The Feel Good List: The Key to Your Amazing Life


in Creativity,Happiness,Personal Growth

The other night, sitting at the dinner table munching our way through a pizza, my daughter looked at me and said, “You know mom, I am pretty wise.”

“Of course you are,” I replied, wondering where the conversation was going. She just continued eating and we moved on to dessert. Discussion over.

A few nights later, she approached me with a tiny notebook, half the size of a deck of cards, and a pencil. I was on the couch taking a quick break before I launched into the evening’s must-do activities.

Sitting down in front of me, she said, “Mom, I think we should make a list.”

“Oh, do you want to write the grocery list?” I asked, less than enthusiastically. The idea of spending the next hour spelling out each word for her in order to “write” the grocery list wasn’t what I wanted to do. I just didn’t have the time.

“Don’t be silly, Mom,” came her reply, “I just want to write a list of things that feel good.”

Hhhhmmm. This was new.

“Why do you want to that?” I wondered.

“Because I’m trying to get into a routine, Mom,” she said as if I were dim-witted.


“Well, what would be on your list?” I probed, trying to understand what she was getting at.

She tapped the pencil on her mouth a few times before answering. “I think my list should have things on it like reading, resting, walking, bird watching, drawing, and music. Oh, and kissing you.”

My heart melted. I got it.

We spent the next few minutes together crafting her list and getting each word spelled just right on the minuscule notepad. When we were done, I watched her carry the list into her room and set it on the nightstand next to her bed so that she would “remember her feel-good routine.”

In the quiet that followed, I couldn’t help but reflect that my daughter was indeed wise. She knows things that most adults have forgotten.

She knows that it is important to regularly include things in your life that make you feel good – not just the things you have to do or want to accomplish, but the things that make you feel good right now.

More importantly, she can actually name those things that make her feel good. Simply. Clearly. Declaratively.

She is in touch with herself and it intends to make it a habit.

And she’s only 5 years old.

We all know that feeling good is nice but most of us have ceased to make it a priority let alone a habit. But we should. Feeling good serves a very important purpose – one that matters to the wildly amazing life we imagine in our hearts.

Feeling good fosters a positive perspective.

Not exactly news, I know. After all, every self-help book out there talks about having a positive attitude. The point that goes missing in all the talk around having a positive attitude is a subtle one. It’s not just about having a positive attitude. It’s about cultivating the positive in all its forms.

Positive perspectives. Positive experiences. Positive emotions.

Because the pay-off is huge.

Quite simply, cultivating the positive – the feel good things in your life – can enhance the possibilities you see, help you build the resources to respond, and allow you to choose your options from a place of strength.

I’ve known this for a long time. Intuitively. It’s why I write what I write here.

But someone has actually researched this and come to the same conclusion.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has delved into the value of positive emotions and discovered that they “broaden-and-build“:

…[U]like negative emotions, which narrow people’s ideas about possible actions, positive emotions do the opposite:  They broaden people’s ideas about possible actions, opening our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions than is typical. Joy, for instance, sparks the urge to play and be creative. Interest sparks the urge to explore and learn, whereas serenity sparks the urge to savor our current circumstances and integrate them into a new view of ourselves and the world around us.

Positivity opens us. The first core truth about positive emotions is that they open our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and creative….

By opening our hearts and minds, positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new ties, new knowledge, and new ways of being….

…[T]hese same good feelings, cultivated through natural and ordinary means, are the active ingredients needed to produce an upward spiral toward flourishing. ~ Barbara L. Fredrickson, PH.D., Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life

The formula for an amazing life seems pretty to be pretty clear based on this research:  foster the positive in your life (the feel good stuff), watch your possibilities expand in response, build new resources to embrace those possibilities, and end up with a life you love – a life that simply thrives.

I think it may be time to get crackin’ on that feel good list, don’t you? After all, if a 5 year old can do it, it can’t be that hard and it might just be the key to everything.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one } May 13, 2012 at

I love this story about your daughter. LOVE it. And it’s giving me a bit of an a-ha. I have been struggling with things that are not feel good. They bring me the opposite of joy. And I’ve been feeling bad about that. That I should somehow be able to overcome my negative thoughts and feelings around those not-feel-good things. Now, I know we all have to have some not-feel-good in our lives. Some of those things there’s just no getting around. But it’s seeming to me that trying to change or deny those not-good feelings (my usual stance) isn’t the way to go. I think it might be better to accept the not-feel-good about the things we just have to keep, and let the ones we don’t go. So that we we have room for the feel-good. Not sure if this is part of what you meant, but that’s my take-away. recently posted..Friday Food: The Mother’s Day Edition


Andrea Olson May 16, 2012 at

Thanks, Rita! Yes, yes, yes … make room for the feel-good because it changes everything, one feeling at a time.


Sandi Amorim May 13, 2012 at

Very wise…like her mom :)

My feel good list includes talking to friends, reading, dancing, smelling flowers (like yesterday’s lilacs) and watching whales frolic in Maui!
Sandi Amorim recently posted..A Prayer for Moving Forward


Andrea Olson May 16, 2012 at

One thing (of many) that I love about you, Sandi, is your ability to find and honor the beautiful things in life. xoxo


Ronna May 14, 2012 at

Of course this is what Emma said. And even more significant, of course, this is what you learned – and then offer. Beautiful. Brilliant. xoxo
Ronna recently posted..You have Permission


Andrea Olson May 16, 2012 at

Thank you, my friend! Appreciate you.


Jackie Walker May 14, 2012 at

Oh my heart is melting, I so love hearing children’s simple, yet deep wisdom
Jackie Walker recently posted..The similarity between the dentist and me


Andrea Olson May 16, 2012 at

I know … if we aren’t too busy to pay attention, there is so much they can teach us. I’m just glad I was paying attention!! Thanks, Jackie.


Lori Gosselin May 15, 2012 at

Hi Andrea! Isn’t it fun when we learn from our children! I taught my kids (now 23 and 25) everything I knew about what was then called positive thinking, and they demonstrated for me how to manifest what they want in life! Your daughter is very wise- keep watching her!


Andrea Olson May 16, 2012 at

Thanks, Lori! I love your approach to raising your kids. I’m hopeful I can do the same for my daughter although I do believe she will be teaching me as well, if our time together so far is any indication. :)


Sheri Miesner Phegley May 15, 2012 at

Excellent post! It is so easy to get caught up in the drama of all that is “wrong” in everyday life that we often forget to take time to stop and smell the roses so to speak.

Such a wise young lady you have on your hands, for her to have decided to start a “routine” of noticing the positives in her life instead of the negatives at such a young age! I’ve heard of lots of people doing “gratitude journals” and her notebook of things that feel good sounds like an elementary version of that. Good for her!
Sheri Miesner Phegley recently posted..In Communication You Only Get What You Give


Andrea Olson May 16, 2012 at

Oooh … I hadn’t even thought of what she was writing as a form of a gratitude journal but you are so right. Maybe that’s the next conversation we’ll have! Thanks so much for commenting, Sheri.


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