Wellbeing: The importance of pleasant events
My colleague Andrea Cuc gave you all a wonderful August calendar with mindfulness and gratitude type activities as a focus for wellbeing in August. I want to continue that train of thought and add the importance of pleasant events to the list.
For many of us, when we are under stress or feeling overwhelmed, one of the first things we let go of are our daily pleasant events. We find this is true for many of our patients living with Mild Cognitive Impairment, which is why we include this topic as one of the wellness topics we include in the HABIT program. In addition, I've recently had the good fortune to collaborate with a colleague at ASU, Dr. David Coon, who developed an intervention for partners of those living with cognitive impairment called CarePRO: Care Partners Reaching Out. That intervention also highlights the importance of pleasant events (among other tools) for those who are a partner to someone living with cognitive impairment.
For many of our patients and their partners the focus becomes the frustrations or challenges of living with memory impairment or being sure to support your loved one living with memory impairment. This is certainly understandable; however, we also know that this can lead to unpleasant emotions dominating our emotional experience (e.g., feelings of sadness). I've previously posted about the importance of attention to pleasant events and emotions and a gratitude practice (you can review that here). That post was more about attending to the joys that are there each day. Today, I'd like to encourage active and intentional engagement in pleasant events to help further the balance between negative events and emotions and positive ones.
Now, you may be thinking that I mean big things when I talk about pleasant events--An around the world cruise, a vacation at the beach, a party with all your friends and family celebrating a major milestone. Those may be great, fun experiences, but that actually isn't what I mean here. Instead, what I mean are small, doable, everyday pleasant events to make time for. Examples include things like: Enjoying coffee on the patio, being able to read a book or magazine for pleasure, talking with a friend on the phone, or petting the cat or dog.
So, my first homework assignment to you is to make a list of your top 10 pleasant events. Again, these should be brief, realistic activities and ideally some activities that you can easily increase just by being more intentional about adding them to your daily to-do list. Here are my 10:
- Reading a novel while I drink my coffee in the morning
- Listening to music
- A meal at the table with the whole family
- An arrangement of flowers for my kitchen table
- Playing a game or watching a movie with my kids
- Texting on our family group chat
- Dad jokes (my husband has a lot of them)
- Lighting a scented candle
- Baking banana bread
Now, once you have your list, I encourage you to intentionally do 3-4 of these every day. If you use a planner, put them on your to do list. Make these a priority just like the chores you might add to your to do list. This is your permission (and your push) to prioritize something(s) that bring you joy each day. You might be surprised how just a few intentional positive activities each day can really balance out the stresses of the day!
Give it a try and let me know what you think!