Dr. David Terriff, MD
Accumulating Pleasant Events
How is your mood these days?
The fears and realities of COVID-19 have brought many people down. You may have dealt with being ill, the uncertainty of diagnostic testing, or a COVID related tragedy. Your spouse might be bearing the brunt of the front-line. You may have taken a financially hit. Or, many of us have restrictions on our ability to connect with friends or our hobbies. It’s no wonder many of us feel disconnected and discouraged.
Our mood is very correlated to our experiences. Think of how your spirits tank when you get locked out of your car; think of how it’s hard to suppress a smile around a puppy. Our mood isn’t just “in our head” (although we certainly can contribute to our own suffering). We often feel how we feel, for good reason. How do you feel? Could you peg your mood, on a scale of -10 to +10?
If our mood is lowered by unpleasant (or even traumatic) experiences, then by the same logic, we can improve our mood through having pleasant experiences. As we don’t often have the luck to stumble on huge emotional wins – a lottery success, or a new romantic flame – most of us will have to pursue these pleasant events in a committed and consistent way. Little by little, we can intentionally add pleasant, or ‘positive’ deposits, to our emotional bank account. Just like a real bank account, we may not notice the little deposits, and it takes effort to keep it up. But, eventually, our deposits add up and accumulate interest over time.
How can you start making deposits in your bank account? A deposit, or perceived pleasant event, will be different for everyone: you might enjoy doing your makeup or fixing your car; it is likely you might enjoy neither. Do you enjoy reading by the window? Do you like sketching a funny doodle? It can seem trivial to spend time on a hobby, or painting your nails, or daydreaming, or watching the neighbor’s cat, but it can actually be very helpful for your mood, and for the optimal functioning of your mind.
Tips on ‘accumulating’ a pleasant event:
· Start ASAP.
· Do it even if it’s a small thing (Eg, daydreaming while you microwave lunch).
· Do it even if you think you don’t deserve it (You do deserve it. And, it’s not even about deserving. It’s just about functioning at our best, like treating our car to oil.)
· Do it mindfully (it’s easy for us to miss pleasant things because we are distracted and inattentive).
· Do it for yourself. And do it for others, as we are often better able to support others if we aren’t in a position of ‘overdraft’.
· Do it repeatedly. Do it to excess. Do it whenever you are bored, or have a free moment.
· Do it even if you don’t notice immediate effects (Eg, it’s easy to miss our mood brightening from a -9 to a -8.9.). Keep it up.
I hope you can add some pleasantness to your day, in your own way.