“Feel goodism” is a term that often appears in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy publications, and in the health and wellness community in general. It refers to the idea that feeling good is the definition of psychological health. It easily follows from this idea then that not feeling good some or all of the time is a sign of a problem which requires elimination.
Its easy to see how the media heavily encourages this attitude – happiness and good times are desirable and are therefore really easy to sell. Its also easy to see how our social rules discourage us from letting those who we are not particularly close to know when all is not well. This leads us to believe that most people are feeling good most of the time. When a person asks you how you are doing, something that will easily occur several times a day for the average person, how many times are they really looking for an honest answer? How many times do we provide one? Very few. We are all socialized to put on an act regarding how we’re really doing. This isn’t particularly harmful in and of itself, and has useful functions for society as a whole. But unless we are sharing our thoughts and feelings with those closest to us or a helping professional, it becomes a problem when it leads to the belief that your negative feelings are exceptional, and therefore abnormal, when they’re usually perfectly normal.
Stop and take a look around you right now and evaluate the first ten things you notice as either good or bad. For items that you weren’t entirely sure about, did you find yourself thinking something along the lines of could be better or could be worse? Now turn your attention to yourself and evaluate how you’re feeling right now mentally, physically, and in terms of life goals. Were you able to come up with the same sort of simple and almost automatic evaluations about your current state of health and success? Did you notice that absolutely everything we come in contact with or experience, whether tangible or not, can be evaluated?
As I’ve mentioned before, evaluating is yet another activity that our minds tend to do on autopilot. As long as we notice this for what it is, simply activity of the mind, then it really isn’t a problem. However when it isn’t noted as simply what it is, it provides us with something to struggle with and resist, which exacerbates psychological distress.
Try practicing the following mindfulness technique each time you find yourself evaluating something. Quietly say to yourself: “evaluating”, and then let that thought go and return your attention to whatever it should be focused on. Also try practicing gratitude. Although this is essentially a form of evaluation, it is more moderate and leads you away from that natural tendency to cling to what is really desirable, and to really resist what is not. Once every day, list five things that you are grateful for. Even if you’re going through a tough time right now, if you make a point to do this, you will always be able to find those five things, even if they are as simple as your pet cat, the roof over your head, or your ability to walk. There is so much good in our lives if we just keep our eyes open to it. And don’t forget to consider all the neutral aspects of your life too. When you do you’ll find you have more to appreciate than you might have thought.