7 Ways I Changed from Hunting the Good Stuff

I spent some time in the Arizona Army National Guard. They had started a program called Master Resiliency Training (MRT). Arizona had one of the highest suicide rates among soldiers. They sanctioned this program to help soldiers “overcome adversity.” The Psychology Department of the University of Philadelphia created the program. After a few years I had forgotten a lot of the training. One thing stuck with me though I never practiced it. It was called “Hunt the Good Stuff.” A simple exercise of writing down three good things that happened to you that day before bed. And writing why those things were important to you.

I remember a Major telling everyone about when he first heard about this exercise. He thought it was stupid. His instructor told him to try it. What did he have to lose? The training went for three days. He noticed by the second night of “Hunting the Good Stuff” he was sleeping better. This Major also had two young daughters whom he didn’t know how to connect with. One night at dinner, he asked his family to tell each other three good things that happened to them that day. His family started doing this every night. His daughters start talking about their good things before anyone else. He was able to learn about and connect with his children with this exercise.

Over the last couple years, my life has had many ups and downs. After so many things chipping away at my resolve, I grew more depressed and negative. I got so negative that someone close to me told me they didn’t want to be around me anymore. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I felt I had hit rock bottom. My job offered six free counseling sessions and I took them. I started a “Hunt the Good Stuff” journal. I still have a long way to go but I’m 1000% better than I was. That was five months ago. This one exercise has done more for me than I ever imagined. I wish I had started doing it sooner.

1. When I Look for Good Things, I Find Them

When I first started this exercise, it felt daunting. I wasn’t sure if I could find three things to write in this journal every day. I had to think for a few minutes. The more often I did this, the easier it got. I used to get angry and sad because my mind autopiloted into negative thoughts. When I sat down and thought about the good things, I always found good things. Perspective and attitude do play a role in one’s mindset. Reflecting on something good, no matter how small, every day has helped to change my way of thinking.

2. Others Noticed a Change in Me

It took several weeks before someone said anything. My sister mentioned noticing a huge change in me. A better change. My coworkers noticed too. One of them wanted to take photos for a work Instagram. I joined in and enjoyed being in the photos. I overheard someone say they had never seen me smile so much. Coworkers were happy to see me when I went to work. They were excited to work with me that day. Positive thinking has led me to enjoy the people I work with even if I don’t enjoy the job itself. 

3. I Gained More Self-Confidence

I talked with a coworker about some of the things I had been doing since I felt my life had fallen apart. I mentioned my counseling and “Hunting the Good Stuff.” I thought she would say that she noticed I was happier. But what she said surprised me. She noticed that I was more confident in myself. I never would have guessed that would be a result from positive thinking. It makes sense. Being positive had made me act sillier and have fun without the concern of what others might think. I can’t remember the last time I was like that.

4. My Attitude Changed; I’m More Positive

As expected, positive thinking has led me to see the world in a positive way. I don’t always assume the worst from people. I rationalize things differently. When someone says they forgot about plans we made because they didn’t put it in their calendar, I understand. I’ve done that too. Before I would assume, I wasn’t important to them and that’s why they forgot. Sometimes people get busy and it has nothing to do with me. I don’t make plans as often now, but I don’t get upset if things don’t go to plan.

5. I Changed How I Talk to Myself

One of the things I started along with “Hunting the Good Stuff” was a positive affirmation. The person I was close to who didn’t want me in their life anymore gave this to me. I repeat the phrases, “I like myself. I love myself. I deserve good things.” I once repeated these words over and over for about 20 minutes. This helped but writing three good things every day helped too. My internal monologue has changed. I don’t call myself stupid when I make a mistake. I don’t say negative things to myself as often. It’s still there now and then, but less frequent.

6. I Sleep Better

It doesn’t work every night. Some nights I’m still restless or only sleep a few hours. But overall my sleep has improved. I have dreams more often. Fewer nightmares. I sleep longer and deeper. I don’t always feel energized, but I don’t feel drained upon waking up anymore. I give myself a couple hours in the morning before work. I allow myself time to ease into the day. This has added to my daily productivity and attitude when going to work. Most of the time, I can go to sleep at the time I want to start sleeping.

