Best Day of my Life

A ray of sunlight through snowy treesI enjoyed a beautiful walk in the snow early this morning.

One of the best things about the walk was the sound of children’s laughter.  One child in particular caught my attention.  She was probably four or five years old and was looking up the hill where older children and adults were sledging and throwing snowballs.  She turned to her mother, who was recording the scene on her ‘phone, and said “best day of my life”.

This got me thinking.  I had already experienced several ‘happy flashbacks’ as I heard and felt the snow crunching under my feet, tasted the icy freshness, and watched families playing together.   I remembered walking in the snow with my mum and the smell of her coat as it became damp with snowflakes, shoveling snow from the path with my dad,  and watching our chalked hopscotch disappear as the pavement turned white.

There’s no doubt in my mind that happy memories are good for us; they strengthen positive aspects of our life story, and one happy memory can give us access to more.  When our storytelling self moves in a positive direction,we are more likely to make further positive discoveries which will in turn nurture this life-enhancing trend.

Often my clients find it difficult to get started on the pathway to happy memories. Exclamations such as:  “I can only remember being criticised”; “No-one ever praised me”; I was always in the wrong” arise more easily than recalling words of encouragement, praise or love.

And then I thought of her mum’s ‘phone, and the video that this 5 year old will be able to play and replay, revisiting an experience of joy, love and excitement; “The best day of my life” at the click of a mouse or a touch on a smart phone.  This generation is already the most photographed and recorded of all time.

I wonder whether repeated viewing of milestones and memories will give these young people much easier access to positive narratives that can nurture their future and make experiences of joy, encouragement and love a more prominent part of their view of the future.

It’s a possibility.

…and now for the good news

Surely we are surrounded by safety… safe relationships, safe journeys, safe schools; isn’t the list endless?  Take a moment to think of just three ‘safe’ experiences you have enjoyed in the last couple of days.

It’s telling that when, in my research for this post, I searched for ‘safe travel’, statistics for accidents and fatalities consistently came top of the responses. I was looking for statistics for road trips made without accident; uneventful rail, air and sea journeys; people walking to school, or work or walking the dog without coming to harm. The default response to ‘search safe’ seems to be ‘find unsafe’.

I found the UK National Statistics Information Hub www.statistics.gov.uk/hub and, encouraged by the title, followed the link to ‘Child Safety and Wellbeing’.  In the 35 documents listed under Child Safety and Wellbeing I found only 3 references to positive participation, satisfaction, or emotional health and achievement. These were the exceptions amid multiple references to youth crime, sentencing and detention of young people, substance misuse etc.

It is not my intention here to criticise the Statistical Information services.  I am simply highlighting the fact that good news is so hard to find even while we are surrounded by it.  Look around you and see the evidence of children in secure families, play areas being used happily, successful youth groups, gymnastics clubs and street dancing etc.

Consider for a moment the millions of people walking in our towns and countryside freely and reaching their destination safely.  Isn’t the same true of thousands of rail journeys, flights and ferry crossings?

So why, if we turn on the news, or pick up a paper, might we allow one story involving ‘unsafe’ dominate our thoughts and feelings?

I suggest that it is because the version of ‘reality’ that has come to dominate the story – the narrative – of our lives is an unnecessarily negative one.  Once we realise this we can begin to see our life from a new, more balanced, perspective.

The good news is that there is an abundant source of good news all around us and all we have to do is allow ourselves to notice it.

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