Finding Silver Linings

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 10 mins
(24 member ratings)

Time Required

10 minutes daily for three weeks

How to Do It

1. To start, list five things that make you feel like your life is enjoyable, enriching, and/or worthwhile at this moment. These things can be as general as “being in good health” or as specific as “drinking a delicious cup of coffee this morning.” The purpose of this first step is to help you shift into a positive state of mind about your life in general.

2. Next, think about the most recent time when something didn’t go your way, or when you felt frustrated, irritated, or upset.

3. In a few sentences, briefly describe the situation in writing.

4. Then, list three things that can help you see the bright side of this situation. For example, perhaps you missed your bus this morning. Three ways to look on the bright side of this situation might be:

  1. Even though you missed the bus, you got some good exercise when you were running to catch it.
  2. You’re fortunate to live in a city where there was another bus just 10 minutes later, or where buses run reliably at all.
  3. Ten years from now, you likely won’t remember what happened this morning.
Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 10 mins
(24 member ratings)

Why You Should Try It

We all tend to ruminate on things that have gone wrong in our lives—a mistake we made at work, an evening that didn’t go as planned. We might even think about them so often that our lives seem filled with these mishaps and disappointments. Focusing on them too much, however, can cast a pall over our lives and even be associated with depressive thinking.

Looking on the bright side even when things go wrong is a key component of optimism, which research links to lower rates of depression, a better ability to cope with stress, and more relationship satisfaction, among other benefits. While finding the silver lining on a negative experience might (understandably) make you fear turning into a Pollyanna, many of us have a tendency to look on the bright side too rarely, not too often. This exercise is designed to help you achieve a healthier balance. 

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 10 mins
(24 member ratings)

Evidence That It Works

 Sergeant, S., & Mongrain, M. (2014). An online optimism intervention reduces depression in pessimistic individuals. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(2), 263-274.

Participants who completed a set of optimism exercises (this exercise and the Goal Visualization task) daily for three weeks reported greater engagement in life and less dysfunctional thinking (e.g., believing that small failures make one a failure as a person) at the end of the study than they had at the start of it. Participants who had a tendency to be pessimistic especially benefited from the exercise and showed fewer depressive symptoms afterward. However, these effects seemed to wear off two months later, suggesting the need to repeat this practice periodically.

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 10 mins
(24 member ratings)

Why It Works

Looking on the bright side of life in general, or of a bad situation in particular, can increase happiness by boosting your sense of self-worth, motivating you to go after your goals, and enhancing your enjoyment of life. Regularly completing the silver linings exercise can help you get in the habit of recognizing positive aspects of your life and seeing the upside to challenging situations rather than fixating on the downsides. With repeated practice, you may find that it comes more naturally to look on the bright side, even when faced with difficulties in your life. 

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 10 mins
(24 member ratings)

Sources

Myriam Mongrain, Ph.D., York University

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 10 mins
(24 member ratings)

For More

Check out the Goal Visualization practice, which was developed and studied in tandem with this Silver Linings practice.

Difficulty: Moderate | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 10 mins
(24 member ratings)

Completion Status

Comments & Reviews

  1. Marvin D. Hernández
    Marvin D. Hernández
    March 26, 2017

    Performing this activity 1x per week may be more effective. Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change Review of General Psychology DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.9 The second intervention tested a cognitive happiness-increasing activity. Recently, Emmons and McCullough (2003) found that practicing grateful thinking on a regular basis can enhance concurrent well-being. Gratitude promotes the savoring of positive life experiences and situations so that maximum satisfaction and enjoyment are distilled from one’s circumstances. As noted earlier, this practice may directly counteract the effects of hedonic adaptation by helping people extract as much appreciation from the good things in their lives as possible. In addition, the ability to appreciate their life circumstances may also be an adaptive coping strategy by which people positively reinterpret stressful or negative life experiences, bolster coping resources, and strengthen social relationships. Finally, the practice of gratitude appears to be incompatible with negative emotions and thus may reduce feelings of envy, anger, or greed. Thus, in the second 6-week intervention, students were instructed to contemplate “the things for which they are grateful” either once a week or three times a week. Examples of “blessings” listed by students included “a healthy body,” “my mom,” and “AOL instant messenger.” Control participants completed only the happiness assessments. The results again suggested that short-term increases in happiness are possible and, furthermore, that optimal timing is important. In summary, students who regularly expressed gratitude showed increases in well being over the course of the study relative to controls, BUT THESE INCREASES WERE OBSERVED ONLY AMONG STUDENTS WHO PERFORMED THE ACTIVITY JUST ONCE A WEEK. Perhaps counting their blessings several times a week led people to become bored with the practice, finding it less fresh and meaningful over time.

  2. Rodrigo Baena
    Rodrigo Baena
    January 9, 2017

    I loved the idea of opening up the exercise with a positive memory or influence. So often we start seen things from a negative perspective and it can make things harder. I used a similar exercise in my workshops. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. Scott Deeth
    Scott Deeth
    September 19, 2016

    Great Idea !!! Focus on some positives rather than the negatives

  4. Cathie Owenby
    Cathie Owenby
    September 16, 2016

    I have used this activity to critique (not criticize!) myself, and will continue this practice for a week. It's important to me to have more awareness of how easily I let negative thoughts take over my mood. I certainly have a tendency to show my emotions with a "resting bitch face" at times. Not an attractive or happy way to be, and it certainly can cause me to isolate far too much.

