What is optimism?

Optimism: Tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the more favorable outcome. (dictionary.com)

Pessimism: the tendency to see, anticipate or emphasize only the bad or undesirable outcomes, results, condition, problems, etc. (dictionary.com)

You can probably identify if you are an optimist or a pessimist. What is the first thought that comes to mind when something bad, or even not so great, happens? Is it “Oh great! This will ruin my whole day. I am depressed.” or “Oh dear. That’s too bad. I’m glad it was not any worse.”

See the difference. One thought can lead to a sour mood and negative attitude and the other leans toward the silver lining with a positive outlook. Both attitudes will change your day. Like I say How you do Anything is How you do Everything.  If you tend to see things in a pessimist light, you will be anxious, worrisome and sometimes depressed. Things just never look good. Optimists usually see the brighter side, the upswing, the possible great things to come! They are generally more upbeat, excited, goal oriented and outgoing. 

Some people believe they are a “realist” which basically means “Hope for the best, expect the worst.”  Realists are pessimists with some hope. Hope that things will not always be terrible, but they still believe they will be terrible. A true realist can see things for what they are without prejudice or personal opinion. It’s harder to do that you think. Your personal world view is all about the perception of the event/situation which come from your self talk and your ongoing tapes derived from childhood and past events.

What makes an optimist?

In “Authentic Happiness” by Martin Seligman, he refers to pessimist thought as an automatic perception of a setback as “permanent, pervasive and personal: It’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything and it’s all my fault.” Whereas an optimist may see the same setback as surmountable, particular to that problem, temporary and relative to others.  An optimist can see a situation for what it is, who it is relative to and how it can be improved.

The NUMBER ONE act of an optimist is to take the situation as one instance in time. It does not explode to global proportions. They dispute the negative, pervasive devastation a pessimist might assume.  “Wait, does this red light really mean I will be late to work, yelled at by my boss, have to stay late, possibly written up, loose an account….” Probably not. So, what does it mean? You can take a similar situation that has happened in the past to compare the current situation to. Disregard your emotional response, since it might have been exaggerated. What actually happened? When overwhelmed or anxious events, try disputing your own thoughts to replace with more realistic and positive ideas.

You can take an optimism test on Dr. Seligman’s website. There is more information on optimism and happiness. 

Stuck

I am a forward thinker. I am always looking for the next adventure, be it a sports event, family outing, vacation, or how to improve my practice, home or relationships. I need to be moving forward. I have been stuck before. It is the feeling of nothingness, blah, lethargy, ho-hum-itude that is slightly uncomfortable, like sitting in the same place for too long. Yeah, stuck. There are lots of ways to get stuck, in your job, relationship, financial situation, etc. I will be talking about your life. Well, I guess that actually includes everything else.

stuck-in-a-rut

A lot of people are what I call “survivors.” Survivors are people who merely tolerate life. They have whatever job they can get (if they have a job), put minimal effort into their surroundings, relationships or self. They are just wasting time until it’s over. There is little meaning in life. If you are reading this, you are not one of those people or would like to not be one of those people. You are looking to make a difference! How does that happen? How have I not been on vacation for 5 years, eaten at the same restaurants, same meals, same activities, same, same… You might be bored.

Getting unstuck

Getting unstuck can be tricky. You are in a rut in life, one you created. So, examine the situation. How is my life? Do I like my job, my relationships, my home, my friends, my hobbies? Literally list it all out. What is good and bad and just okay. What might make things better? Is there something I can do today, or plan, to make some changes? Do I need to shake up the routine, reorganize, plan some different activities, make new friends?

One of the most important questions you might ask would be “Am I in control of my life?” Many people take whatever life throws at them, letting it control them instead of them controlling it. Are you making choices that are yours or do you just roll with the punches? I  have an excellent example. A man who never finished high school. He took several construction and manual labor jobs and finally ended up with a home repair gig. He married the first girl he got pregnant, because she was pregnant. He went to work, came home, watched the kid, went to bed. He was miserable. Though, he pretty much has never been much else. He changes and makes decisions when it is forced upon him, like a pregnancy, job loss, etc. He never made a proactive decision. He is not in control.  He has no idea what might make him happy, because it just hasn’t happened yet. This is as stuck as you can get.

