Before I get down to the nitty gritty, I want to tell a love story. Not a Romeo-meets-Juliet-style tragedy or something weepy like The Notebook. This love story is short and sweet and oh-so simple, and it perfectly illustrates how writing a Top Five list of positive memories from each day can improve your relationships.
I started writing a daily Top Five list not long before I met my husband. I was passionate about it, and to my complete and utter surprise, he picked up the habit as well. To this day, I am not quite sure if he joined in because he was trying to impress me or if he was trying to show his interest in my interests. Or maybe he genuinely thought it was a brilliant idea (I’m almost certain this is the case). Either way, he gave it a go and it stuck. And through the years, writing a Top Five has become a grounding bond in our relationship. It’s something we talk about often. It sparks our individual inspiration — while also helping us keep the spark in our relationship.
The Top Five also happens to be how I learnt when he is at his happiest. Because this practice of positive thinking has been a constant in our relationship, the Top Five has become like an emotional barometer. My favourite example is when my husband announced one day that his top moment was when we were cleaning the house together.
“Seriously? Cleaning?” I asked.
“Yep,” he replied. “We felt like a team, and it made me really happy.”
Slightly annoying…but also really insightful. I’ll spare you the mushy stuff (at least for now), but I mention our story because it illustrates just how having a gratitude habit, such as the Top Five Movement, can transform you and your partner into a pair of positive thinkers. When you sit down to write five positive things each day, you begin to see the things, happenings and people around you in a more positive light.
What’s this got to do with you and your soulmate? Or the soulmate you have yet to find but who you know is out there waiting for you? All I have to say is this: Love thrives on happiness, and happiness is even better with love.
The Top Five Movement helps you notice the positive qualities, acts and strengths in other people. And the Top Five Movement helps others notice the positive qualities, acts and strengths in you. Doesn’t that sound like a win-win and something worth giving a crack?
Sweet nothings and Top Fives
Writing a Top Five is pretty powerful stuff. It’s not just about thinking to yourself, “Wowza, my hair looks amazing today.” That’s great; we all love a good hair day. But the act of sitting down and writing a Top Five means that you are analysing your day, your people, your actions, your world for the good.
That practice becomes a part of your consciousness, and you become a master of positive thinking. From there, your gracious and optimistic perspective turns to gracious and optimistic actions, and you become more connected, confident and communicative. You become more mindful, emotionally balanced and generous. You are awesome.
When you turn happiness into a habit, you become a god or goddess of goodness
And all those things listed above, they make you a better friend, lover, husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, daughter, son, neighbour, pet-owner, friend-of-a-friend and so on. And while The Beatles once said, “All you need is love,” I like to think that they forgot the lyric about how all you need is love from someone who shares your approach to positive thinking.
A Top Five will also reveal what makes the people around you happy, which can be a revelation. Say you learn that he loves it when you hold hands together on your Sunday walks or when you leave funny notes for him around the place (my personal favourites are notes featuring cheesy song lyrics that lighten up a situation). Or maybe he tells you his Top Five includes you asking about his day or telling him about yours.
It’s dinner-table talk that can breed wedded bliss
It’s these little things that affirm your relationship. They are the things that get you through the hard times and help you celebrate the good times. And they can now become action items for you (Note to self: Take more Sunday walks and hold his hand tightly).
And let’s be honest, it’s not always easy to figure out what our favourite people are thinking. From their profound love for sunsets to their adoration for four-ply toilet paper, if you are both genuine about it (Hint: not telling the other what you think they want to hear!), you are likely to discover more than you ever thought you could. It’s almost like they are giving you a cheat sheet to their heart.
Also, a gratitude practice will help you start powerful, positive conversations with your partner. When you talk about your Top Five, you talk about all those straight-from-your-soul wants, needs and wishes. That kind of talk can strengthen your connection and deepen your understanding of each other.
On the other hand, since I started this whole Top Five Movement, I’ve come to see that when you notice the positive things, you also notice if you are taking someone for granted. You become mind-blowingly aware of how you consider others. It is a practice that reminds you to notice the little things that people do to make you smile, show you love, show you they are thinking of you. That is where the magic happens.