  5. sandra tisdale
    sandra tisdale
    August 3, 2016

    I am discovering that "little" things seem to irritate me; however, the "little" irritations that I am dealing with are big things because disrespect, and inconsideration are the bottom line of what and why I feel that way. How do I change feeling that way when I seem to not be able to think differently?

  6. sandra tisdale
    sandra tisdale
    August 2, 2016

  7. Joyce Douglas Yakamavich
    Joyce Douglas Yakamavich
    June 28, 2016

    I tend to be the "Pollyanna" in the group and oftentimes get laughed at for my positive attitude. I can only smile and think it is to my benefit that I can be positive while they find new and creative ways to complain and be negative.

  8. Jonas Hjalmar Blom
    Jonas Hjalmar Blom
    January 30, 2016

    This is a simple, yet very effective, exercise for practicing your perspective-taking. I highly recommend it!

  9. Andrea Velasco Burbano
    Andrea Velasco Burbano
    January 21, 2016

  10. Andrea Velasco Burbano
    Andrea Velasco Burbano
    January 21, 2016

    Great exercise.

  11. Fide De Viáncha
    Fide De Viáncha
    January 9, 2016

  12. Fide De Viáncha
    Fide De Viáncha
    January 9, 2016

    Lo he practicado y me da energia para seguir adelante

  13. Kim Perkins Giangrande
    Kim Perkins Giangrande
    November 24, 2015

    It is so easy to focus on the negative of the moment and bypass the smaller things or even the bigger picture. We are dealing with a brutal situation at work. While I can not stop the outcome, I can still feel proud of the ability to identify the problem and anticipate the outcome. It minimally validates my professional role in the situation.

  14. Larry Sanders
    Larry Sanders
    November 11, 2015

  15. Colleen Casey Leonard
    Colleen Casey Leonard
    September 24, 2015

    So often I find that I get bogged down with frustrations at work. This exercise is helping me to remember that there are also successes at work.

  16. Marta Schwer Zu Sagen
    Marta Schwer Zu Sagen
    September 22, 2015

    I'm going to introduce this activity to my children too!

  17. Julia Piñero Merino
    Julia Piñero Merino
    September 16, 2015

    I´m on it!!! <3<3

  18. Lana Morrow
    Lana Morrow
    September 15, 2015

    A defining exercise for me. The research pertaining to the lack of empathy in the US is very evident among teens. Disconnection and fear is increasing, which, I believe social media has played a large part. Communication lacks intonation, thus causing possible misunderstanding within texted messaging. Children's nervous systems are not developed enough to interpret rational emotions when determining the intention of the typed words vs verbal, and thus possibly misinterpreted.

  19. Alice Garfias
    Alice Garfias
    September 13, 2015

    This exercise really helped me look at the bright side of a current frustrating situation. I want to practice it more often. Thank you!

  20. Stephanie Glazar
    Stephanie Glazar
    September 13, 2015

    Great happiness tool! Sometimes we cannot see the proof of the silver lining until later in our day-to-day lives.

  21. Bob Mila Nelson
    Bob Mila Nelson
    September 12, 2015

    This helps me get through life and take one day at a time.

  22. Neil Chisman
    Neil Chisman
    September 11, 2015

    I'm HAPPY being a Polyanna - i thought she was great! smile

  23. Kathy Gevlin
    Kathy Gevlin
    September 10, 2015

    This is so simple, but so useful. The only reason I'm not giving it a five star rating is because I want to practice a little and see if it has lasting effects:)

  24. Eugenia Barth
    Eugenia Barth
    September 10, 2015

    really like how this activity keep me present in the moment

  25. Alexis Statham
    Alexis Statham
    August 29, 2015

  26. gaelle
    gaelle
    June 30, 2015

  27. Carolyn Copenhaver
    Carolyn Copenhaver
    June 26, 2015

  28. Scott Ofsdahl
    Scott Ofsdahl
    June 7, 2015

    Thank you for reminding us to focus on all the good life has to offer. I'm an AF Chaplain and this exercise will help Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Sailors find light to balance some dark experiences. I found this exercise most beneficial in my own life.

  29. Bozena Kloda-Urbanski
    Bozena Kloda-Urbanski
    June 3, 2015

    Love this new site!!

  30. Bozena Kloda-Urbanski
    Bozena Kloda-Urbanski
    June 3, 2015

    What a great reminder of one of the practices taught in Science of Happiness course! It takes only a split second to shift our mind from one state to another so having this tool makes it easier to build a habit of finding positive in any situation.

  31. Judy Egnew Ness
    Judy Egnew Ness
    May 27, 2015

    This was very helpful and I know I'll use it as a therapist. I used it for myself in dealing with frustration over caring for my mother-in-law after my father-in-law's recent death. It really did improve my attitude when I started looking for silver linings. (I actually listed seven!)

  32. Chelsea Green
    Chelsea Green
    May 27, 2015

    I'm going to use this activity in a workshop for at-risk youth who will be starting their first jobs this summer. I think it will be a great practice to have in their tool kit if (when) they encounter a bad day.

  33. Hai Hoang
    Hai Hoang
    April 20, 2015

    More please

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