You might need some help figuring out how to get unstuck. I see a lot of people in my office complaining of feeling nothing. They think they might be depressed because they don’t sleep well, have little energy, are uninterested in doing things, have no motivation and generally unhappy. It might not be depression, you might just be stuck. Find someone to help you out. I have noticed a lot of self help books on the subject too.

Resolutions or not

A long time ago I decided that resolutions were ridiculous. They are a way to help you look ahead and feel good about yourself and your future, for a minute. Today, the first Monday after New Years, has been deemed “Blue Monday,” the most depressing day of the year. Is it the blustery, cold and dark weather, the loss of the holiday excitement, return to work after vacation, or disappointment in your resolution failure?

Resolution means “to resolve, a strict determination toward action!”  That sounds pretty great.  I WILL _____.  You have every intention and purpose to do what ever it is you resolve to do.

Why is this ridiculous? It usually doesn’t work. Once a year people sit down to make a list of things they would like to change about themselves without addressing how to make that change.

  1. A special day is not necessary to make a change
  2. Focus on the negative repels change
  3. There is no way to measure the outcome
  4. There is no method for change

Resolutions should be the beginning of your goal setting. Goals can be made at any time, for any reason, they are measurable with steps, actually achievable and relevant to you.  You can stick to, alter, and adjust goals. Goals should work for you, not against you.

Once you set a goal, you outline your steps to attain that goals (what does it look like). For example, you want to be in better shape (resolution). Your goal might be to start with walking twice a week. Move up to 3 times a week plus 2 days of weight lifting. Perhaps you want a goal to run a 10K. You find a program for training (or a trainer). You set your goals for each step of that training. You figure out how that is going to fit in your schedule.

Sometimes goals require research, time and outside help. Like I mentioned above, you may need a trainer to get in shape, a dietician to help you with a diet. Professionals are out there for a lot of different areas. Look at your community education classes too. You will always need support from family and friends.

Look at your resolutions again. Are they relevant to you? Do you really want to do these things? How will you accomplish them? Create steps to attain the goals and celebrate your accomplishments.

How you see yourself matters

We are our worst critic. We scrutinize ourselves relentlessly. We spend more time thinking about how we look and portray ourselves than anyone else. Yep, how much do you think about other people’s appearance, behavior, etc. (That does not include comparing yourself to them) That is about how much they think about you. Usually, fleeting.

How you see your self matters. It is directly related to your self esteem and confidence. It correlates to how much time, effort, and love you think you deserve, from yourself and others. One of the most common symptoms of low self esteem is the fear that if others Truly knew you, all of you, they would leave you, hate you, despise or pity you. So, you keep parts of yourself hidden. You act in a way you think they want from you, not how you might really want to. You withhold things from your self that you deserve: love, attention, nurturing, time. You criticize your decisions, behavior, words and reactions. You give up to others what you should have.

It is a lot of effort for minimal impact. You work very hard to avoid a perceived threat. Believe it or not, people care and love you for who are. No matter what your perceived draw backs are. By giving up the effort for others and giving some back to yourself, which includes giving yourself some slack, you will gain some confidence. One of the hardest parts is figuring out what are doing for yourself and what do you give up. Where is the line? Well, how does it make you feel? Are you resentful and empty after or feel a sense of pride?

Give yourself some slack on the criticism. Give yourself some props on what you accomplish. Give yourself some time and attention. You deserve it.

Change of seasons can change your mood

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People are effected in all kinds of ways with the change of the seasons. Today is blustery, windy, cool, dark with the promise of rain, lots of rain. It’s fall. That means there will be less sunlight in the day, more cold weather, more darkness. I don’t mind the fall. I love Halloween, the change of colors, the cooler temperatures.

