely even thought about Instagram this month, let alone updated it, I’m going to call it a win.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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23 Comments
  • Gemma
    December 16, 2016

    We’ve been doing 3 good things every day for years. But we also tell each other, I didn’t know there was a not telling each other role! I was considering a post on the little things I do to deal with anxiety and stay positive, but it’ll no doubt be one of those ones I ponder for ages before I get around to writing!

    I hope your bloods tomorrow are fine. You can get through this, and I’m thinking of you, as are lots of people! Xx

    • Amber
      December 16, 2016

      I don’t think it’s a rule so much as as a theory this particular doctor has… My doctor has quite a few theories, though, so I’m sure it’s fine to ignore it 😉

  • Anna
    December 16, 2016

    This sounds like something I need to do, especially as I’m going through some health issues myself at the moment. Oh and I’m older than you and I have an Advent calendar, a beauty one bought by a friend for my Dec 1st birthday so if you’re going to slam off to your room then I need to too (my room, not yours, you can’t be emo in pairs!) 😀

  • Antonia
    December 16, 2016

    The snake. I mean… wow. I don’t even know where to go with that, it’s hilarious/terrifying.

    When was informed my HA appeared to be treatment refractory, I plunged into this horrible depression about the idea of just being like this. I did so much research on the brain chemicals involved (there’s nothing I don’t know about neurotransmitters which has thus far proved to be really essential. Ha, nope, totally useless) and I was so dismissive of “coping mechanisms”. I’d just huff: “ANXIETY IS PHYSIOLOGICAL YOU KNOW. That thing you’re suggesting can’t fix it!!!”

    The above is still totally true. BUT: it can be eased. It can be a little bit better to deal with. You can’t stop the thoughts but you can change how you respond to them. Focusing on the positives is never a bad thing and I’m glad you got a little normality in there xxx

  • Gemma
    December 16, 2016

    Ha ha! Good as it’s a bit late now 😉
    Also glad you deciphered my typo because that really bugged me and I can’t change it!

  • Fi
    December 16, 2016

    My mum has stopped asking me whether I want an advent calendar and just buys me one now. Because who in their right mind is going to say no to free chocolate?! I was quite tempted to get myself the Yankee Candle one but I didn’t. Maybe next year.

  • Mana
    December 16, 2016

    I ought to do the three things thing. I have generalized anxiety as well and most of the time when I get very negative I buy something then I’m either waiting to wear it, or waiting for it to arrive.

    Or alternatively my partner has what I’ve dubbed the secret movie system. Which is just where he’s either hidden a movie I’ve been waiting to see or he gets one/rents one on Amazon, snuggs me up on the couch with cookies and I watch movies til I laugh (I prefer comedy’s) it works quite well.

  • Elaine
    December 16, 2016

    I’ve done the Three Good Things in the past but haf forgotten about it, so thanks for the reminder. You write so beautifully Amber. You made me think about gratitude, and also laugh out loud (at the Advent Calendar tantrums!!)
    Hope there will be tons of good things going into your notebook xx

  • Gwen
    December 16, 2016

    I really like this idea – I’ve been pondering it for a while – I also have tendencies towards the gloomy or anxious and found it helpful a while back when a friend suggested I try it. Also, it’s nice to be able to look back and reflect on it too, and remember the little things that really do make your day.

  • Vickie
    December 16, 2016

    I love the Three Good Things idea, I might give it a go myself as I’m suffering horribly from anxiety at the moment. It’s actually very similar to something I had suggested in CBT for driving phobia (I have the full whammy of generalised anxiety, health anxiety and driving phobia) (oh and clowns, but that’s less of a problem in everyday life as I’m not in a circus…) … of writing down only the good things about a drive – so however badly it went, even if I had a total meltdown, I could still write that I changed gear smoothly at that roundabout, or anticipated braking before that van turned. It really worked, and made me feel much better about my abilities.

    • Amber
      December 16, 2016

      Driving phobia! Vickie, I’m obviously not glad to hear you suffer from that, but I am slightly relieved to know I’m not the only one who finds driving terrifying: I wouldn’t describe what I have as a “phobia”, but I can’t drive on motorways, and I get really anxious about busy roundabouts, and other situations like that – it’s yet another one of the things I need to work on, and another thing I assumed I was totally alone in dealing with!

