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Optimism is Essential

Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.

~~ Dalai Lama

Greetings to all my precious people!!

Late May and early June is my favorite time of year.  The temperature is comfortable, all of Nature is in bloom, and the extended sunlight hours add to a feeling of uplift and optimism.  The school year is winding down, and vacation plans are being put into action.  There is a lightness of being, especially when the sun is shining brightly in the blue skies.  But there is also trouble brewing on multiple levels and sometimes it is hard to ignore.  Financial stress, political turmoil, family life uproars and health challenges abound for so many of us, and these facts cannot be easily remedied.  This is when the little voice inside my head begins an incessant song of “the sky is falling, the sky is falling”  and my neural pathways default to worry and anxiety.  Maybe you can relate! 

When I was growing up, the constant mantra from my Dad was this:  think happy thoughts.  I would shake my head and challenge how that attitude could overcome racism or sexism.  Happy thoughts did not translate to the desired job opportunities or create a positive shift in a health crisis.  I became very skilled at arguing for my point of view and the perceived limitations of thinking happy thoughts, which left my Dad shaking his head.  He told me that thinking happy thoughts translated into choosing optimism – and having faith in myself.  But when I was younger, I was not easily convinced that thoughts were things; that they could actually influence my life.  And I didn’t practice thinking happy thoughts in those days; instead I focused on “facts” and tried to “figure things out”, which definitely contributed to my worry rituals!

OPTIMISM:  the quality of being full of hope and emphasizing the good parts of a situation, or a belief that something good will happen.  (Cambridge dictionary)

In a 2022 study on Optimism conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, it was found that higher levels of optimism were associated with longer lifespans and living beyond age 90 in women across racial and ethnic groups.  In another NIH funded study focused on men, the results indicated that more optimistic men have fewer negative emotions, due in part to reduced exposure to stressful situations. And in a great article excerpted from The Biology of Kindness published by the MIT Press Reader called The New Science of Optimism and Longevity, the science of mindfulness and the findings of biology come together to show how kindness and optimism improve overall well-being in profound, organic, and demonstrable ways.

What stops us from choosing optimism in our daily lives?  Perhaps you are like I was once, unconvinced that thoughts are things and not inclined to suspend disbelief.  Certainly, reframing situations can be helpful, but even before that, prior to us being able to choose anything, including optimism, we need to be calm.  By simply becoming aware that our minds are hijacked by habitual thoughts allows us the space to refocus our attempts to be present.  So the first practical suggestion is to use a technique called Five Senses Grounding.  When you start to feel anxious, when you feel in a state of overwhelm, pause for five minutes. Spend one minute of awareness on each of your five senses, using these prompts:

Sight: Choose one object to focus on and note all the details you observe.

Touch: Hold or touch one object and give all of your attention to the way it feels.

Hearing: Observe the sounds in your environment.

Smell: Notice how your environment smells as you inhale slowly through your nose.

Taste: Describe the taste in your mouth.

Now that you have been able to interfere with the habitual thought patterns, you are in a better place to make a choice.  Cultivating optimism, especially if it wasn’t modeled in your environment, is a process that involves intentional practice and mindset shifts. Here are several strategies to help you develop a more optimistic outlook:

Practice Gratitude: Regularly acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of your life. Keeping a gratitude journal, where you write down things you’re thankful for each day, can help shift your focus from negative to positive aspects of your life.

Reframe Negative Thoughts: When you catch yourself thinking negatively, try to reframe those thoughts in a more positive or neutral light. For example, instead of thinking, “I always mess up,” try, “I made a mistake, but I can learn from it and do better next time.”

Surround Yourself with Positive Influences: Seek out and spend time with people who have a positive outlook on life. Their attitudes and behaviors can influence your own. Reading books, listening to podcasts, or watching videos by inspiring and optimistic individuals can also help.

Set Realistic Goals and Celebrate Progress: Set achievable goals and acknowledge your progress toward them, no matter how small. Celebrating small wins can boost your confidence and reinforce a positive mindset.

Engage in Positive Activities: Participate in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Hobbies, physical exercise, and volunteering can enhance your mood and foster a sense of purpose and optimism.

Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself when things go wrong. Treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you would offer a friend. This can help reduce negative self-talk and promote a more positive outlook.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help you stay present and reduce the impact of negative thoughts. These techniques can increase your awareness of your thought patterns and help you manage them more effectively.

Learn from Setbacks: Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, see them as learning opportunities. Reflect on what went wrong, what you can learn from the experience, and how you can apply that knowledge in the future.

Focus on Solutions, Not Problems: When faced with challenges, direct your energy towards finding solutions rather than dwelling on the problems. This proactive approach can foster a sense of control and optimism.

Limit Exposure to Negativity: Reduce exposure to negative news and environments that can drain your positivity. While it’s important to stay informed, balance this with positive content and activities.

Seek Professional Help: If cultivating optimism feels particularly challenging, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor. They can provide tools and techniques tailored to your needs and help you work through any underlying issues.

Cultivating optimism is a gradual process, and all of us have setbacks along the way.  Consistency and practice are key to developing a more positive and optimistic outlook on life.  By providing practical and tactical applications to support the wellness journey,   I help people learn how to listen to their body’s wisdom and reconnect the unconscious mind to nurture the mind-body connection. Doing this work allows people to realize their full capacity and choose to live a life coherent with their values, nourished by their dreams and desires. Together, we co-create opportunities for healing as the process unfolds.

I offer compassionate, attentive care.  I see you.  I hear you.  I celebrate your journey.  As an experienced clinician, I support patients as they come home to themselves, reconnecting the mind, body and spirit.  This is my greatest passion:  to serve as a facilitator, navigator and coach as you transcend old patterns and come into alignment with your best self.  Are you ready to choose your Self and celebrate your gifts?  Are you ready to manifest your Authentic Self that is abundant with health and vitality?

Schedule an appointment today and begin to step into your power of self-directed practical magic.  You are worth it!!!

Optimism is a practiced choice.

~~ Julia Cameron

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