"It would be nice if..." (Play this game to change your mood fast.)

May 1, 2023

It would be nice if… (Play this game to change your mood fast.)

Here’s a game you can play anytime you feel stuck in an emotional rut.

The game is simple. Just take turns filling in the blank. Set it up for your partner by saying, “It would be nice if…” Then your partner fills in the blank. If you don’t have a partner, you can play by yourself.

Here’s what usually happens.

All the things that have been bugging you will get attention first.

It would be nice if we had time for a date night. It would be nice if work didn’t suck. It would be nice if all of our debt got wiped out. It would be nice if all our responsibilities suddenly vanished.

That’s the easy stuff. The obvious stuff. Get it out of the way as soon as you can.

Then keep going.

This is when you start to tap into the intuition inside of you that has been temporarily blocked.

It would be nice if I had time to read a chapter of a book. It would be nice if we could get some fresh coffee in the house. It would be nice to take a walk. It would be nice to have a hug.

Once you’ve cleared the debris of the big things that are out of your control (work, debt, unmovable scheduling issues), most people gravitate toward more realistic things that are quite doable. Things that would actually help you feel better but that you’ve been too distracted to tend to.

But there’s another direction things can go. And it is equally helpful.

It would be nice to live overseas. It would be nice to spend the entire summer in a beach house. It would be nice to retire and spend every day working on jigsaw puzzles. It would be nice to have a big place in the country and adopt a bunch of senior dogs from the rescue shelter.

This is escape fantasy. And it can be useful. It’s different from mere unrealistic thinking. It’s playful. It puts you into a different frame of mind (similar to when you are watching a movie). It allows you to sidestep your laundry list of stressors and access your creativity, your most deeply held values, and your vision of an ideal world.

It doesn’t stop there. Keep going.

Keep asking the question, but change things up a little bit.

Add a very specific modifier.

“It would be nice if by the end of the day…“

“It would be nice if by this time next year…“

“It would be nice if other people knew…“

“It would be nice if my partner told me…“

Adding these specific modifiers opens up more creative pathways in the brain. It’s an exercise in cognitive and emotional flexibility.

My wife and I play this game anytime one of us is feeling overwhelmed or frustrated or stuck. And it has led to some of our best out-of-the-box dates because it got us thinking flexibly and creatively about our situation.

One time we were feeling landlocked with no real way to plan a weekend getaway anytime soon. This game eventually led us to a long evening of looking back at family photos. It had been a stressful year, but the pictures we had taken along the way allowed the magic moments to stand out and the temporary stressors to be erased with time.

And that is the whole point of this game.

It doesn’t change the stressful situation you are in, but it does change your understanding of that situation. It changes your internal emotional environment. It changes your relationship to the stressors around you. It builds up your ability to tolerate hard seasons of life.

It alters your fundamental experience of reality without changing anything about reality itself.

That’s the power of the human mind. And sometimes it only takes five little words to get that process started.

If you have a significant other, go ahead and text them the words: “It would be nice if…” Explain it to them when you reunite later today, and have fun seeing where it takes you.

-Austin Johnson

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