Robert Pagliarini

Have you heard the good news? Me either. From the moment we wake up until we fall asleep, we face an onslaught of bad news and pessimism. Moment after moment and day after day, this blanket of negativity creates a pervasive sense of fear and anxiety that is hard to shake and can lead to detachment, confusion, depression, and just an overall sense of numbness. How can you stop the negativity? You can't. But what you can do is add a little positivity throughout your day to create a better life.

Really big positive change doesn't require a lot of effort or time. Sometimes the small things can produce massive change -- like a small spark in a dry forest. A fun way to add some positivity to your day and to create a better life is through "sparking." Sparking is when you add brief but healthful things to think or do throughout your day. Here's how you do it:

1. Choose one spark.

Some sparks are a reminder to think, such as repeating an affirmation, thanking God for all you've been given, saying a prayer, imagining your perfect future, going over your top three goals, etc. Sparks can also be reminders to do something, such as taking five deep breaths, stretching, sitting up straight, relaxing your muscles, closing your eyes, standing up, etc. Whether your spark is thinking or doing, choose one that is easy and powerful for you. For example, I get so wrapped up in what I'm working on for the future that I forget about what I've accomplished and what I already have. So, a powerful spark for me is to think of three things that I'm grateful for. This takes me away from future-based thinking and brings me back to today. On the other hand, you might be stuck in the problems of the present. A powerful spark for you might be imagining your perfect future. Whatever your spark, make sure it takes less than a minute to complete.

2. Choose a "dead time" moment.

The key to sparking is connecting the spark to a brief but recurring activity -- something you already do throughout the day. Examples include turning off your alarm, waiting for the shower water to heat up, opening the refrigerator, pouring a cup of coffee, going to the bathroom, stopping at a red light, listening to hold music, waiting for your computer to boot-up, waiting for an elevator, opening your front door, checking the mail, etc.

3. Make the connection.

Once you've got the spark and one recurring dead-time moment, you need to connect them. Whenever the dead-time moment occurs, you need to light your spark. For example, I have the bad habit of taking shallow breaths. So now, I take several deep breaths every time I call someone and wait for them to pick up. When choosing your moment, look for one that occurs at least once every day and try to match the spark to the moment. For example, a spark reminding you to stand up and stretch at a red light? Not so good. Get creative! Post a note in your mailbox with a motivational passage that resonates with you. Along with the daily Pottery Barn catalog, you'll also get a little inspiration when you get the mail.

At first, you might forget, or it might feel clumsy, but keep doing it. After a few days, it will become automatic just like brushing your teeth in the morning. Don't try to do too much, too soon. Start slowly. Introduce just one spark at a time. Let it sink in and become a habit before you begin another one. And who knows? Maybe if you add enough positivity throughout the day, you'll be able to create some of that good news we all need.

(Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six-Day Financial Makeover: Transform Your Financial Life in Less Than a Week!." )


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