Choose Compassion Over Judgement to Thrive in Community

Judgement says, “I see you; you’re different from me.” Compassion says, “I see you and we’re in this together.”

Judgement makes us unavailable for new information; compassion opens our hearts and minds.

We spend a lot of energy being concerned about other people’s judgement of us for any number of reasons. Too often, our worry prevents us from doing things we might really enjoy like meeting new people or having new experiences. What we forget is that other people’s judgement of us reflects something in them and has nothing to do with us.

People are going to judge us; that’s a fact of life. It’s how we respond that makes the difference. When we choose our response, we must remember that we don’t have to take everyone’s opinion on board because their view isn’t about us at all. However, if we feel their judgement is warranted, we can ask ourselves what we can learn from it.

People have judged me because I’m short in stature. Truth be told, being small has been a ticket to the front of the line more times than I can count, and I’ve never felt that my height was a disadvantage. You know what they say about good things coming in small packages, right?

When I worked in mainstream television, I had someone tell me that I was too short to work on TV. I mean what do you do with a comment like that? Truthfully, I was offended and what I learned from that encounter was to lighten the moment because I understand that people don’t necessarily intend to offend. It happened quite a bit over my career because our beautiful imaginations project all kinds of qualities onto the people we see on television that don’t necessarily match with reality. When someone would say, “I didn’t expect you to be so short,” I’d say “well you have to be small to fit into the box” when televisions were shaped more like a box. It lightened the moment and diffused any awkwardness for the person making the comment. That’s employing compassion in the face of judgment and for me it is always the right thing to do.

“We cannot always do great things on this earth.  We can only do small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa

As much as we find it easy to judge others, we have an equal supply of compassion we can call on. It may not be our first thought but remembering that we’re in charge of our responses to other people, we can choose again and select compassion instead of judgement any time. It takes practice but it’s a habit I strongly recommend nurturing, especially when we’re living in a community. You never know how the compassion you show someone else is going to impact their day. One small act of kindness, instead of judgement, can make the difference between someone feeling alone or feeling included.

When we care about other people and act from an intention of compassion instead of judgement we benefit because we feel good, our family, our friends, and our community all benefit too because the intention and the action coming from compassion help to lighten the moment and diffuse any awkwardness, just like I did with the people who said silly things to me.

“Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.”Pema Chodron

There is one very important piece about compassion and judgement that we can’t overlook. Nobody is more judgmental of you than you are, and I think that needs to go. I wouldn’t want your fear of making a mistake, saying the “wrong” thing, or failing at something to prevent you from enjoying your life and trying new things. When we’re compassionate toward ourselves, we stretch what’s possible in our lives. If something difficult or painful happens, think of how you might comfort someone you care about and say those things to yourself. Take good care of yourself; when your body wants rest, listen, and give yourself a rest. Cultivate a habit of speaking kindly to yourself about yourself. Accept yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings as they are without trying to change anything. This practice of being nonjudgmental softens us and increases the compassion we feel for ourselves, which in turn makes it easier to be compassionate toward other people.

Here are a few ideas to help nurture the habit of being compassionate:

  • Listen. Being a good listener means asking questions and listening without having to talk about yourself or offering advice.
  • Put yourself in someone else’s place. Imagine what it must be like to be new in your community for example and invite someone new in by making them feel welcome. If someone in your community is going through a tough time, send a card or drop off a thoughtful gift to let them know you’re thinking of them. Ask them how they’re doing and just listen with compassion. If someone is celebrating something, the same thing applies. You never know the impact you can have on one person or many people just by letting someone know you’re thinking of them.
  • Say encouraging things to others and know that they feel better for having been in your company. 
  • Use the words thank you as often as possible.

Compassion is one of the keys to living well. Remember we’re all human, we all have a story, we all have feelings, and we are all in this together.

Thriving In Community

I remember my first day on the kibbutz in Israel. I was a twenty something Catholic girl from Montreal moving into a community I knew very little about; frankly, I was overwhelmed. Over my three months stay as a volunteer, I would be rotated through working in the kitchen, laundry, orange groves, cotton fields and helping with young children. I made friends among the volunteers and the kibbutzniks; I learned about a rich culture of collaboration, kindness and inclusion. The overwhelm I felt at the start was replaced with a feeling of deep admiration and connection with a community that felt more like family.

