Accumulate Positives in Your Daily Life

Courtney Bradshaw's picture

I have observed that oftentimes when I ask people how they’re doing, many allude to how BUSY they are these days. Can you relate? I know I can! In a society that encourages busyness and over-activity, it is imperative that we take time every day to engage in activities we want to do in addition to those we have to do. We all have plenty of responsibilities and, while taking care of business offers a sense of accomplishment and productivity, we cannot forget to incorporate activities that inspire a sense of enjoyment, too. In DBT, we refer to this Emotion Regulation skill as “Accumulating Positives,” and the goal is to accumulate positive emotions in the short-term by participating in pleasant activities daily. 

The most common obstacle to implementing this particular skill is lack of spare time. It is important to note that duration is not as much of significance as being fully present while participating in the pleasant activity. This undivided attention and awareness will allow you to derive the most benefit from the experience. Another obstacle is the need to prioritize all other responsibilities. In this case, it may be helpful to use a pleasant activity as a reward after you have completed any critical “to do’s.” Consider this as both positive reinforcement and a way to balance your needs and your wants. Lastly, you may not feel motivated to do something pleasant due to your mood or ineffective thoughts (“I don’t deserve it”) and/or feelings. This allows an opportunity to use another Emotion Regulation skill, “Opposite Action,” to deliberately act opposite to the emotion urge to avoid, to withdraw, or to be inactive. Do not wait until you feel like doing something or it may never happen. Instead, push yourself to get up, get out, and do something. If you are having difficulty determining what to do, Google “DBT pleasurable activities” or “DBT pleasant events” for lists of ideas. 

It is possible to find balance as we strive to build “a life worth living,” though it does require intention. Accumulating Positives is an invaluable skill in managing our emotions, improving our mood, and enhancing our sense of self-worth and self-capability. Do not underestimate the power of planning and engaging in such small acts of kindness for yourself on a daily basis.