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The Jar of Good: Gather the good to create a more vibrant and resilient life

Have you, or someone you know, ever had a swear jar?

You know, the type of jar used to collect a loonie (or a dollar bill for my American friends) every time you swear with the hopes it will help to extinguish the 'bad' habit.

But what if, instead of using the jar to punish and eliminate a ‘bad’ habit, you used the jar to remind you of the good…to reinforce a behaviour of acknowledging the good things that have happened.

It’s easy to beat yourself up for all the things that didn’t go according to plan or that flopped.

The mistakes you made.

The things you said that you regret.

Or the things you said you’d do that you didn’t.

Looking back on this last year, how much time did you spend reflecting on:

  • what didn’t go well?

  • what went wrong?

  • what you could have done better?

And how much time did you spend reflecting on:

  • what went well?

  • the accomplishments you had?

  • the people you helped?

If you're anything like the women I coach, my guess would be that you spent more time on the former than the latter.

Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist and author. He has a metaphor for what scientists call a ‘negativity bias’. He says that our brains are like velcro for the negative experiences and like teflon for the positive experiences.

This ‘velcro’ effect makes it easy to have a heightened sensitivity to stress, upset and other negative experiences. Whereas the ‘teflon’ effect makes it easy to disregard positive experiences, overlook accomplishments and ignore progress you’ve had.

If we think of our brain like a garden, every time we walk to the negative patch we are blazing a well-worn path, making it easier and easier to get there. If we rarely go down the path to the positive patch, it becomes overgrown with weeds and or prickly barbs and brush, making it more and more difficult to go there.

In her research, Barbara Fredrickson discovered that experiencing positive emotions at a ratio of 3:1 broadens people's minds and builds their resourcefulness in ways that help them become more resilient to adversity to create a healthier, more vibrant, and flourishing life.

Similarly John Gottman, in his research, found that it takes a ratio 5:1 positive interactions to negative ones to build stable, lasting good relationships.

So how do we make it easier to get to the positive patch?

With intention and practice.

Get into the habit of the 3:1 positivity ratio or 5:1 positive interaction ratio throughout your day.

Noticing something negative?

Look for the good. No matter how small or insignificant.

Acknowledge the good and the strengths in others. (It always comes back to you).

Look for the beauty. We’re surrounded by it.

Note: I didn't say ignore the negative. It's important that we acknowledge and validate our feelings - both positive and negative. Being fully human includes feeling a range of emotions. I'm just saying, don't unpack there. Visit them. Learn from them. Then look for the good. The opportunity. The gift.

"Appreciate the good and the good appreciates." ~ Tal Ben Shahar

Try this Jar of Good activity

Make a daily habit of carving out and protecting time to:

1. Acknowledge the Good

  • On three different pieces of paper or sticky notes, list 3 things that went well today.

  • Jot down what you did or how you showed up to make that happen?

2. Gather the Good

  • Put that piece of paper in the jar every day. Over time you will be able to see the ‘goodness’ grow.

3. Acknowledge and Savor:

  • It’s important to set aside time to acknowledge and savor the good.

  • Having a structure (a reminder, a scheduled time, a trigger) helps us to walk down the path to the positive patch more often.

  • Triggers can include times when you’re feeling discouraged or times when you catch yourself beating yourself up. Or on the more positive side, a trigger can include times that something goes well!

  • Scheduling time to review the positive daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually is a great habit to get into. Maybe you pull out the Jar of Good each solstice, birthday or New Year to help you celebrate.

Play around with different ways to incorporate the Jar of Good in your life. And then share with me. I’d love to celebrate with you.

Peace, love and vitality,

Anita 🧡

Thanks for reading.

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