The aspect of kibbutz life that impressed me the most was how families were integrated and elders were revered. I enjoyed many conversations with older people, who had settled the kibbutz and soaked up insights from them on the importance of sustainable gardening and the beauty of growing older. They felt their importance in the kibbutz culture and when I came back to Canada, I was reminded of how we’ve had it so wrong for so long. I knew we were missing the gift of being able to hang out with and learn from people who have accrued a lot of wisdom over their lifetime.

Many years later, when I learned about The Wellings model of community living, something resonated deeply with me. In my mid-sixties at the time, I was now becoming one of those older people and I recognized that there was a great wave of us entering an important stage of life. We’re interested in being active, social, feeling part of community and we want to choose how we invest our precious time. The folks who designed The Wellings communities recognize that we are all important and we matter. I feel honoured and excited about the work we do to support people in making the next chapter of their life one of the best.

When we are part of a community that wants the same things such as comfort and convenience, connection with others and freedom to do as we please, the only thing we must do is realize how to maximize the experience. None of us are irrelevant, regardless of our age or our abilities. We need to accept that there will be challenges, just like every other stage of life but we don’t want our challenges to define our experience.

Which brings me to the subject of happiness and the question: what really makes us happy? The first answer most people give is either family, children or grandchildren which translates to feeling seen and feeling part of community. While we all have something to contribute to our family and our community at every stage of life, having an open mind and an open heart as we age means we’re receptive to new ideas, we’re interested in hearing other people’s stories, and we want the best not only for ourselves but for everyone in the community.

Once we have clarity around what’s important to us or what makes us happy, we can prioritize that in our everyday activities. One thing we must understand is that if we want to feel valued by others, we must make the first move and show others why we’re valuable instead of waiting for others to acknowledge it in us. If we want to feel kindness in our community, instead of waiting for others to show kindness to us, we need to pledge to be kind to others.

Kindness is one of the most important qualities in any human being at any age and it’s powerful. Dr. David Hamilton a physicist turned kindness expert explains that every act of kindness we do impacts at least five people: first, you benefit because your brain produces dopamine (known as helpers high). When you feel good, you produce oxytocin, which causes the release of nitric oxide, which reduces blood pressure and is said to be cardio protective. Oxytocin is also said to slow aging by reducing inflammation in the body. We are all wired for kindness so when we’re kind it’s much easier to make connection and form relationships. Obviously, the person receiving your kindness benefits and so does anyone who observes the act of kindness and anyone they tell about it. Added bonus: kindness is contagious, so you never know who you’re inspiring by being kind.

There are so many mixed messages in our culture about getting older and we want to support ideas such as ageless living, where your age doesn’t matter but who you are does. Just like life on the kibbutz, we want to encourage cooperation and collaboration in community instead of complaining and above all we want everyone to know that they are important, and they matter.

Reading reference: The Five Side Effects of Kindness Dr. David Hamilton, Hay House 2017

The Best Medicine Is Laughter

Did you know that Adam & Eve were the first to ignore the Apple terms and conditions?

By the way, have you heard the rumor going around about butter? Never mind, I shouldn’t spread it.

When life gives you melons, you might be dyslexic.

But don’t you hate it when someone answers their own questions? I do.

Have you stopped to consider that people who take care of chickens are literally chicken tenders? And now a poem by Anne Scott:

“Missing” 

I’ve hunted near, I’ve hunted far
I even looked inside my car.
I’ve lost my glasses, I’m in need,
To have them now so I can read.
I loudly swear and I curse
Did I leave them in my purse?
Are they behind the sofa, under the bed?
Oh there they are—on my head!

We just wrote a song about tortillas; actually, it’s more of a rap. 

Communist jokes aren’t funny unless everyone gets them. But despite the high cost of living, it remains popular.

Have a wonderful day, and don’t forget to laugh!

The Four Agreements For Life Long Happiness

Don Miguel Ruiz, a best-selling author of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, explains the origin of self-limiting ideas that rob us of joy and cause needless suffering. It is based on ancient Toltec wisdom. In this blog, we’ll explain how to use The Four Agreements, a straightforward “code of behavior,” to find happiness in your own life. The Four Agreements are, in their simplest form, as follows:

Be Impeccable With Your Word

According to Ruiz, signing this agreement signifies accepting responsibility for whatever you say and write. It can be rephrased as “Say what you mean, and mean what you say” and pertains to integrity.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Why do we absorb someone else’s behaviors and words when we all have different beliefs, ambitions, and goals? It’s a typical error. This agreement emphasizes the importance of not giving people any power and that all they say and do is a projection of their reality. People are much more cooperative and focused on finding solutions rather than placing blame when they don’t take things personally.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Our time and energy are most significantly wasted when we make assumptions. This agreement promotes the idea that the ideal course of action is to ask questions in place of beliefs and to listen intently until all of your premises have been confirmed or corrected. Others can avoid this trap by maintaining an open line of communication.

