Wendy's Blog

In this case, what you don’t know CAN hurt you

by Wendy Keller, friend, mother, sister, daughter

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to feel better when your life goes to hell.  I have read many books and attended a lot of seminars that talk about what it takes to be happy.  Like most of you dear readers, I’ve had to get through some really tough stuff in my life, so I’m always looking for the best ways to cope and even thrive.  (And I try to share what I learn here!)

We’ve all heard about The Power of Positive Thinking.  Heck, if people just stop thinking about the fact that they have no money, are going through a nasty divorce, or that their kid is in trouble, maybe everything will turn out fine. Nuh uh. According to many research studies, that’s not really how it works. 

Why?  Because when something bad is happening, it’s really hard to NOT think about it. In fact, trying to insist your brain avoid it is pretty much a guarantee that it’s going to think about it even MORE often.  (Drat!)

So what’s a nice person like you supposed to do?

How can YOU be a little happier this week than you were last, no matter what kind of life drama you’re facing?

Crazy though this sounds, the secret to YOUR happiness comes down to JUST FIVE THINGS.

Yep. Just five.

Here’s what all the studies have proven really DOES work:  Every single morning (or evening) pull out a notebook and write down FIVE things that honestly made you happy that day – or for which you are truly grateful.  And write down how you feel about them.  

Not rocket science, right?

Five things.  And how you feel about them.

Do it for a week, and you’ll see an actual shift in your level of hourly happiness, despite the bad stuff that’s going on.  Pretty freakin’ easy, huh?  It works even if you’re really going through a terrible patch in your life.  It works even if you’re “just” going through some minor irritations. It works even if you have a mood disorder.  It works even if you aren’t convinced it will but you try it anyway because you’ve got nothing to lose.

Try it, come back and comment on how well it worked for you. Or write your 5 things for today in the comments section below.

To get the party started, here are my 5 things for today, Sunday Feb 24.

1. The sunlight reflecting off the water and projecting onto my bedroom wall when I awoke this morning.

2. My precious daughter showing signs of maturity and increasing graciousness (at almost 21 years old).

3. The fresh, beautiful head of red leaf lettuce with which we made a salad for dinner tonight.

4. The mounds of rosy pink blossoms I saw heaped under a gorgeous flower  tree today.

5. The fact that I live in a safe, free country.

I’m going to expound on how I feel about each of these lovely things when I re-write this list in my journal before bed tonight.

You are cordially invited to list your Five Things for today in the comment box below. 

  1. 1. My granddaughter’s beautiful angelic face in the bed this morning as I woke her for school.
    2. Conversation with a friend who is hurting like I am.
    3. Knowing I have a plane ticket in two days for a break from all the stuff.
    4. Buying size medium in tops.
    5. Feeling safe and having the freedom to go where I wanted to today.

  2. Hi Kelly! This was just what I needed now. Here are my 5 things for today, 26th Feb:

    1)I woke up feeling rested
    2)My beautiful 2 year old son is well and happy
    3)My car is working
    4)I can sit at work and enjoy a cup of green tea
    5)I have all my closest familymembers around me where I live

  3. I LOVE this post Wendy! It definitely beats the common “stick your head in the sand and hope for the best” strategies that are so prevalent.

  4. 1. I’m on track with losing weight
    2. Started a photography course
    3. Had a few minutes of sunshine after days & days of rain
    4. Hubby cooked a beautiful dinner
    5. Heard from my niece that my 84 year old sister came through an operation safely/

  5. 1-Grateful for my life coach Michael Naylor. What an incredible human being. I feel so blessed that you introduced me to him
    2-Being able to articulate more clearly in relationships what I really want. Beautiful place to be and feels good
    3-Having the time to focus on being
    4-A growing business with great positive energy
    5-For the positive energy of my meetup last night. I love seeing a

  6. Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    February 26, 2013 at 6:56 AM

    1-Grateful for my life coach Michael Naylor. What an incredible human being. I feel so blessed that you introduced me to him
    2-Being able to articulate more clearly in relationships what I really want. Beautiful place to be and feels good
    3-Having the time to focus on being
    4-A growing business with great positive energy
    5-For the positive energy of my meetup last night. I love connecting with people who value love and connection

  7. 1. Conversation with a friend/coworker who is hurting. It feels good to know I can help someone who just wants someone to talk to.

    2. Having a productive day at work.

    3. Going to the gym and working out while listening to music.

    4. Receiving a text message from a friend asking how was my day.

    5. Being surrounded by great friends, coworkers, and family.

  8. 1. I have a wonderful smart and caring son.

