Positive Psychology and The Quest for a Better Life

Inspiration, Mental Fitness, Motivational

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What exactly is Positive psychology?

Positive Psychology is a fairly new field that has all ready gained recognized from the American Psychological Association. Many stress-control experts are having great success with its principles. In an upturned nutshell, Positive Psychology focuses on finding and promoting the conditions and factors that make people’s lives better. Instead of focusing their energies on things that cause unhappiness, researchers in the Positive Psychology field center their research around the ingredients of a good life. Sound good? Personally, I think it sounds great!

I’ve always been the sort of person who tries to focus on the positive. When my husband and I were first married, we moved from a very large apartment to a much, much smaller one. When writing letters home, or talking about the move, I always referred to the move as being one, “to a cozier apartment.” I came to love that cozy apartment. In fact, it and its 4 rooms are one of my favorite homes ever. The outlook, I’m sure, had a lot to do with moving from an apartment to one that could fit into it’s living room….and thinking that it was a great thing.

I also called upon my inner Mary Poppins a few years back when we moved from a large beach house on Pensacola Beach to a small house in Earlington, Kentucky. (Granted I had to call loudly for her, she had locked herself in a closet.) After a few days of what we might as well call shell-shock, I started looking forward to Kentucky’s gorgeous autumns and springs. I even started looking forward to the Kentucky winters that I’d grown up with. I had, honestly, missed beautiful snow and (as it turned out) ran outside to greet it on the first day it snowed. In my pink housecoat, white houseshoes, and morning coffee I’m sure I looked like a complete idiot. But I was a happy idiot!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m nowhere near perfect – but we all have good traits. One of mine just happens to be a knack for finding silver linings. One of the things that we Silver Lining People have to battle, however, is a complete intolerance for people who never even try to find the silver lining. We’re probably just as annoying. Happier, though!

Have you ever stopped to think about how your outlook affects your health – mental and physical? First, honestly this question: Do I tend to be an optimist or a pessimist . Then keep reading to see how you’re either (A) Sitting Pretty or (B) In need of finding a new seat!

Optimistic people tend to cope better with stressful situations. An optimist is more apt to look at stressful situations as opportunities and/or challenges. They’ll often put a “spin” on an unpleasant happening. Often it’s a coping mechanism that kicks in and allows them to get through the bad time(s). When my mom suddenly died in 2006, she joined my dad who had passed away 11 years earlier. One of the things that got me through the worst time in my life was the fact that I’d never have to lose either of my parents again. I’d been through the worst and would never have to return.

Many studies also indicate that optimists fare better physically as well as emotionally and mentally. A long-term study of more than 830 Mayo Clinic patients published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2000 found that those classified as pessimists had a 19% higher risk of mortality over the course of 30 years than those who were optimists. A 10-year study of 1,300 men based on data drawn from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study was reported in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2001. It suggested that a sense of optimism may protect older men against developing heart disease.

If you aren’t an optimist, don’t let this information make you even more pessimistic! Simply let the facts sink in. Instead of CHASING OPTIMISM, I want you to simply RUN FROM PESSIMISM. With practice and determination, you can most definitely alter your outlook. Don’t think of it as trying to make yourself something you’re not, think of it as taking yourself away from something you don’t want to be.

It All Starts in Your Head

Start thinking of thoughts as building blocks. If you’re able to catch your negative, pessimistic thoughts in the building block stage, you can rearrange them before they “build” words or actions. If, for example, you’re thinking that someone is irritating you or not living up to your expectations – look around for more positive blocks! Find something you like about them and the situation. Let’s say you’re spending an evening with your 15 year old son and his 3 buddies. You’re all watching television together and the amount of Cokes and chips these 4 are going through is beginning to weigh on your mind. Instead of focusing on those negative thoughts, focus on the fact that you’re spending an evening with your 15 year old son and his 3 buddies! He thinks you’re “cool” enough to bring his friends around and they think you’re cool enough to grace with their presence. Personally, I’d fix them sandwiches to go with those chips and coke. (Actually, last time one of my daughters had a friend over, I ran for McDonald’s – always a hit.)

[ Let me say, however, that being optimistic doesn’t mean being an moron. If anyone… it doesn’t matter if they’re 15 or 95….is doing somehting out of reason, not saying something doesn’t make you an optimist, it makes you an ostrich. And I’ll be the first to say that I believe most ostriches are optimists. They’re optimists with t-shirts that say, “Live and Let Live” and hats that say, “Free Bird.” If it sounds like I know what I’m talking about a little too well, it’s because I know what I’m talking about a little too well! Remember earlier when I said I was far from perfect? With sand in my hair, I pretty much meant that. I’ve been known to take headers into sand – and, like most people, I’m still working on finding that perfect balance. Being an optimist doesn’t mean you’ll ever be an ostrich, anymore than being a pessimist doesn’t mean you’ll ever be a curmudgeon. It just so happens that most ostriches are optimists and most curmudgeons are pessimists. However, I’ll always stand by the belief that an optimist will have a happier, healthier life than a pessimist. ]

Two techniques used in positive psychology are humor and journal writing. It’s believed that keeping a journal can be very beneficial – if you write more about the things you’re happy about and things that are going well for you. I think this philosophy takes a page or two out of the “Count your blessings” book. It’s an amazing approach, if you think about it!

Be certain that you never, ever underestimate the benefits of laughter. Researchers have found that laughter actually boosts the immune system and lowers the amount of circulating stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Can you imagine how grateful your heart would be if you found more opportunities to laugh?! No wonder we always feel so good after an episode of The Andy Griffith Show or a movie that makes us double over.

I guess we could sum it all up by saying: Start looking for more reasons to smile and more reasons to laugh. They’re there and have been the whole time!

Make each moment count double,
~Joi

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