How Small Changes Can Help You Build an Upward Spiral
âThink positiveâ has become a clichÃ©, but Scott Glassman, PsyD, has learned firsthand that it takes real work – and it works.
Glassman was bullied in college and spent a long time in his youth feeling depressed. As an adult at the University of Pennsylvania, he worked with Martin Seligman, the leading figure in positive psychology. He then studied health psychology and holistic approaches to physical, spiritual and emotional health.
All of these experiences combined in Glassman’s work at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he built the A Happier You program.
Initially, Glassman worked with patients seeking mental health care, who used the seven-session program to improve their coping skills and well-being. The college was so impressed that A Happier You is now available to staff, faculty and students.
Glassman also turned the program into a book, A Happier You: A Seven Week Program To Turn Negative Thinking Into Positivity And Resilience. As with the original program, it is designed to be followed over seven weeks, so readers can make manageable changes that have a positive long-term impact.
Glassman practices what he preaches, including gratitude, self-compassion, and the little deeds that lead to a positive life.
Taking time each day to take stock of the things in your life for which you are grateful is a small but meaningful way to point your mental compass in a positive direction.
Scott enjoys doing his gratitude practice in the morning. âThink of the morning as a launching pad for the rest of the day – it sets the tone,â he says. Concretely, he makes his list by putting on his contact lenses. It has become a daily ritual that helps her calmly prepare to face the day with a positive attitude.
Your list of what you’re grateful for can range from the small – the sun, the feel of your breathing – to the deep: the people who support you.
One of the most powerful qualities of gratitude is that it makes us feel more connected to the world around us. When you share it with the people you love and make sure they know you appreciate everything they do for you, it brings you closer.
âGratitude binds us to others,â Scott says. “It’s a way of feeling interconnected in our lives, that we are not islands floating in the sea.”
Even if you’re on your own when making your gratitude list, taking the time to recognize and appreciate the beautiful things in your life can help you develop a sense of belonging. You remember that the world has given you things to love and the world in turn is worth loving.
âWhen we go into this state of being, it makes us feel like our world is more of a home,â Scott says. âIt’s a warm house, where others take care of us and we take care of others. Nature takes care of us, we take care of nature. Being filled with these connections leads to a greater sense of hope.
How to create an upward spiral
Humans tend to be quickly absorbed by the stress that occurs in our lives. Blame our old selves: When living in the wild, it’s important to always be on the lookout for danger – or a saber-toothed tiger – that comes around the next bend.
Unfortunately, the same instincts that once protected us encourage our brains to focus on perceived threats, in ways that lead to rumination and depression.
The good news is that there are ways to reverse the flow of your thoughts from a negative spiral to an upward spiral. By intentionally focusing on positive thoughts and actions, you can readjust your brain to prioritize happiness, instead of stress or sadness.
You can start by taking your temperature of happiness. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy am I today? How much hope do I have today? How much control do I have over my happiness and my hope?
Once you have your number, think about how you got there, from a positive perspective. For example, why did you rate your happiness at three and not at two? Your hope was at four o’clock yesterday: why are you at six today?
This creates an opportunity to adopt an optimistic perspective, rather than sinking into negativity: “A mindset of wholeness versus a mindset of deficit, versus a ruminative approach focused on negativity”, Scott explains.
It may cause you to realize that something that bothered you yesterday has now been resolved, or to see that despite certain stressors, you still have a lot in your life that increases your happiness.
As you get better at finding silver liners, you also improve your coping skills. Scott points to the âexpand and buildâ theory established by Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, who argues that actively engaging in a positive perspective makes us better problem solvers. With this mindset, we become better at finding resources and support. This in turn leads us to solutions, which decreases our stress and helps us become happier.
Another useful tool to start that upward spiral is a lightness checklist. Write things that make you laugh, that make you feel like you’re walking in the air. Silly and funny things are welcome: your list might include videos of cats, a certain comedian, or your child’s absurd jokes.
Laughter is one of your body’s best antidotes to the mental and physical impacts of stress. Deliberately identifying the things that bring humor and playfulness to your life can help you make them more accessible in your difficult times. It can help you recalibrate your thinking away from stress and get back to the positivity that takes you on an upward spiral.
How small steps can lead to big changes
Deciding to change your entire mindset from negative to positive seems like an overwhelming challenge. Especially if you are feeling down. âSometimes we don’t make changes in our lives because it seems too intimidating,â Scott admits.
Instead of seeing this trip as a big task, break it down into smaller stages. You might even make some of them, without realizing that they are achievements in themselves.
âWe often ignore the small steps we take in life,â says Scott. âWe didn’t want to get up in the morning, but we did. We didn’t want to eat a healthy lunch, but decided to add a vegetable.
Recognizing these small, positive steps as accomplishments can help us feel ready to take on the next, and the next. Eventually, these add up in this upward spiral. âIt makes the change a lot more manageable,â Scott says.
Starting with these little ways to take care of yourself can help you slowly build up to deeper self-love. “It’s asking myself what I can do to make myself more comfortable or to put myself in a better frame of mind right now, compared to how can I holistically love myself to a great extent. depth, âsays Scott.
You can’t reconnect your brain overnight. But you can make a small change and celebrate your first step towards a happier life.
The conversation with Scott Glassman continues on Leading with genuine care Podcast. We’re also talking about finding fear in everyday moments, developing self-compassion, finding meaning in life, and more. Follow me on Twitter Where LinkedIn. Discover my website or some of my other work here.