Ever had a moment you wish you could bottle up for later? Many of us enjoy something enough about summertime that we wish we could save some for another time.
The aim of solution-focused therapy is to harness what serves you—your bottle of contentment, if you will—so you can use it when you need it most. Now is the perfect opportunity to meet with a therapist who can help you bottle up some of your summer, your strengths, or anything else you wish would last.
Summer has its own routines that seem simple and unique, unlike many people’s day-to-day lives. When I ask people what they love about summer, I hear things like eating outside, fresh fruit, camping trips, or no school. While vacations end and kids return to school, a solution-focused therapist wants to deeply understand what is in your bottle of contentment so you can draw upon it in the regular course of your life. For example, what is it about, say, eating outside or camping that you love? Put it in your “bottle” and save it for a Tuesday night in November.
What are your beliefs in the moments you feel contentment? How does the world seem to you? What positive thoughts do you have about yourself and your future? What could you say about your trials, goals, and intentions? When we are happy, we may think we feel happy based on our surroundings, but more often we are happy because of the thoughts we have about our experiences, and summer is a particularly pleasant experience for many.
Well, guess what? You can bring your thoughts with you wherever you go. Writing down sentiments when they are particularly positive and putting them in your “bottle” is a great way to save strength and optimism for a later date.
For example, consider what it is about being on vacation that makes you feel happy. Is it beautiful scenery, quiet and unrushed mornings, time with family, no email in sight? These are things you can put in your “bottle”—in whatever form it might take—and look at several months from now.
I love therapy sessions where the person comes in feeling happy, saying they aren’t sure what to talk about because “everything is going well.” This is the perfect time to build invaluable resources for trying times.
One family I know buys pineapple at their local grocery store once a week just to have a moment that reminds them of Hawaii. Others linger in pajamas whenever possible and disallow devices until noon on weekends. It is a mistake to think that just because we aren’t officially on vacation or out for summer break we can’t change our environment to be happier and more peaceful. You probably know plenty of people who can make themselves unhappy just about anywhere. The power is in our thoughts—what we keep in our “bottle.”
So while vacations don’t last forever and we eventually return to our routines, we can still capture the essence of our happiest moments and draw on them as we need to. The trick is to notice when we feel contentment and then take notes (yes, actual notes—on a piece of paper or your phone) about what we are thinking and believing. This is why I love therapy sessions where the person comes in feeling happy, saying they aren’t sure what to talk about because “everything is going well.” This is the perfect time to build invaluable resources for trying times. We can spend the session stockpiling positive thoughts, beliefs, and other strengths.
Here’s how to bottle up your summer so the good feelings last all year:
- Write down some “happy notes.” For example, you might write, “I’m surrounded by my friends,” or, “Being at the beach is relaxing and beautiful,” or, “I love having as much fresh pineapple as I can eat.”
- Ask yourself what your “happy notes” tell you. For example, when you are surrounded by your friends, your thoughts might be, “I am loved,” or, “I feel noticed and heard.”
- Take note of these beliefs so they can be bottled up and applied to your daily life. Imagine opening up your “bottle” on a particularly dull or burdensome day. You can identify that you want to feel loved and heard. Then, turn this into action! Call a few friends, set up a lunch date, or plan a potluck for the coming weekend.
- Try to take a small habit or enjoyable aspect of your summer into the rest of the year. For example, if you enjoyed playing board games with your family on your camping trip, set aside a television-free evening to do that outside or under blankets! Most of these experiences are easy to adopt without disrupting any productivity from your regular routine, especially on weekends.
- Let happy moments or a particularly good vacation inspire positive life changes. It could be that you want to start exercising, spend more time with friends, give up caffeine, or unplug from social media. Why not use the energy from these happy moments to sketch out a plan to take you toward your goals?
When people come to therapy on a “good day,” we talk in great detail about what they believe about themselves and their future. Put simply, there are things we can access on positive days that feel out of reach on days when we are grumpy. If we can capture these things and bottle them up in session, we can then use them to counter unproductive negative beliefs at other times.
If you want to squeeze out all the sunshine in life that you can, summer is a great time to pursue therapy.
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