Sheffield GP: How a simple text message can help us be positive

When life sucks, we usually have a moan. However when life sucks, what actually helps to is to remember the good things that we do have in our life. Easier said than done!

By Dr Ben Allen
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 10:58 am

I will describe a quick, simple exercise that has been proven to help us feel happier and less stressed.

For some reason, we are better at focussing on what is going wrong in our lives. We easily forget what has gone well.

However it is possible to train our brains to start tuning in to some of the positives. This can have a fantastic effect on our mental health.

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Dr Ben Allen, Birley Health Centre. Picture: Chris Etchells

At the end of the day, spend a few minutes focusing on some of the good things that has happened to you; things that went well, that you enjoyed or were grateful for.

If you’re like me, you’ll find this easier and more rewarding to do this with others.

One example is to do it with your family at a regular time.

I’ve done it with a few friends from work by phone message. Having the discipline to do it can be difficult. It helps to have other people expecting your ‘Good Things’.

In only a few days, I found myself being grateful for small positive things that started to get my attention.

After a difficult day, when I least wanted to do it, it probably helped me the most. Also every evening there is a flurry of entirely positive messages from friends. Such an encouraging end to the day!

To set this up with friends I’d suggest a few principles.

Everyone tries to write three things every evening

It is best to agree not to reply to people’s messages. It works best when it is simple, quick and does not generate comments or discussion.

It may work best with 3-7 people. This is enough people to generate some daily messages but not too many to read. It is also small enough to be a safe group.

What simpler way could there be to brighten up your January?

Take a photo of this article, share it with your friends and start noticing Three Good Things.

n For more opinion see pages 20, 42 and 29.