Being a positively positive people person
We’ve all met those people who complain and complain and then complain some more. Maybe we’ve been those people at some point in our lives (Not you, of course! Never!). But here’s the deal, we have the power to influence our own thoughts.
Yep, our brains are pretty mighty, especially when it comes to persuading our thoughts. If you focus on the negative, you see the negative and you have radar-like focus on the negative. Or you can be the other kind of person. The person who looks for the good in people. The person who compliments instead of complains, who laughs instead of lamenting.
It is a skill that can be developed with practice. And friend, that’s exactly what the Top Five is: practicing positivity.
It helps you know yourself better as well. When you start to think about why you love your friends, then you start to think about how you show your support for them. Trust me, questions whether you are being a supportive friend before you start looking at how others treat you. This has a ripple effect. When you are positive and when you are a good friend, you attract more positive people who are good friends. You attract what you put out into the social universe.
A Top Five can help you see the best in people and strengthen your resilience to manage those who take a lot of positive energy (that’s my positive way of describing those negative, draining people who can make it a challenge to stay happy). When they are negative or critical, you can reframe situations, shift your thinking and soak up the benefits of positive thinking yourself. You can show these people what is possible.
You show them the way by letting your goodness radiate
As a rather important side note, I do want to add that it is never, ever healthy to stay in a dysfunctional relationship regardless of how many positive moments you can highlight. There, I said it. Let’s move on.
Some people will always say things and make assumptions about why I am so positive. Lots of people have asked me what my secret is: Was I born super happy? Do I lead a charmed life? Did I just win the happiness lottery (or the real lottery, for that matter)? Am I taking happy pills?
There is no secret, no pill, no magic formula. It isn’t luck (genetic or otherwise). The truth is that I treat happiness like a habit — the same as brushing my teeth or eating my veggies. It is a skill I have developed and continue to develop. And because of that, some of the most positive people I know say that I am the most positive person they know (this makes me very happy).
I make this choice every day. And so can other people.
Yes, when you say, “Let’s list five positive moments or highlights from a day,” to your friends or partner, he or she may respond with an expressive, “YES! I love that idea!” These are your singing-to-the-choir cohorts who are always up for making the world a better place. For others, they may look like you just asked them to give you all of their money. I suggest you begin by easing it into the conversation or covertly start a Top Five practice without even announcing it. Try it out when you are on a walk, while you are getting ready for dinner or when you are discussing your day. Here’s what one of my friends told me about this:
“My husband and I do Top Five daily as we walk around the block. It is so awesome and we are both hooked. I am finding out so much about his day that would have otherwise remained hidden.” —Melanie Gibson
If your partner is finding it difficult to look back on their day, challenge them to look to the future. Ask them what they are you looking forward to this week? What are you looking forward to today?
The Top Five can be deeply personal and some people may want to keep their Top Five to themselves (especially if you are in a new relationship and you are still getting comfortable). I suggest that you both write down your Top Five and then share one each day. Because you write these for yourself and not for other people, you might prefer to share one or two instead of all of them.
Holidays are a great time to introduce the habit. You want to remember your holidays and keep them alive, and you often have more time on holidays too. When you get home, you can propose to keep the holiday dream alive by noticing, capturing and sharing with each other the simple moments you have enjoyed most about life at home.
Five questions to prime yourself for positivity in relationships
In the spirit of fives, here are five questions to help you notice the link between gratitude and your own relationships and help you capture those five positive moments a day:
- Did someone help me today in some way that I am grateful for?
- What interaction(s) have I had lately that I’m grateful for? (The funny barista? The gentle smile from the person you walked past in the grocery store? The compliment from a co-worker?)
- What is something I appreciate about someone who I normally complain about?
- What kindness did you experience or notice between other people today or recently?
- What are your partner’s qualities/habits that you would miss if they weren’t there?
What do you do to add positivity to your relationships?
Written by Clare Desira, Chief Positivity Officer at Top Five Movement