Always Do Your Best

Although “always do your best” sounds like advice from your parents, it is always a good idea. According to Ruiz, your “best” varies from moment to moment and from circumstance to circumstance. In truth, giving your best effort doesn’t equate to doing too much, working too hard, or going “overboard” on anything. So said, it is being there and being who we are, even if all we can do at the time is listen. What benefits most from giving it your all? Self-criticism and remorse are never allowed to exist,  eliminating any room for self-criticism, lamenting the past, or undermining our efforts. It feels liberating to go through this.

Living The Four Agreements help us become self-aware and teach us how to control our emotions by preventing them from becoming reliant on others. We are considerate of others, in tune with ourselves, and effective communicators. We get more self-assured as we become aware of our driving forces, give everything our best effort. 

Incorporating The Four Agreements into our lives has helped us experience more freedom from limiting ideas and anxieties and find happiness, which has not only brought us to the Wellings community but also keeps us happy, focused, and inspired to continue growing in this area. We encourage you to do the same!

 

A Strong Heart

Do your part. Care for your heart. We will do ours and are going to pump you up. Love, your heart. Did you know that heart disease is first in both men and women’s causes of death? Take action now to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

What you can do to help prevent heart disease is:

  • Eat well and exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke and stop smoking.
  • Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Use alcohol sensibly only.
  • Reduce stress.

This week, consider taking a brief stroll, remember to live healthily, and stay young at heart.

How You Begin Your Day Is How The Day Will Roll Out

What’s your favourite time of day? You might guess from the title of this blog that I favour mornings. I believe that what I do for myself first thing sets me up for the day. I start with gratitude as soon as I wake up, reminding myself of all the good in my life: a comfortable bed, a home I love, work I love to do, that kind of thing. Then it’s onto affirmations and a glass of lemon water before coffee enters the picture. Lemon water helps with hydration and digestion as well as vitamin C and affirmations help direct my focus. I say things like “this is going to be a great day,”  “I am capable,” “I am adventurous” to name a few. It took some time to implement the habit of saying affirmations but after learning from author and speaker Louise Hay that affirmations are rooted in the idea that our thoughts can influence our health and our mindset for the better, I was inspired to try them. Ten years later, they’re part of my daily routine. Affirmations as simple and direct as these examples can benefit how we think about ourselves:

I appreciate what my body does for me each day.

 – I keep myself in good health with regular activity, great connections and nutritious foods.

– I am enough exactly as I am.

– I am adventurous and willing to experience things outside my comfort zone.

– My happy thoughts help create my healthy body.

“The past is gone. Today is full of possibilities.”  
Karen Casey

Having a morning routine can be a game changer and I have found that gradually adding in healthy habits really supports me and provides a solid underpinning for how the day will go. After I make my bed (which makes me feel like I’ve already accomplished something) and have coffee, I include either yoga and meditation or a walk outdoors in the morning, to help me feel both calm and mentally energized for the day.

I think we all know that good nutrition plays an important role in how we feel; I’ve learned from experience that for me it has to be sugar, caffeine and spicy foods in moderation. I do my best to include lots of fruit and vegetables as well as good quality protein but in all honesty my pandemic eating plan included too many potato chips and some days I was definitely on the see-food diet: if I saw food I’d eat it. Joking aside, the unspoken stress of the last few years has tested my good habits but has not deterred me from returning to what I know is good for me.

“With the new day comes strength and new thoughts.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

You’ve heard the expression “dance like nobody’s watching?” That may be exactly what you need to do as part of your morning routine, if you don’t enjoy going to the gym. Including some kind of movement early in the day seems to clear out the mental cobwebs and increase circulation. Movement doesn’t have to be fancy; it can be walking in your neighbourhood with a friend, catching up as you go. Research tells us that getting out in daylight first thing in the morning helps keep our sleep/awake rhythm in check. Move for ten minutes a few times a day or thirty minutes in the morning while you have the energy to get it done. Fitting movement into our day is easier when we’re not pressuring ourselves to do what everyone else does. Find out what works best for you and do that. Move to enhance mental clarity, increase your energy, improve your mood and sleep as well as strengthen your muscles.

