Monday, April 23, 2012

Optimism - Can you train your brain to be 'half-full'?

Optimism - Can you train your brain to be 'half-full'?

op·ti·mism (pt-mzm)
1. A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
optimism [ˈɒptɪˌmɪzəm]
1. the tendency to expect the best and see the best in all things
2. hopefulness; confidence 
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003 
I have been thinking about this first post for the last month.  As the first one of many more to come, I wanted to set the tone for what I really believe in and lead the way for all of us to achieve 'Vibrant Health'; positive thinking is what I consider to be the foundation for health and all the rest that will come, so I will start this blog building up all of our foundations.
I was recently reading Fitness Magazine and found an article citing the new book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain from Elaine Fox, Ph.D.  In the book Fox explains that even though seeing the glass half full actually seems to be an inherited trait, we can all train our brain to see the positive side of things just as we can strengthen our physical muscles or a river creates a canyon.  In addition, Fox's research also shows that pessimists tend to view events as out of their control while optimists believe they can control the events in their life. So when we experience a stressful situation, remembering that our actions will directly affect our life experience can help us to move through the stressful situation with more ease.
Another study from the researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that over and eight year period, optimistic women were 14% more likely to be alive then their pessimistic counterparts.  "Taking into account income, education, health behaviors like [controlling] blood pressure and whether or not you are physically active, whether or not you drink or smoke, we still see optimists with a decreased risk of death compared to pessimists," says Dr. Hilary Tindle, lead author of the study. "I was surprised that the relationship was independent of all of these factors."  This is an excellent study showing how our overall happiness actually affects our health and longterm wellbeing.
So how can we all flex our optimist brain muscles?  As an eternal optimist myself, I sincerely believe we choose to see what we want each day.  When I wake up and look outside, rain or shine, I say to myself: 'wow, it's a beautiful day'.  And when I'm going in for a test (in martial arts or school), I tell myself: 'come on, you can do this!' 
How do you talk to yourself?  When you find yourself in a stressful situation, what part of it do you focus on?
Here is a overview of the steps for positive thinking that I live by:
1.  When stressed, allow yourself a small piece of time to throw a pity-party. 
2.  Once you go through #1, pick out at least one part of the situation that is positive, or that you can control, and focus on that.
3.  Create a game plan for how you can get to the end result you want. 
4.  Celebrate your successes! 
5.  Yin and Yang.  I always tell people  when you are stressed, you have two ways to get it out...I recommend BOTH.  For Yin, relax and breathe.  For Yang, get your body moving!
6.  Do or watch something that makes you happy. 
7.  Be dedicated to positive self talk. 
I will go over these in more detail in future posts (so stay tuned)!
I challenge all of you, whether you are a natural glass half full individual or a glass half empty kind of person, to take a moment and think of something wonderful, something that makes you happy, and let those warm fuzzies wash all over you.  And the next time you find yourself stressed, go through the steps above; it may take some practice, but you too can live your life with your glass half full.

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