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Choose Optimism
Helen Dugdale
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Choose Optimism

Did you know that optimism can be learned AND it is good for your health? Not just for your mental health but also for your physical health. See challenges as opportunities to learn or to do something different, rather than accept disasters. Winston Churchill said "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. For example: You've dropped out of Uni, and an opening comes up for a hobby that you are good at. Now you have time to pursue that field.

Fortunately, optimism can be learned (refer to Martin Seligman in his recent book - 'The Hope Circuit'). Luckily our brains have plasticity, we are not 'hard-wired' to follow a certain path our whole life. Plasticity means that our brains are a 'work in progress'. Neuroplasticity has been in the news a lot recently. Yes, you can re-train your brain, so that positive thoughts are reinforced and new neural pathways are created. That is, new habits of thinking are formed. All it takes is Practice, Practice, Practice! Just like learning a new song, or the times tables, after awhile it does get easier and you don't have to think so hard.

The next step, after learning to think more positively is to be pro-active - you have to actually take some action to further embed your new habits. Brain coaching can help you with all these steps, and makes sure it is practical and feasible for your lifestyle.

Laughter is definitely the best medicine. Even a fake laugh or smile will send messages to your brain to activate those positive endorphins. After awhile this fake laughter will turn into real feelings of mirth. Just imagine how much better you will feel. When you feel more positive, you  tend to be less stressful and can handle life stresses better.  Ready to take on those challenges, stand up for yourself, do the things you have been putting off!

There have been many trials in recent years on the physiological effects of optimism, that is, the impact on your body and its functions. For example - optimism can decrease blood pressure; lowers the chance of infection; lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone); and increases oxygen to the brain which helps to grow and maintain neural function.

Consider how much is being spent on pharmaceuticals and lost productivity due to anxiety and depression. The benefits of optimism can be life-long empowerment.

Then there are other longitudinal studies (long term trials using the same participants), that have shown that optimists tend to lead longer and healthier lives than pessimists. They tend to be more social, more active and have higher expectations that things will go right for them. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies! and reversing Murphy's Law - you know - "what can go wrong will go wrong". 

On the other hand, you don’t want to be a totally unrealistic optimist. It can pay to be prepared for things to go wrong, so that you can fix them in time. So, what can you do about being a bit more optimistic? 

Here are 3 easy things you can implement straight away to improve your optimism and your health - *have a good laugh; * appreciate what you have around you; *exercise to get the blood pumping!  Remember- smiling can be contagious...... 😊


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