    2. I have a dog that sleeps next to me every night that loves me no matter what.

    3. I actually got a good night sleep last night.

    4. Im happy that I have a phone with internet to keep me busy when I cant sleep.

    5. Im happy I have donated 7 gallons of blood as of yesterday.

  9. Hi Kelly

    Here are my 5 things for the day

    1. Woke up feeling absolutely refreshed
    2. Completed some major assignments at work
    3. Returned home on time
    4. Found sometime to read a book
    5. Met a classmate after a long time. Had fun remembering those good old times

  10. 1. I’m happy that life exists.

    2. I’m happy that life has evolved to the point where I can exist and sit here typing this.

    3. I’m happy that I have vital organs that make it possible for me to be alive.

    4. I’m happy that I have skin, muscle and tissue that protects my vital organs.

    5. I’m happy that all of my ancestors were in the right place at the right time to have met the person they had children with, from the very beginning all the way up to my parents. If one thing were different, if one person left their house one morning 5 minutes later making it so they did not cross paths with a certain someone, I would not be here.

    I never take these things for granted and constantly think about how happy I am that life is even possible and how lucky I am and we all are to be here. I guess that’s why I’m always happy, no matter what.

  11. I found this to be true and used it while I was unemployed for two years. I would get up every morning, make my cup of coffee, and write several pages in my “gratitude journal.” I realized quickly that I have had an amazing life, and opportunities, that this was just a bump in the road. And that’s exactly what it was, as I am now employed in the perfect job for me, with great colleagues and opportunities abound! Another great thing I learned is that you always have something to give – and you should give it – to receive. So I spent a lot of my time, energy and talents in service to my community, which had far reaching rewards for me. And I know helped others as well!

  12. 1. Slept great last night.
    2. Text w/boyfriend this morning.
    3. Ryan stopped by to see me.
    4. Boyfriend will be here later today.
    5. Uncle Tim called to ask for my advice.

  13. 1. I love my home, it is warm, cosy, full of delicious food and my very comfortable bed.
    2. I am really glad both my children are happy, safe and healthy.
    3. Today I love my job. I felt like I was making good progress.
    4. I am glad I live in England where healthcare is available to all.
    5. I really enjoyed my dinner and can still taste it.

  14. What I’m grateful for:

    1) Clear blue skies and a cool breeze. Gotta love AZ’s 70-degree Winters. 🙂

    2) This fish sandwich I am currently enjoying.

    3) My good health.

    4) A loving family.

    5) The abilty to see, breath and feel.

  15. This is perfect. I am going to start this exercise every morning.

    1. Due to a series of events during my miserable summer I now have a spiritual mentor who is showing me how to open my heart and mind in ways I never imagined before

    2. Due to a series of events during my even more miserable spring I was inspired to become active in my community and I now volunteer for a local organization that I resonate fundamentally with

    3. I am blessed with friends and family that I know love me and show their support for me always and who I can openly love in return

    4. That I have developed an insatiable curiosity about the world around me

    5. That I had the opportunity to lounge on a sandy beach and swim in a salty ocean underneath the sun in a beautiful country last week

  16. 1. i lost a love, i have my daughter who takes away my sadness just by looking at her.

    2. i have diabetes, i earn enough to buy my insulin. im still alive.

    3. i have fingers (and nails) to scratch my allergies

    4. i have a pc and an internet connection to surf the net

    5. my friends are still up to listen to what i have to tell them

  17. Hi Kelly, loved the concept. The secret is reall to think about what makes us feel good and happy even when things go wrong. Daily we have good and bad moments! The top five of my day where:

    1) Drinking my morning coffee that makes me feel good and well to start the day.

    2) The smile of a kid that whenever she sees me. (i’m a kindergarden teacher:))

    3) The coment of one of my students that her collegue’s paiting was beautifull.

    4) The silence, at the end of the day.

    5) The jolly happy happy mood of my dogs whenever i get home! 🙂

    • Ha ha! Just for the record, my name is Wendy. Because of my last name, so many people call me “Kelly” in a week. Been that way my whole life! Maybe I should change it.

      Thanks for writing, Claudia.

  18. 1. Hearing a funny little Rooster trying to crow, reminding me that I am not the only one awake at this hour

    2. The rain thats watering my garden after a dry spell

    3. Warm cuddles from a loved one

    4. Grateful that I have work coming in (self employed)

    5. Its my Dads birthday today, and grateful that I still have parents.

  19. I found this site on my Facebook postings today. It is so very difficult to not think of the troubles and challenges my family is facing and many have been on-going for 7 years. But I think this is a very good exercise to do so I will do my best to post as often as I can. One thing our family has started is a Thankful Jar. I have a nice little glass Sunshine Coffee Jar I found at a flea market when I first got married. When something occurs that we are thankful for, we write it on a paper and date it. On New Years Eve we are going to take them all out and read them as a family. I think we will see God’s hand carrying us through our hard times.

