Building Positive Emotions
All of the skills we learn in DBT are there to help us to regulate our emotions better, and build resilience. Positive emotions have a big effect on building resilience, and can actually be ‘built’ over time, not just when we are in distress.
We know that both positive and negative emotions exist, and that they are part of human nature. We also know that we can’t just replace our negative emotions with positive ones, we must use skills to recognise the negative emotions and resolve them in a healthy way.
In previous lessons we have looked at lists of positive emotions, which we have all felt at some time. We may have felt joy in a particular activity, interest or anticipation at an upcoming event, gratitude for things we have in life, love and affection towards a spouse, family member of friend.
To help us build up resilience to negative emotions and thought patterns, we need to start introducing small does of positive emotions in each day. Over time, you will naturally be able to rely on these positive emotions, and develop more positive thought patterns.
There are many ways to build positive emotions:
- practice gratitude – each morning, write three things in your journal that you are grateful for. They could be the same things as yesterday, or new things. It could be as simple as a walk in the park, or being grateful for the support of your spouse or friend.
- listen to the birds – don’t do anything else, just listen. Appreciate that you get to experience these beautiful sounds in this moment
- laugh – watch a funny video, read a funny book, watch a funny movie. Do things that you know will make you laugh.
- build social connections – this doesn’t mean making friends or new reltionships, its the simple everyday things such as saying hello to the shop staff, saying good morning to the postman, passing the time of day with a neighbour. These should be face to face activities.
- write about positive memories – think of happy memories and write about them, go into as much detail as possible of why this is a happy memory. Reread them when you need to remind yourself of the positive experiences in your life.
- look for the positive. Even when things seem to be going wrong, see if you can find a positive. You get fired from your job, you can get a fresh start and a better salary. You catch a cold, you get to catch up on your favourite tv show.
- be more altruistic – offer to help a friend around the house, buy someone a gift, call up someone who might be lonely.
- be kind to yourself – treat yourself as well as you might treat a friend going through a rough time.
Over time, these strategies will belp you build more positive emotions, and develop tools to help better manage negative ones when they arise.