One of my favourite positive psychology authors ( and I have many favourites!) is Rick Hanson. In his book Resilient, he shares hundreds of practical, down-to-earth strategies for dealing with everyday life situations. He describes an experiential process to address issues of painful thoughts, emotions, or any negative situation that is difficult to bear. He uses the acronym "HEAL" to outline the steps for this simple, transformative exercise. I will describe this activity in my own words.
H -Have a positive experience.
Everyday, throughout our daily lives, we are gifted with multiple beneficial experiences. There is beauty all around us and we have many minute positive interactions with the people around us. The problem is that we are so often completely oblivious to these myriad experiences. What about the glorious sunset that flashed across the evening sky? What about the genuine smile from the clerk at the grocery store that warmed your heart? Or what about the delectable meal you had for dinner last night? Our problem is not the lack of positive experiences. Rather it is that we have lost our sense of awe and appreciation for the many wonderful surprises that happen every day. So take a moment to reflect over the past day or week and chose one experience that was particularly pleasing.
E -Enrich the positive experience
Savor the experience and fully live it. Describe it to yourself in great detail. Use your 5 senses to recreate the experience in your mind in vivid detail. Revel in the minute details of how happy it made you feel, even if only for a brief moment. Prolong the experience and carry it with you as you proceed with your day.
A - Absorb the experience
Try to imagine allowing the experience to sink deep within your psyche. Digest it and make it a part of yourself.
L - Link the Experience
It is not at all unusual to have both negative, painful experiences while simultaneously having something positive happening to you. Focus on the fact that the positive coexists with the negative Allow your awareness to take in both at the same time. Allow the positive to become more dominant, gradually diminishing the negative experience. Use a positive experience to wash over a painful memory from the past. Initially, the negative may threaten to outweigh the positive, and this may be an indication to revert your focus back to the positive. Over time this technique will become less overwhelming and you will be able to stay with the linking process long enough to make a real difference in your life.
This technique is a simple, yet profound method that helps you become your own healer for some of the difficult, challenging situations that you face on a daily basis.