    February 28, 2013

    1. My wonderful husband of 30 years that has integrity that keeps us all going forward in this terrible financial time in our lives.
    2. Three children that love God and chose to do things that help the handicapped, mentally disables and troubled teens.
    3. A Mother-in-Law that cares about me and is a wonderful friend that is beyond generous.
    4. A warm house in a great town.
    5. Friends that keep in touch and always encourage us in countless ways.

  20. Thank you for this! I sometimes feel that I am failing to look at things in a positive light, but it’s hard when you have reality hitting you in the face with problems you have to solve and you’re working your rear end off to solve them. This is a great strategy to keep the focus on what’s good in life.

  21. 1.My husband,son and daughter and I work like a team.
    2.We are moving to a bigger house that we will own one day
    3.My husband and I have jobs
    4.I am grateful to have lost the lifestyle I thought i wanted to gain the one I needed
    5.For true love in my life

  22. My 5 for today:

    1. All you wonderful people who’ve taken time to read and respond to my simple post.
    2. The endearing, inventive, touching and heart-warming things you’ve posted.
    3. My daughter’s kindness to me this morning.
    4. My ability to see – I think being blind would be very difficult.
    5. Sunshine streaming through my office window. I’m glad we live on Earth!

    • I have a question…can I write down more than 5 things that I’m grateful for everyday? and can it be at a different time everyday that I write those things down for this to work?

  23. Great post. I always tell my patients to write down 5 things they love about themselves and 5 things they are grateful for every night before they go to bed. There will always be good and not so good in our lives, so it really only comes down to perspective. And when we train ourselves to be grateful for what we have, it is so much easier to deal with the challenges.

    My list for today?
    1. I have the best friends in the world
    2. I have an amazing child that teaches me to be a better human being every day
    3. I absolutely love my career, it’s my hobby.
    4. I get to make a difference in peoples’ lives every day
    5. The cherry trees are starting to blosson!

  24. 1. I got a run in today
    2. I have a wonderful husband
    3. I am healthy
    4.I live in a beautiful place in a beautiful home.
    5. I have two great dogs

  25. 1. The sun is shining.
    2. Had lunch with a great friend today.
    3. Family is safe and healthy.
    4. Son decided he wants to do more chores in order to receive an allowance.
    5. My job.

  26. 1) the awesome cup or chai I made today.
    2) The new update for a story my friend wrote
    3) Feeling the first spray of warm water in the shower
    4)Looking at the rain outside my window
    5) Having a job in this economy

  27. 1. The sun shining through my window
    2. My cats making a fuss of me
    3. Laughing with a friend at a silly video
    4. My Son
    5. That I have family and friend who care about and love me for who I am

  28. I am happy to be lying in bed, warm & cosy. Listening to the wind outside and having the bed to myself, luxury.

    I am happy that my 2 gorgeous girls are tucked up in bed sleeping soundly & they are healthy.

    I am happy to be with my husband who I have been with for 11 years, he is fantastic and loving.

    I am happy to have amazing parents whom I love and love their company.

    I am happy to be alive. Living in an amazing community with brilliant lovely people around me & the odd lunatic to keep things interesting!

  29. 1. i had job interview yesterday
    2. i didnt get lost and enjoyed riding on a public transpo for my job interview
    3. I was 45 minutes early for my job interview and got called in 10 just minutes of waiting.
    3. although i was suffering horrible pain coz of my endometriosis, i managed to control my bad mood/temper towards my housemate who annoys me.
    4. i get to have anything i want from mcdonald’s coz my partner wants to console me with all the pain i was going through., comfort food eh?? lols
    5. I didnt slept at all last night coz of the pain but waking up next to the man I love and seeing his smile lit the entire room.. my entire heart… oh i sooo love him to the moon and back.

  30. 1. I am thankful to wake up with hope and more wisdom than yesterday
    2. I worked a day full of nice people and a new client that was wonderful
    3. Got to hear from my Husband and child and I am thankful that they are both as healthy as we all can be
    4. Blessed to have the time to reflect on myself and have chance to grow and be a better person to change for the best each day and the ability to understand If it is meant to be it starts with me!
    5. So thankful to have a beautiful new home that came to us after loosing everything to a house fire! for this I am grateful

    • Hi Sandi,

      My house burned down in 2007. I know it’s completely crazy! I was still looking for and wondering if I still had things that burned years later. As in, “Oh, yeah, we have one of those.” Only to find I no longer do. Ha ha! I bet you can relate.

      Wishing you and your family much love, joy, peace and abundance

  31. 1. A Chairperson of the TFD office really likes me and wants me to design posters for other departments.

    2. I can probably get shop hours doing something that feels like leisure to me instead of cramming in 10 hours to my crazy schedule.

    3. I just relaxed. And I get at least two hours tomorrow dedicated solely to relaxing. And two hours dedicated to dexterity. And two hours to creating an awesome piece. And one to remembering good times in hip hop. And 8 and a half to sleeping.