I think it’s important to start our day with the intention of not overwhelming ourselves. I find having a list for the grocery store helps, so I can add to it as needed. I also like to make sure I have a “to do” list for tasks that are both immediate and long range; this way I don’t have to keep track of all of the information in my head. Put a little fun on your “to do” list every day too by adding an activity or an experience that you know will make you happy. It could be calling a friend, writing an appreciation note for someone, reading a book or enjoying your favourite refreshment in the garden. We’re so used to taking care of everyone else before ourselves that if we don’t write it down, it might not happen.

Try journaling to either express some feelings you might be experiencing or to help solve a challenge in your life. Sometimes, I enjoy journaling about what I love: food, experiences, people, or activities. I also love to write down what I’m grateful for (it’s a long list). I think you’ll find that this exercise can be a powerful tool to help clear out mental clutter.

However you begin your day, incorporating healthy habits benefits your health on all levels and having a good self-care practice incorporating some of these ideas is a great reminder to yourself that you are important and you matter.

How To Manage Full Days Like A Boss

I am what you might call a reluctant gardener. I love flowers but the work required to get them going in springtime sometimes feels like house work to me. I do the work reluctantly; knowing that down the road there will be a great reward. I think of the garden beds as Mother Nature’s works of art and I light up when I see her creations over the summer months. To help with weed management and to highlight the flowers, I like to put black mulch around the plants, to serve as a background.

I went to the garden centre early this spring, to get several bags of mulch and planned to get it into the gardens before too many weeds popped up. I got started early in the morning before the black flies were up and after emptying seven bags of the stuff I ran out of gas. I decided to stop and after a big glass of water, I had an epiphany. What was the rush? Why did I feel disappointed that I hadn’t finished the job?

I think it’s built in, this conditioned thought that we should have the job done yesterday, that we’re behind in our work so we must push harder, we need to go faster. Sure there was a time in my life when I would have pressed on and exhausted myself to feel that fleeting victory of having completed the task. But I’m not that person anymore: that was then; this is now.

A few days later I got up again before the mosquitoes and got the rest of the mulch down in the garden. I realized that it didn’t matter to anybody else how or when I got the task done; it only mattered to me and from that experience, I’m learning to ease up on myself and manage tasks in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me.

We are all just a little too hard on ourselves don’t you think? We’ve seen others doing the extraordinary and we naturally think we’re falling short but we’re all different and we should pace ourselves accordingly. Remember that you are important and you matter; your health and happiness are important and they matter too.

We all have some days that are busier than others and learning to handle them well is more about managing our energy than it is about managing our time. I’ve learned over the years that lists are my friend. Rather than go to the grocery store, trying to remember what I need, it’s much easier to write a list. This way I’m focused and with the odd impulse purchase I’m in and out without the feeling that I may have forgotten something, even though I do that too from time to time.

Perhaps you have company coming to stay or guests coming for dinner. Make a list of the tasks you know have to be taken care of and divide that list into manageable pieces, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. This way, you’re managing your energy and the event instead of the event managing you and your precious energy…especially in the middle of the night. It’s all on the list, you can go back to sleep.

I’m full of energy early in the day, so I like to make sure I do some of the things on my list early to celebrate getting them done and to allow for rest or other activities that bring me joy. Getting up early may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I do recommend tending to your to do list early in the day, when you have the energy to take care of it.

Give yourself a break. Make sure that while you’re attending to your to do list you pause now and then for a cup of tea or a glass of water and while you’re pausing, why not cross out the items on your to do list as you get them done. We’ll call it our done list. I’m all about celebration so make sure to give yourself a pat on the pack as you go through the list because you’re getting it done like a boss. You’re a boss who manages their energy well and appreciates good work. Good for you!

Be open to receiving support when you have a lot on the go. People are waiting to help us out; all we have to do is ask. It takes nothing away from us when we receive help; in fact it makes the person helping out feel good. So don’t be so proud that you can’t receive support when you need it. We are wired to be helpful, so feel comfortable and appreciate the kindness.

The last tip I want to offer is that it’s okay to say no when you have a lot going on. It’s responsible energy management to know when you have to put your needs ahead of doing favours for others. When someone asks you for something and you feel enthusiastic right away, go ahead but if you’re hesitant either politely decline or tell the person you’ll check the calendar and get back to them. This way, you’re creating space to consider carefully whether their request is something you have the energy for or want to participate in.

You can be sure that from time to time life will throw us curveballs and nobody wants to feel that their life is out of control. When things get hectic, being prepared by having a few healthy habits handy will make it easier for you to navigate and will support you in your quest to live well.

