Glass half-empty, or glass half-full? How do you view the people, events, and aspects of your life? Similar to all things we’re born with, be it our aptitude for math, physical appearance, or our voice, we all have a genetic baseline that places us somewhere along the line of normal human attributes. This holds true for our outlook on life, which affects our temperament. And like any muscle or vocation, we can work at and change that baseline function to go in one direction or the other.
Some people are born with a naturally resilient and extremely optimistic disposition. These people naturally view events in a positive, glass half-full sort of way. Furthermore, they bounce back quickly from adversity, tragedy, and even deaths of loved ones. On the other side of the spectrum, there are people who are born with a naturally pessimistic disposition. They’re easily affected by events in their life and they view most things that happen as another negative event that further justifies their melancholy outlook and demeanor. Most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes. The good news is that we can consciously choose to cultivate both pessimism or optimism. We can change our mind by developing habits of thought which can shape our perception of our life and everything in it. We can literally work out our mind, exercising the muscle of resiliency and optimism through certain simple practices which help us become grateful for what we have. This leads us to see the positive aspects of our life and the events within it, bringing us a healthier and happier way of living.
At certain points in my life, I’ve found myself drifting toward one extreme or the other. At times, I’ve felt that my natural disposition was mostly rational and pessimistic. I’ve been down the rabbit hole of depression and can understand the pain others deal with. But I’ve also felt the exhilaration of being free and loving life for what it is, for what I have. Life is what we believe it is. Our thoughts rule our mind and our body. And our body influences our mind as well. Let’s start with our body and our actions, then we’ll get into our thoughts.
Your Body can Influence your Mind
Yesterday, I took my family for a hike in the Sierra National Forest. It felt wonderful to get outdoors, get some sun, get some blood pumping through my body, and to yell. That’s right. YELL! (I also sang, but for me, yelling was GREAT!) Now, for those of you who know me, you know I can be a little loud at times. But yesterday, I put my voice, my body, into everything and just shouted as loud as I could into the quietness. And it felt EXHILIARTING! The power we hold within our body, the strength and the energy we keep inside most of the time, letting it out makes you feel ALIVE. Which will change your thoughts on life. Because it will make you smile. It will make you laugh. It will make you feel POWERFUL. Because you are. We all are. That’s why people love to dance, sing, laugh, rough-house, play sports, have sex, etc. It makes us feel ALIVE. And it’s good for us. It changes our body’s chemistry and the feel good chemicals and hormones begin to pump through us. It alters our perception of the world around us. We begin to see the good and to feel happy just for being ALIVE. Being active and using our bodies to express ourselves to others and even our own self leads us to a positive and more energized state. And it feels GREAT! Try it. Smile, laugh for no reason, shout “I feel GREAT!” while smiling. Do that for a few minutes and you’ll feel better. You’ll feel the power of your body and mind.
How your Mind can Influence your Body
If we focus our mind on the positive feelings we’ve had in our past, on positive events, we can change the way we feel. For example, let’s say we have a traumatic or sad experience in our past that has brought us to tears or kept us feeling depressed for a while. Perhaps it was the grieving of a loved one who had been lost. If we keep replaying that over and over in our mind, reliving the pain and the suffering, how do you think it will make us feel? I know how it will make you feel, because I’ve done it myself. It take you right back to that depression, to that sadness, to that feeling of hopelessness, injustice, and pointlessness. That’s the power of your mind! And I don’t know about you, but for me, when I’ve taken myself back to those times of dread and sadness, I’m good for nothing! Really! I don’t feel like doing much of anything and I don’t care about anything in those moments. Now, is that something I’m proud of? NO! But is that a part of being human? YES! Do I accept that I’m capable of both focusing my energy on the negative feelings and becoming despondent and also of focusing my energy on the positive feelings and becoming exhilarated and excited for what lies around the corner? ABSOLUTELY!
Here’s an exercise I’d like you to try for yourself to see how powerful your mind is and how it influences the way you feel:
1) Close your eyes and think of a moment in your life for which you’re grateful for. Find this moment now, it could be a special moment with a loved one when you were a child, something a role model told you, a hug, the birth of your child, a happy moment with a loved one, ANYTHING! Whatever it is, find a moment from the memories of your life, and focus on it. Do it now.
2) As you focus on it. Feel those same feelings that you felt back in that moment, and now tell yourself in your mind that you are GRATEFUL for this moment you had, that you’re thankful for that moment, and you can allow yourself to feel sensations of love and happiness to yourself for that memory.
3) While keeping your attention on that grateful moment, and with your eyes closed, now begin to smile, REALLY smile. A big smile that gets the muscles along the sides of your head near your eyes into it, feel that sensation of a happy smile come over you and you’ll feel the chemicals in your body, those feel-good chemicals, begin to work their scientific magic on your brain and your mood, as you feel better and better in this moment with your gratitude for that thankful aspect of your life.
Excellent! That was a form of Self-Hypnosis. Now you’ve learned that your thoughts are powerful and can make you feel thankful and grateful. Then can make you feel positive-oriented and happy. Now take that skill and apply it to the things that you currently have in your life, and be thankful for them as well. Smile and enjoy yourself, enjoy your life. You only get one.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving today. Think about all the things you’re thankful for in your life. Better yet, write down at least 5 things that you have going on in your life that you’re thankful for. And tell them to a friend or a loved one today, and ask them to do the same. It’s a tradition we have in my family for some time now. As we share at Thanksgiving dinner, it helps us to remember to cultivate gratitude and to love one another, especially on this day of Thanksgiving. That’s what it’s all about. Be Thankful for what you have today!
Thank you all! I appreciate your efforts to better yourself!