Some people dread the fall. It means the beginning of a season of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), now called Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern in the DSM 5, is the onset of depression at the beginning of a specific season, like fall or winter, which disappears at the onset of a specific season, like spring or summer. Yes, it could happen the other way around, though rare. If you start to feel more sad, irritable, sleepy or anxious and your desire to do your usual activities wanes in the shorter days. You might have SAD.

Like “regular” depression, the brain chemicals that regulate mood, serotonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine, seem to dip during the shorter days. The theory is the decrease in sunlight impacts circadiam rhythms, causing sleepiness, disruptions in sleep and drop in serotonin. Therefore, theoretically, using a UV light should help! Light therapy has been demonstrated to work well for people with seasonal patterns of depression. I have seen it work with clients who used it properly. Getting an at home UV light can be tricky. Not all light therapy boxes are created equal. Be sure to get one with full spectrum UV/UB lights. One that won’t burn you like the sun, but will give you the advantages of the light.

Depending on the severity of one’s depression, light therapy and being active socially and physically, can make all the difference. Some others may need medication to alleviate the seasonal sadness. Some people just head south and spend the winter in warmer climates.

Here is some information from NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) on SAD.

http://nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/Seasonal_Affective_Disorder_(SAD).htm

Trauma and your afterlife

I read a beautiful, troubling excerpt from a fiction book about what trauma does to a person. I thought “Only someone who has been traumatized would understand this.”

We call them survivors, but once the [bad guys] get you, the person you were dies, like any traumatized part of you never leaves that room, that car, that moment, and you walk forward a ghost of your former self. You rebuild yourself over the years, but the person you were isn’t the person you become. The great bad thing happens, and you become a ghost in your own life, and then you become flesh and blood and remake your life, but the ghosts of what happened don’t go away completely. They wait for you in low moments and then they wail at you, shaking their chains in your face and trying to strangle you with them.   
~Laurell K.Hamilton, Affliction

 

The trauma after effects, of any degree, can impact you at any time, with any reminder 635960697083632130-1100041933_fearof the moment, people, places, smells, times of day. Those “shaking of chains” are those sneaky fears, troubles, anxiety, depression, panic. Those inexplicable moments of irrational thought. Trauma can impact your sleep, your appetite, your belief about yourself, relationships and your life. It can hit you big or small. Do not under estimate the impact of trauma. Like the excerpt stated, you can rebuild your life and yourself, but those ghosts hang about.

Overwhelmed!

I have been feeling this way lately, work, school starting, home projects, weeds. There is a lot. The to do list is never ending. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? This could be the to do list, dealing with another person, managing your own emotions. There are many ways to feel overwhelmed.  overwhelmed

What are your symptoms? Do you start to forget things, become more irritable, sleep less, more headaches, body aches, feel sick, yell, throw things, cry? Anytime you notice your behavior changing due to external circumstances, it would be a good time to reign it in and examine it. What is going on?

Write it out. What is going on that is causing the feeling of being overwhelmed? Do you have too many things to do? Have you taken on too many responsibilities? Is money or time too tight? Are you taking on the responsibility for too many people? Perhaps you are allowing someone to take advantage of you, hurt you, use you or someone you love.

My first suggestion would be to take some time to list out your responsibilities and essentials. Often people feel overwhelmed when they are not managing their time well.  Using a calendar, schedule and making appointments (even for exercise, meals, and cleaning). If you make time for your duties and things you want to do, it can be easier to figure out where to put it all.

checklist.jpgThe important and urgent items would need to be first. Those with specific dead lines (work, kids to school, bills, meals). Many things are important with no specific dead line (exercise, grocery shopping, cleaning, family time). Start with those important things. You need to focus on your self first. If you find that there are several items still on the list, not under important, what should you do with them? Get rid of them, move them to a later day/date when you have more time, delegate to someone else?

If you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated you will not be effective. You might need to give yourself 5 minutes to do some deep breathing, take a short walk on your break at work, get more rest.  Take care of yourself first so that you can think clearly and calmly about what needs to be accomplished. Some things might not be necessary, but feel important to you. What is really important?