Tips for managing busy days:

– Make a To Do list and break it up into manageable pieces.

– Start working on your To Do list early in the day or well ahead of your event, so you don’t feel pressured.

– Take breaks and cross tasks off of the To Do list as you address them.

– Be willing to ask for and receive support. Many hands make for light work.

– Feel comfortable saying no when you have a full plate. It’s okay to put your needs first.

Don’t Give Up Hope

There are many ways in which life challenges us. The loss of a loved one, a layoff, or a health issue can all impact a person’s life. Positive thinking, on the other hand, can be a valuable ally. Choosing to be positive and thankful has a positive effect on your mind and body.

People who have a more positive attitude on life live longer and are less likely to suffer from heart attacks and depression. According to one study, thinking positively about aging can add 7.5 years to one’s life expectancy. However, after considering factors such as gender, wealth, and overall health, the results are much more striking.

If you have a positive mindset, it may encourage you to exercise and eat healthier. Because you’re feeling better, you’re more likely to remain optimistic and joyful. If you’ve ever heard of a “virtuous circle,” you’ll know what I mean.

Things like low blood pressure and cholesterol have enhanced life spans by roughly four years, but if you view the glass as half-full, it could have a more significant impact.

Optimism is a skill that may be acquired. Time and practice are all that is required.

A few options are as follows:

  • Smile, even if it’s a phony one. It has the potential to alleviate some of the symptoms of stress.
  • Reframe. Instead of focussing on the negative, focus on the positive.
  • A thankfulness diary is a good idea.
  • Do good deeds for the sake of good.
  • Make friends with folks who make you happy.
  • And remember, you can’t change everything.

Finding Purpose at Every Age and Every Stage of Life

We’ve been taught that having purpose in life centers on achieving things like getting good grades in school, finding a life partner, having a family, earning a certain amount of money or attaining status in the business world. Are these markers really what give our lives purpose and meaning and once we’ve achieved these goals, what then? I ask the question because I’ve seen too many people feeling confused once they’ve achieved what they thought would give their life purpose and they’re asking the question, what now?

According to one analysis on the subject of purpose by The New York Times, about 25% of American adults admit to having a clear sense of purpose about what makes their life meaningful, while 40% claim neutrality on the subject, or acknowledge that they don’t feel aligned with a purpose at all.

In my view, having purpose is simply a way of framing our day, so that we look forward to either sharing our gifts with others or being of service in some way. Perhaps it’s that it feels like such a big subject that people shy away because they overthink it. I think we all want to feel that we have meaning in our lives and that may have little or nothing to do with what’s in our bank account or what we do to earn money. It’s about what makes our day worthwhile and that can imply different things at different stages of our lives.

When we’re young, we’re in foundation building mode, figuring out how we’re going to shape our lives. It’s followed by raising a family if that’s the choice we make; then helping our children find their way as young adults. This is often where it gets challenging for many people because purpose and meaning take on a different flavor when our nest is empty. That’s the time to get curious again because we have accrued experience, hopefully we’re a little wiser than we were when we were young and we can choose again how we want to shape the next chapter.

“I believe the second half of one’s life is meant to be better than the first half. The first half is finding out how you do it. And the second half is enjoying it.” – Frances Lear

Having purpose is not necessarily connected to our goals; rather it’s how we have ongoing impact on the world around us with our gifts. It’s about knowing our “why” at every stage of life. Our “why” is our calling, our conviction; you could say it’s our mission statement. Knowing what our purpose is at any stage of life gives us stability and a sense of direction. Before you jump to the conclusion that your purpose has to be something grand I’m here to say that having purpose doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to feel right to you. We’re not talking about the purpose of life; we’re talking about your purpose in life which can change, depending on where you are on your life adventure.Your purpose is as unique as you are. Remember we all have distinct talents, experiences, skill sets and interests that fire us up and there are always new ideas to uncover.

Which brings me to connecting with purpose; I’m often asked how we connect with it; is there a formula for finding it? While these are good questions, there are no easy answers. Often we look outside of ourselves, thinking that there must be someone who knows what our purpose is. Could it be an elder, a partner, a teacher or a friend? While feedback about our skills and talents from others can be helpful, in truth we are the only ones who truly know what purpose means to us. So it’s best not to chase it; rather allow it to emerge by asking yourself a few important questions, such as: What are my gifts? What do I stand for? What are my values? The answers to these questions hold clues for us and will help point us in the direction of our purpose.

