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Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

Melissa R. Rich, Ph.D.

Most of us have an emotional/mental bent in one direction or another – optimism or pessimism. It has to do with the way we feel/think/perceive things and it affects you on a much deeper level than you’re probably aware of.

Here are some benefits of optimism that may surprise you:

  • Optimists are generally less stressed and more heart healthy

  • Optimism is contagious so it can motivate and engage those around you

  • Optimism opens us to new opportunities, experiences, and ideas

  • Optimists live longer

  • Optimism allows you to deal with failure more constructively

Pessimism, on the other hand, involves seeing and expecting the worst in people, things and events. Really not a fun way to live. Here are some of the results of pessimism:

  • It’s linked to depression and sadness

  • It can cause people to make poor choices

  • It can lead people to neglect their health

  • It’s linked to anxiety and higher levels of stress

I’ve had clients tell me that, while they’d love to be more optimistic, it’s not their natural tendency. If that’s you, then what? Are you doomed to live on the dark side? Not at all! The good news is that optimism can be learned, and it’s really not that hard.

Here are some easy ways to help you become more positive. Quick tip – doing these things once or twice really won’t achieve much. You need to incorporate them into your regular routine and you’ll be amazed at the difference you see.

  • Start being aware of the good things. You can start a journal where you jot down a few sentences every day or do a pictorial journal – when you see something that makes you smile, snap a quick picture of it

  • Exercise regularly – getting up and moving really lifts your mood

  • Go outside, especially somewhere that has trees and greenery – connecting with nature makes you feel happier

  • Help someone else – nothing makes you more aware of your blessings like lending a hand at the local homeless shelter

  • Retrain your brain – if a negative thought pops into your head, gently turn it aside. Tell yourself, “I’m going to think about (something positive) right now instead.

Optimism and pessimism are both due to habits and patterns we’ve acquired. Thankfully, habits and patterns can be changed. Give it a shot – consistently – and I think you’ll be amazed at the results. Here’s to happier thoughts!

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