      • Elaine
        December 16, 2016

        No you’re not the only one. I share the driving anxiety I’m sorry to say. I’m not proud of it and feel quite ashamed of it as most people seem to just drive with no second thought. It is a big hurdle which I haven’t managed to overcome so I sympathize with anyone who has it. Xx

  • Sian
    December 16, 2016

    We’ve done a couple of positivity workshops with work and in both of them, one of the stories told was of a man who kept a gratitude journal with 3 positive things per day, exactly like this! We had to set targets at the end of the first session and mine was to do this, so I went straight out, bought a pretty notebook and colourful pens and started my journal. I kept it up in there for a while until I got a one line a day journal from my sister for my birthday, so with that plus all the blogging and everything else in my life, I decided to swap over to only writing that journal but writing down positive incidents like these – I find it really helps! Mostly mine are about yoga and food though…
    I love the man who complimented you on your hair – how lovely!

  • Anna nuttall
    December 16, 2016

    Beautiful photos, I should do the 3 fear thing – however I don’t think I could keep it up. Have a good weekend Amber. xx

  • Barbara West
    December 16, 2016

    If I can ever get my sister back online, I’m going to show her this post and possibly start my own three happy things list. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

    Also, immortal Dumbledore quotes: “Alas! Earwax!” Always makes me giggle.

    <3

  • Myra Boyle
    December 16, 2016

    The three happy things is a good idea, I do something similar and remember to be grateful for my blessings. I also take note of kindness and once counted people had been kind to me five times in one day. I really embarrassed a teenage boy the other day. He was blocking my way and got up immediately and apologised. I said what lovely manners he had and took his hand between mine (touch is a magical thing) , but then I embarrassed him by asking him for a hug. His mum came up then and made him hug me, which he did gracefully. Hugging the old lady earns you Santa points I told him. And we all laughed. The old man was quite right to tell you you that you had beautiful hair. You do. It must be something about getting old – you just lose any embarrassment you might have had earlier in your life. I think we should tell each other more flattering things. I tell beautiful women they are beautiful, and you should see their faces light up. I flirt with young men (anyone younger than 60 is younger then me lol), but go for the dishy ones and tell them they have beautiful eyes or teeth. Then they open up and tell you something quite extraordinary about themselves. I love it.
    Why not make people happy like this?
    Your doctor is weird – was he thinking about snake venom as a treatment?? You have been so brave over the last few weeks, you have often been in my thoughts, and I hope all goes well tomorrow. I hope you will be in fine fettle for Christmas and choose a beautiful outfit to celebrate.
    Many congratulations to Terry on the 11th anniversary of his kidney transplant – long may he and John be well.

  • Sarah Rooftops
    December 16, 2016

    I used to do a Three Things February project which was exactly this: bloggers writing down three things which had made them smile every day in February. I forget where I originally got the idea (probably Psychologies magazine…) but it’s something I’ve come back to every time I’ve been feeling a bit anxious or overwhelmed and it always helps me – it sort of re-trains my brain to look out for the good things rather than the bad/irritating/worrying ones. Looking forward to hearing how it works out for you!

  • Emma
    December 16, 2016

    I can attest to the positive effect of this – I’ve been doing it for a bit over a year now and it’s made a big difference. It was only supposed to be for 21 days, but it really helped so I kept doing it. There was also a TED talk about it – dunno if you’ve seen it, and it might not be exactly right for you right now (it’s called the happiness advantage, which might be a bit off-putting?) but here’s the link if you want to watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M

  • Miss Kitty
    December 17, 2016

    I don’t think you should ever be too old for Advent calendars. I only just found out this year that you could get beauty advent calendars, I don’t know what rock I have been living under. I am totally going to buy myself one (and open all the windows at once, LOL ;))

  • Denise
    December 17, 2016

    Never too old for Advent Calender’s, and never too old to have them bought for you either. Mine aren’t quite as glamorous as yours but they are a traditional family one and that’s what matters. I have a nativity scene (every year we have a navtity scene of some description) and an awful joke one. It’s an important thing to do and they are always bought for us by my Mum and Dad, so we must be the epitome of cool – or something….

  • Cathie
    December 18, 2016

    Wow, I didn’t realise that driving phobia was a thing. I have a long standing term, my driving “inkblot”, it started as a circle of places I would drive within, one day my daughter commented the shape was more an inkblot and it stuck. It means I’m extremely anxious driving anywhere outside my comfort zone and avoid it at all costs. All this time, I thought it was just my weirdness ! Comforting to know I’m not the only one. Three good things along with Dumbledore can only bring good into your life.😀

    • Amber
      December 18, 2016

      Haha, I have an “inkblot” too, as does my sister-in-law: there are more of us out there!

  • Beth
    December 18, 2016

    Really hope the bloods went well yesterday (I’ve been up to Scotland so I’m catching up on your posts now!) Gotta say I’ve been loving all the HP references and I agree, there is something about JK Rowling’s writing that just seems to comfort and inspire! And as soon as I saw the second book in the photo I rushed to Amazon! Fantastic Beasts Screenplay! AMAZING! I really like the idea of 3 positive things, I might try and start it too 🙂

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