Subtraction

Subtraction

We get used to the life we have. Things that used to make us happy, no longer put a smile on our faces. We take for granted what we have and this is why, sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the good things that are happening in our lives. This activity may help you do it.

Try this:

“Describe an event for which you were grateful, from one of these categories: education, health, safety/security, possessions, break/vacation/weekends/holidays, act of kindness/support from others, achievement/performance.

Now, please describe ways that this thing or event might never have happened or might never have been part of your life” (Koo et al., 2008).

If you are like the majority of people, this exercise will help you appreciate what you have much more than before. You will start noticing the things you have gotten used to and started to take for granted. In an experiment, this activity was more effective than expressing gratitude.

Adaptation:

  • Think about your life and mentally subtract from it some of the positive events you can remember. Now, reflect on how you feel and what you are grateful for.
  • Consider your family and some of the positive events your family has celebrated. Now, mentally subtract these events from your life. What would you be missing?
  • Consider all the positive events you have experienced in your school. Imagine what you would be losing out on, if you did not have access to education.

References

Minkyung Koo, Aigoe, S. B., Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2008). It’s a Wonderful Life: Mentally Subtracting Positive Events Improves People’s Affective States, Contrary to Their Affective Forecasts. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 95(5), 1217–1224.