In many ways, happiness is a choice. While there are of course events in our lives that make us fail to see the bright side in it (like the loss of a loved one), there are little things in every single day that can trigger a smile on our face or make us laugh. We choose what we make the predominant moment or theme of our day and our life. By emphasizing the negative events and their impact on us, we give them power and that power can literally overpower our experience as human beings, if we allow it to. Likewise, if we emphasize the positive moments of our day, they become the defining factor. We all know someone who is always unhappy with something or another – whenever one “struggle” or obstacle that bugged them is removed, you can be darn sure that another one awaits for them around the corner. At the same time, we also usually have this other friend, the one who seems to radiate joy, even though they recently had their leg amputated and their favorite pet just passed on. We never question the endless struggle of friend number 1, but always tend to question the sanity of friend number 2, even though they have it right. Life is what you make of it and it is certainly too short, no matter how long it lasts, to sit there in misery. Find the spark of positivity in everything you do.
Optimism and gratitude are an antidote to unhappiness. Sadly, however, so much in our world tends to focus on a negative outlook, the challenges we face and bad news. The prime example of that of course is the topics media tends to highlight and report on. Leaning towards negativity is deeply human – after all, we are a vulnerable species in terms of our ability to fight predatory animals and we lack a thick fur to protect us from the cold (weeeeeell, maybe not all of us). In order to make provisions for the challenges of tomorrow and ensure our primal survival, humans worry. Unless you worry about where to find a shelter for the night and where your next meal comes from, take a step back and do a comprehensive accounting: is life really a struggle or is the lack of your favorite breakfast cereal in the pantry maybe just a minor inconvenience that does not really impact your day? Or maybe, just maybe, this small deviation from your standard morning routine meant that you randomly discovered that a smoothie is also a great kick-starter to your day and you would have never known this blessing, had you not forgotten to restock on your cereal. In a nutshell: life is a matter of perspective.
While positive thinking is great, talking is even better. We are, after all, a deeply social animal. Enter the reflection dice. I came to realize that sometimes we need a little support to get us talking about the things that really matter in life and the things that we usually tend to think about before we fall asleep and thus do it in isolation. The dice allows us to verbalize our thoughts and share them. Sharing is caring in this case, as sharing our thoughts with those closest to us builds an emotional bridge and reinforces connection. It allows us to be open, to gain another perspective on things, to talk, to listen, to partake.
The idea of the dice is really simple. You take turns and every person at the dinner table rolls the dice and answers the question or finishes the half-sentence written on the side of the dice that faces upwards. Do one or two rounds each session and make it part of your family dinner tradition each evening. I strongly encourage you to try this even if you live alone, because you still get the positive effect from it. If you do this just for yourself, consider still saying your answer out loud. Speaking is a powerful tool to feel connected, even if “connected” in this case means being connected to ourselves alone. Which is the most important connection we will have in our lives anyways. Click here for a wooden dice to write your sentences/questions on. Choose one that is at least one inch/2.5 centimeters in width.
Since a dice has six sides to it, it gives you the opportunity for six different questions or sentence fragments to finish. Down below you can find a list of various suggestions. Choose those that work for you or simply use the ideas below as inspiration to brainstorm your own. I recommend to focus on positive or hopeful content for the cube sides, although it can be great to include one question or sentence that gives the person rolling the dice the chance to also talk about things that were challenging in their day or that worry them. While it is good to put emphasis on positive aspects, it is equally important to allow yourself/your partner/your family, to voice things that negatively impacted their day to either find the positive spin by reflecting on that moment or to simply just get it out of your system regardless.
- Today, I am grateful for…
- My best moment today was…
- This made me smile today:
- This made today great:
- This made me feel optimistic today:
- This made me laugh today:
Neutral or “emotionally open” options:
The idea behind these suggestions is to give the person whose turn it is the opportunity to voice thoughts or events that negatively impacted them, but keep them open enough that they do not trigger default negativity (e.g., a challenge can be a negative, but also a positive or neutral experience, like overcoming an obstacle/finally solving a math problem in school/managing to run 5k, etc.).
- This challenged me today:
- Today, I thought about…
- Today, I felt…
- Today, I learnt that…
- Today was…
- This impacted me today:
If you feel uncomfortable with the dice or do not find it feasible for you, consider a one-line-a-day-journal. It’s super simple and takes almost no time as there is no need to pour your heart out. Simply write down the one word that sums up the positive of your day. You will have two effects from this. You will end each day with a positive feeling (and isn’t that the best way to wander off to dream land anyways?) and you will see how good your life actually is whenever you flick through the pages, a great pick-me-up when you are ever feeling blue. Click here for such a journal to guide you through your day, year and life.