This is a simple game to reduce anxiety. It works by diverting your mind into positive trains of thought, rather than scanning the world for things to worry about.
• Create positive thoughts in the present moment
• Play solo to break negative or anxious thought patterns
• Play with others to create a greater sense of connection
The App will automatically deal your first ‘card’:
1. Whilst waiting for it to load, take 3 slow mindful breaths. Pay particular attention to enjoying your out-breath, as this calms your nervous system.
2. When the word appears, think: what do I appreciate about this and why?
3. Can you think of up to 3 things that you appreciate about it?
The aim is simply to think of things that make you smile.
You can play one card a day, or deal yourself a new one whenever you want to divert yourself into positve thought patterns.
You can also play the game with people you know. It’s interesting to discover how others view the world, and good to enjoy positive conversations together.
The free version is the best place to start, as the words here should easily inspire positive responses. The paid version contains some more challenging words to help deepen your practice.
Appreciating Windowsills was something that I designed for myself, to help me cope after I was diagnosed with cancer. At the time I felt as though my whole life had been knocked out from under me. I was totally unable to control what was happening to my body, and the pain meant that I often couldn’t think straight. I was frightened about what the future might hold for me, and sometimes haunted by traumatic memories of my past.
So I started to focus on everything that I appreciated in life, in order to find some solid stepping stones of happiness in the midst of all the madness. This began with the obvious connections, like family and friends who reached out in so many vital ways to pull me through. It was also very easy to appreciate the health professionals who stepped out of their official roles to connect with me as another human being, who held me whilst I cried, talked to me through the darkest moments, made me laugh, and kept my breakfast warm for me on days when everything else seemed to be falling apart.
One day when the pain was particularly bad, I noticed the windowsill that I could see from my hospital bed and wondered what I appreciated about that, as I hadn’t really thought about it before. The results were bizarre enough to make me smile, and when my attention returned to my body the pain had noticeably reduced. I decided to set myself the same playful challenge with other things that I could see, and the ‘Appreciating Windowsills’ game took shape.
Coming home, I was traumatised and disorientated. Everything was too noisy and bright, and I went from being a confident public speaker to someone who was full of fear in public spaces. Each time I noticed something that filled me with anxiety I met the emotion with compassion, allowed it to express itself, but gently took my attention to my breathing as a way to create an anchor of steadiness. Then I asked myself to think of three things that I also appreciated about whatever it was that filled me with fear, such as “other people” or “space” or “pain”.
This helped me to balance my responses and broaden my perspective enough to hold both positive and challenging emotions peacefully, and though it wasn’t always easy and I was still totally overwhelmed at times, this simple game made a huge difference to my recovery.
I continue to use this strategy to lift my spirits and make me feel lighter yet more secure, and I hope that it can help you too.
Noticing things in the present moment that make us smile is a wonderful step into mindfulness, and an example of “watering the seeds of happiness” as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains in his wonderful teachings.
Appreciation can liberate us from dwelling amidst memories from the past or on worries about the future, and enable us to experience moments of happiness in the midst of what could be the darkest days of our lives. It also deepens our enjoyment of the most wonderful days, as we pause to become truly present to the happiness that overflows from our senses on such occasions.
Appreciation even enables us to think and act differently, as it breaks our habitual and sometimes negative thought patterns, thereby creating space in which insight and inspiration can light up new pathways of responses that we can then choose to adopt.
To wish that things were different takes a lot of energy, and so to accept the things that really cannot be changed and to focus on appreciating and connecting with life despite them can be a very empowering and reassuring experience.
I wish you countless moments of happiness, and plenty of windowsills to appreciate!
To join in the conversation on social media, please use the hashtag #AppreciatingWindowsills – let me know if you think of new ways to play!