What’s going right on Monday morning?

Using powerful questions to change your mood

Like Comment

I woke up this morning feeling down. Next to me was my husband struggling with the flu, changing from hot to cold and backwards all through the night. I was up twice with him, heating up the hot water bottle to warm him up. My two and a half years old Theodore woke up pretty early – rather unexpectedly, considering that he went to bed at 10 pm. How wrong I was to hope for a little lie-in. I was up three times with him last night, as he is taking his potty training very seriously, refusing to use a nappy as a backup, even for the night. So let’s count – 7 hours (the total possible) minus 15 min (getting up average) multiplied by 5 (times of getting up). I must’ve slept 5 hours 45 minutes in the very best of cases. And as I get up, Cookie the dog meets me with a large puddle in the middle of the living room...

It is Monday morning. I feel angry with the sun for rushing into the office and making my computer screen too bright to be useful, as well as for pretending to be warm, when the summer is clearly not there yet. I don’t know how to make the three deadlines that I have for today, when even the first one feels a bit too large to handle in one day. I have a slight hangover, though I only had two (ok, may be three) glasses of wine yesterday night. And to top it all up, coffee beans have just run out – why on earth did I not check the coffee jar before going shopping yesterday? And how am I expected to complete at least the first recommendation document without a cup of coffee?

I am starting to suspect that I must be coming across as a little too negative for someone who is supposed to be a positive psychologist. Yes, I know that the negative attitude zaps the energy that I already don’t have too much of this morning. It will probably not help me think too well either. I also know damn well how to reverse the focus, but why am I resistant? Three things to be grateful for, the usual research-based advice of Sonja Lyubomirsky? For the paddle on the floor? Thank you very much, it’s not working.

Let’s try again - what’s going right for me right now? I am cringing still, but a little less, as the question feels more palatable. I am trying to restrain myself from responding “nothing”, pushing to go on and find at least a few answers:

·We had a wonderful evening with all five children and a couple of guests last night, enjoying a delicious barbeque.

·Theodore slept very little, but was in a delightful and co-operative mood this morning.

·My two-and-a-half year old is dry through the night – isn’t it a little miracle?

·Theodore’s nursery is organising a trip to a theme park next week – his very first. I am sure he would love it!

·My fist document for today is on fifty activities for happiness for the French Psychologies, that’s not a bad task to start a working week with.

·And to top it all up, I have just found ground coffee in my cupboard – hallelujah!

Off I go to figure out how to use ground coffee in my whole bean coffee machine. Can I do it? Yes, I can! It is amazing how much good can one question bring about. So, what’s going right for you right now?

Dr Ilona Boniwell

Strategic Programme Leader, MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and CEO, Positran, Positran and Anglia Ruskin University

Who am I? I suppose, the very first answer would be a “positive psychologist”, since all my career and professional achievements have something to do with this wonderful area of scholarship. I founded and headed the first Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) in Europe, created the European Network of Positive Psychology, organised the first European Congress of Positive Psychology (June 2002, Winchester), and was the first vice-chair of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). Nowadays, I run the iMAPP, international MSc in Applied Positive Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, teach positive leadership at l’Ecole Centrale Paris (a top engineering school in France) and run Positran, a busy consultancy dedicated to achieving transformation through positive psychology. When it comes to my areas of expertise, I have quite a few passions: psychology of time, resilience, eudaimonic well-being and applications of positive psychology to oneself, leadership, coaching, parenting and education. I am the author or editor of six books (including Positive Psychology in a Nutshell and the Oxford Handbook of Happiness) and multiple academic and popular articles. My media work included BBC, Guardian, Times, Psychologies, Top Sante and Cosmopolitan. I am often invited to give keynote addresses to psychologists, coaches, and other professional audiences, including delivering a TEDx talk last year. Every year, I teach hundreds of leaders and mature students in the UK, France, Portugal, Singapore, Japan and many other countries across the world on how to use positive psychology in very real, tangible, nuts-and-bolts ways. Who am I personally? First of all, I am a wife and a mother or step-mother to five children (2, 14, 15, 16 and 17 years old). In fact, I progressed from having two to five children in the space of one year, so I had to really learn to walk the talk when it comes to positive parenting. Since last November, I've had the pleasure and the privilege to be a monthly Psychologies columnist, writing about the triumphs and challenges of running a large step-family; being friends with the ex-wife and negotiating educational expectations… I speak four languages, and can no longer clearly say where I am from (mixing Russian, Latvian, British and French origins and experiences). I have two cats and one dog, and I love ideas, making sense, creating something new from existing elements, and making tiny baby steps to changing the world towards something better.