    4. I live in a spacious, peaceful house.

    5. My parents are secure enough to support me right now.

    6. I took it personally when the janitor said “Take care,” and took care of my emotions then and there and cried in the rain instead of repressing my emotions.

    7. Dinner was delicious. Tumeric and orange juice complement each other well.

    8. The people at the bookstore were friendly. The woman at the gas station was so sweet, called me sweatheart 4 times, and I really needed it too.

    9. People have been compassionate to me today when they really didnt have to.

  32. 1. My husband and I made someone elated yesterday by rearranging her kitchen cupboards. Physically moving the cupboards to a more appropriate position in the room.
    2. I awoke this morning to no pain. I love when that happens.
    3. I rode 16 miles on my bike yesterday. The ride was peaceful and not exhausting.
    4. My brother thought of me. He posted a memory for us.
    5. I have time for another cup of coffee before I ride the bike again this morning.

  33. a chat with my crush
    sweet message from my daughter
    eating japanese food and corned beef for a meal
    watching my favorite tv series
    nice comments from my fb friends regarding my profile pic

  34. 1. Got a workout in while watching American Idol.
    2. slept pretty good last night for a change
    3. woke up feeling good. Had quiet time to read and drink a cup of coffee!!
    4. Its almost Friday.
    5. Actually may clean the bathroom today….

    yeah my five are lame today….sigh

  35. 1.i awoke sober,going in t my 5th year.
    2.fit and healty.
    3.went to the gym
    4.recieved a nice ‘thank you text’
    5.i am alive

  36. youcrankypants says:

    1. A good nights sleep.
    2. Waking with a big furry cat and small pit bull on our bed. They were snuggling.
    3. Watching our bird feeders.
    4. Not having to make the 70 mile commute today.
    5. Making a card for my nephews 21st birthday.

  37. as i sit shrouded in darkness,going through pain of a broken heart.i feel my world is shrinking.i feel that when you give your all ‘you put all your eggs in 1 basket.so when things go wrong you have no 1 to turn too,due to stopping al the things you used to do,old friends,etc.so that must be a lesson learned.you say it is ok to grieve,but what about this ‘self pity’is this a normal emotion? thanks

    • To answer your question: YES, it is normal to feel that way. (Yes, I’ve been through it, too.)

      You stopped being the person you were, to be with, and give everything to, someone you loved, and when they are gone, you feel lost. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

      Give yourself time to grieve, just don’t stay there too long.

      Start thinking about and doing again the good things you had in your life BEFORE that person, and you will find joy in your life again. Call family, old friends, whoever will listen. When you can’t sleep at night, write down all the hurt, then tear it up & throw it away. Get angry. Cry. Let it out, then put it down and get away from it.

      You won’t be the same as you were before—you’ll be BETTER.

      It took years for me to get over mine, and when I finally felt content being on my own, I found an even BETTER partner to love when I least expected it.

      5 things I’m grateful for:
      1) My peaceful home.
      2) My 8 cats who were everything from lap warmers to comedians when I needed it the most.
      3) My boyfriend who came into my life during a difficult time in my life after years of battling the struggles of life alone, got me through it, and has a gift for finding humor in almost everything (which is occasionally annoying, but which he also finds funny!)
      4) My 5 dogs that collectively weight 250 lbs, but still make room in the bed for me (and are great cuddlers).
      5) Knowing that the painful experiences of my past can help others get through theirs now.

  38. 1. The kiss i got when my 5year old daughter woke up.
    2. I was early for work, thanks for the good stats today!
    3.My youngest daughter said her exam was easy.
    4.My kids are back from school safe & sound.
    5.My husband & i meet before going home from work.
    Thank you for this beautiful day!!!

  39. Linda Bradford says:

    1. I am happy that my husband finally retired from the Army.
    2. I was happy that I got to spend some time with friends tonight.
    3. I am thankful that I have a wonderful grandson to spend time with.
    4. I am happy that I get to go of town and visit my Mom and sister.
    next week.
    5. I am happy to live a comfortable life.

  40. I’ve been doing the lists daily but like most things of this nature, to me it just becomes something else I’ll beat myself up about! Whether I’m doing the list right or not, whether I do it at all, whether I can even find things to appreciate! I’ve stopped doing it now, so didn’t really work for me. Any advice?

    • Hi Alex,

      Interesting that you write this. Over the weekend, I attended a personal growth seminar and at one point, a young man about 30 yrs old got up and talked about how hopeless his life felt. It was really sad. The facilitator made an interesting comment to him when he complained he had nothing to bring him joy, nothing to hope for. She said, “It’s a choice, in the end. A choice to force your mind to pretend it’s finding positive things…” It reminded me that even in our darkest hours, we do all have choice about how we use our minds. My prescription? Read a copy of Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” and then resume your list-making.

      Wishing you much peace, love, joy and happiness, Alex.


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