7. I Enjoy Things Again

I used to have a general crabby disposition. Even when I used to enjoy something, I didn’t show much enthusiasm. I find myself feeling good after doing things. I go to movies alone and reflect on having a good time with myself. If I go to a party, I socialize for a bit and enjoy some food. I walk in with no expectations and walk out having had a great time. I get more reading and writing done because I enjoy doing it more. 

I’m surprised how much this one activity helped change my perspective on life. I still have hard days where I have to force myself to find good things. The last few weeks I’ve moved from at least three good things every day to four good things every day. More and more days are having five to seven good things. As of writing this, I’ve been practicing this exercise for over 150 days. That’s five months. I may never get back the people I lost when I was negative and depressed. But I will do everything I can to not make the same mistakes twice.

The good stuff is always out there. You just have to look for it. Happy hunting!

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

Don’t Be a Negative Nelly

My brain is always moving quickly–thinking, planning, reminiscing, dreaming, creating and is actively working. It doesn’t shut down much. It has always been like this and it always will. That is a part of who I am.

Sometimes my thoughts are happy and pleasant and other times they are negative, intrusive and alarming. When negative words and ideas start filling my mind, it is easy for me to become those words. I become angry, hateful and self-defeating or whatever the recording is playing inside my mind. Whatever it is I become it.

“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.”

For example, before going into work sometimes my brain repeatedly says, “I don’t want to work today. I don’t want to work. I hate working. I hate work. I hate this job. I want to stay home. This job sucks. I hate that I have to work. Hate. Hate. Hate.” I become my words and I begin to hate. Even after reading my comments, didn’t you start to hate my job too? 🙂

The more I flood my mind with angry words the more I become angry and unhappy. This is not how I want to feel and no way to begin my long eight and half hour work day. I will become an ugly reflection of my negative thoughts and will begin to feel the meaning behind those words. It will become more work to hide the negativity inside my mind.

After the negative words seemingly flow from my subconscious and echo inside my mind for a few minutes…

I slam on my thought breaks and screech my negative hateful words to a halt.

That’s it. No more. I must stop this negative thought process. My mom used to say, “Don’t be a negative Nelly.” Go from a negative Nelly to a positive Polly.

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Even though I don’t feel happy or positive at the moment, I start repeating positive comments to myself. It can’t hurt. It is better than feeling angry and negative. Plus, it can be a distraction technique. So, I say things like, “I love my job. I am happy to be going to work. I’m a good person. I will share my love with others. I will let Jesus’ love shine through me. I am happy to be alive. I will be a blessing to others. I need to let God’s love shine me and touch others. Please God, let your love shine brightly through me.”

As I walk into the building, I think, “I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my  job….” I continue to think happy thoughts until I encounter other people. Hopefully, my positiveness will stay inside me and reflect out of me and carry me strongly through my day.

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I am super sensitive to EVERYTHING–people’s verbal and non-verbal language shouts at me sometimes. I must learn to not listen to it and brush it off. I cannot let it consume me or become me.  This is difficult and is a continuous work in progress. It has helped me so much by getting rid of the negative things in my life and by that I mean people. If people brought me down and interfered with my recovery, I kept them out of my life. It was necessary and beneficial for my continued mental wellness.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” ~Mark Twain

I realize positive thoughts do not stop depression, but I have learned after years of living a mental illness life that I must keep a positive dialogue playing inside my mind as often as possible. This is a great coping technique that has worked tremendously for me.

Please give it a try. When negative thoughts fill your mind, say something positive over and over and see what happens. It doesn’t make things end like depression and of course it isn’t a cure for what is ailing you but it sure can help improve whatever state your mind is in. Just give it a try. It helps me stay afloat and combat the demons sometimes, and by demons I mean negativity, intrusive thoughts, past abuse, belittling, shame, hurtful labels and any negativity trying to move into your beautiful mind.

Don’t let negativity overstay its welcome. Negative words don’t pay rent and I guarantee there is nothing gained from the negative words or thoughts so kick out negativity before it becomes a tenant inside your mind. Stay free and clear from any unwanted negative guests inside your own mind and also in your life.

Positivity breeds more positiveness

and the birth of peaceful harmonious joy.

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