I read an interesting article that struck a cord with me and I though it would be worthy of sharing. It is in the April 2011 issue of O magazine about Optimism and feeling good. Dr Seligman, PhD. an expert in the field of positive psychology said, “When it comes to our health there are essentially four things under our control;
- the decision not to smoke
- a commitment to exercise
- the quality of our diet
- our level of optimism
Optimism is at least as as beneficial as the others. Scientists don’t yet fully understand the biological mechanisms at work . They know negative feelings like stress,worry and sadness cause a spike in the hormone cortisol. A rise in cortisol suppresses the immune system. It’s important to stay positive and be optimistic for our mental and physical health.
Tips on how to stay positive and healthy
- Express yourself. When you clear your head good things happen to the rest of you. Journal your thoughts or talk to someone.
- Try Meditative Exercise. Meditative exercise like yoga, tai chi have all sorts of health benefits including a boost to your immune system.
- Seek help if you need it. People who are not coping well emotionally and are clinically depressed don’t heal as well.
- Lean on your friends. People with strong social ties are better at warding off infection and have lower stress levels.
- Look on the bright side. People who score low on positive emotions were three times as likely so succumb to sickness in a study by Sheldon Cohen, PhD. Cohen says, “We all have the ability to choose an optimistic mind-set and with practice, we can get better at it.
There was a quiz to take to see how optimistic you are. You can take the How Optimistic Are You? quiz on line by clicking here.
How To Be An Optimist
Optimism is something we can improve with practice. Here are five exercises rooted in scientific studies to help train your brain. By Susan C. Vaughan, MD See the article here.
O, The Oprah Magazine | From the February 2002
PLAY INTERPERSONAL PING-PONG
If you serve up a smile to people, they usually bounce it back. Hit them with a snarl and watch them scowl instead. Research shows that facial expressions and the moods that accompany them are contagious, probably because they evolved as a means of nonverbal communication between people. You can use the infectious effects of a grin to jump-start an optimistic outlook in yourself by sending others what you want them to lob back at you. A kind word to the man behind the deli counter can get your day bouncing in the right direction.
There’s another reason for putting on a happy face: It influences your brain in a positive way. In one study, subjects who were asked to hold a pen in their mouth (causing them to inadvertently make the facial muscle movements characteristic of a smile) rated cartoons to be funnier than did other subjects, even though they were unaware that it was the smile that was boosting their reaction. There’s an interesting biological reason for this effect: When you feel down, your brain tells your face you’re sad and your facial muscles respond by putting on a depressed expression—and convey back to the brain that, yes, you’re feeling blue. Consciously changing the facial muscles so they don’t correspond to what you’re feeling is a way of sending a different message: “Hey, it’s not so bad down here after all.” The brain will respond by beginning to change your mood accordingly.
EXPLAIN SUCCESS AND FAILURE LIKE AN OPTIMIST
Research shows that it’s not what happens that determines your mood but how you explain what happens that counts. If an optimist encounters a computer program she can’t figure out, she’s likely to say, “Either the manual is unclear or this program is hard or maybe I’m having an off day.” The optimist keeps the failure outside herself (“the manual”), specific (“this program”), and temporary (“an off day”), while the pessimist would make it internal, global, and permanent. When success occurs optimists say, “Of course dinner turned out; I’m a good cook,” while pessimists say, “Boy, was I lucky today,” literally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If you start to speak to yourself in a more positive way when you succeed and fail, you’ll gradually become more optimistic.
STACK THE DECK IN YOUR FAVOR
It’s easy to be envious: Compare yourself to those with thinner thighs and fatter bank accounts and you’ll always come up wanting—and pessimistic. But the corollary is also true: No matter how bad things get, there’s always someone who’s worse off. In one simple study, subjects were randomly divided into two subgroups. One group was to finish the sentence “I wish I were a ______.” The other was asked to complete the sentence “I’m glad I’m not a ______.” When individuals rated their sense of satisfaction with their lives before and after this task, those who completed the “I’m glad I’m not a ______” sentence were significantly more satisfied than before.
LEARN TO SHIFT YOUR FOCUS
Pessimists can’t stop depressing facts or negative thoughts from poking into their consciousness, but they can choose not to dwell on them. If you look through a camera lens, you’ll find that when one part of the picture is in focus, the other areas blur a bit. (This is a distortion, sure, but sometimes we need to sustain the idea of being in a protective bubble to feel optimistic.) This active self-direction of your own moment-to-moment perspective allows you to create a new life story, one in which you take charge of your emotions and actions. Since research shows that those who feel they have a better sense of control tend to be the most optimistic, why not take charge of where your psychological lens is focused?
I can’t help but think about how all of this relates to having a healthy life, eating well and either losing weight or maintaining weight loss.
If we focus on what we can’t have:
- We have a feeling of deprivation.
- If we dwell on how it’s not fair that some of us have to be diligent about what we eat and exercise while others can eat whatever they want and stay thin, then of course that is going to lead to more negative thoughts.
- It leaves us with a sense of hopelessness which leads to more gloom and doom.
- We feel powerless and out of control.
The good news is, we can change that thought process around into a positive one.
- We can choose to focus on the fact that at least we have control over how we fuel our bodies.
- Think about the wide variety of delicious tasting food we can eat that are also good for us!
- Know that we are increasing our chances of fighting off infections and even preventing ourselves from having weight related health issues.
- By living a life filled with healthy choices we are improving the quality of our life.
- At the end of the day there are no regrets when the choices we make are healthy ones.
I took the How Optimistic are you quiz. I scored a 5 which according to the answer key means; From your perspective, things usually work out. Your ability to focus on the potential for good allows you to see the best in yourself too. This kind of optimistic bias can promote well-being. People who score in this category tend to be more outgoing, more resilient and happier!
Of course there is always room for improvement. I am a work in progress. I have not always had an optimistic outlook when it comes to my weight issues. I think that is part of the reason I yo-yo dieted for most of my adult life. In the past if I couldn’t be “perfect” with my food plan I would give up. If I gained a few pounds I would go into a negative thought process and think “Here I go again, I knew I would fail and fall back into my old habits.” Then I would feel discouraged and give up only to gain tons of pounds back. What we think does become our reality.
This little weight gain I have had has not derailed my positive outlook. I chose to look at it as temporary gain. It is a natural part of maintenance to gain a few pounds. The trick is to not let a few pounds turn into more and to not let negative thinking take over.
Oh and I am happy to say that I have lost 1 pound of my 6 pound gain! Yippee! Just 5 more to go. My jeans already fit better too. Gotta love that!
Put on your happy face, focus on the good choices you are making and keep moving forward!
Add Your Thoughts
How optimistic are you?
Have you noticed that if you smile at someone they usually smile back?
If you take the Optimistic Quiz and want to share your results come back and let me know.