“When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day.” – Marty Buccella

If your gift is that you’re a good listener or a nurturer, allow those qualities to guide you. If you stand for safety for children, pets or older people, those are clues for you and if family is among your values, you can tease out ways to express your values, your gifts and your principles in your every-day life. You could be the best Grandmother or Grandfather; you could be a fantastic friend who really listens to those you cherish. You could align yourself with an organization that rescues or protects animals, a group that advocates for children or older people. You could do intentional acts of kindness for your neighbours; the possibilities are limitless.

“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” – Albert Einstein

Be careful around FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real because fear is a trickster; it can convince us to stay small; not to step outside of our comfort zone. However stepping out is the only way we can create space for our purpose to emerge. Remember there’s no one way to get there, just as we are all unique our exploration will be unique as well. Keep in mind too that we are all creative beings regardless of our talents and it is never too late to connect with activities and communities that will make your heart sing.

While you’re investigating your purpose, here are a few tips to help you on your quest:
– Be open hearted and open minded.
– Think about what you’re good at.
– Look for ways to be of service to others.
– Ask people who know you what they think your talents and skills are.

While reshaping our sense of purpose in life can feel challenging please don’t feel pressure to find it; rather let it find you because it’s already in you. The world needs you at every stage of life to share your skills, knowledge and your wisdom. This is ageless living.

Footnote: How are you doing with your intention for 2022?

Cultivating Optimism For Good Health And Longevity

These last few years have been a little confusing for optimists like me. There’s a sense that we’re not on firm footing; Pandemics will do that. This roller coaster ride has reminded all of us that we’re not in charge of life’s events but we need to remember that we are in charge of how we respond to life’s events. We can choose to be skeptical, cynical, fearful or we can choose to be optimistic despite the evidence in front of us.

How we respond to difficult situations has a wide ranging impact on us emotionally, physically and spiritually. How we think influences how we feel and over time, how we feel has an effect on our physical health through chemical interactions in our brain, which is connected to every part of the body. So the question is: what is the message you want your brain and body to share?

I get it. We’re not all naturally optimistic but we can learn how to nurture more positivity in our lives and we have excellent motivation to do so. Research tells us that optimistic people have a better quality of life and tend to live longer. Skeptical? Then this blog is for you.

Recent studies conducted at the Montreal Heart Institute show a relationship between optimism and a decreased risk of cardiovascular events as well as a longer life span for optimistic patients, while studies at Carnegie Mellon University in the US show lowered risk of return hospitalization for cardiac bypass surgery patients, who were deemed optimistic.

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely curious about how to increase optimism in your life and by association, you’re choosing to improve your physical health. Optimism isn’t measurable the way we measure blood levels and obvious physical outcomes but there is speculation that optimistic people have healthier habits than pessimists. It’s also suggested that optimists have stronger social connections, are more likely to exercise and more frequently follow medical advice. It should also be noted that it’s perfectly fine to have days when we feel discouraged; it’s just not where we want to stay, if we’re looking to be more optimistic.

So how do we turn up optimism in our lives?

Start with small shifts in your attitude by allowing optimism in. Watch for opportunities to interact with people you see as optimistic; their generous, positive energy will help get the process started. Where perhaps you may have dismissed them in the past, see them as your teacher and be open to receiving their kindness.

Don’t forget to give positive feedback. Most people are reminded by others when they make a mistake but it’s just as important to share positive feedback.

Be mindful of what you’re consuming in the media. Too much News can fuel fear and while it’s important to be informed, make sure to limit your exposure and find resources that make you feel lighter: watching uplifting videos or movies, enriching your day with upbeat blogs, books or television shows.

Watch what you say. It’s easy to be critical and our thinking habits are tenacious. To increase optimism we have to become mindful of the negativity we put out into the world and make the choice to shift what we say to something more optimistic or positive or say nothing. If you’re in conversation with someone and you feel their negativity, I find the best strategy is to just listen without getting into it with them. I also like to say “I’m sorry you feel that way” because I am sorry they feel that way but it’s not my job to correct them or to instruct them. We are all free to think and say what we want but I don’t have to participate in negativity and gossip; I can turn it around by being kind and compassionate. When I come across negative, critical people I recognize that it’s fear speaking and I say to myself “if there’s no audience, there’s no show.” In other words, if I don’t engage in the gossip or negativity the conversation will either end or change course.

Use role models as mentors. Think of people who you consider to be optimistic in your social network, workplace or even on television. When you find yourself challenged by a negative or cynical response to something, ask yourself: what would that person do or say? Then try doing or saying that; it’s another way to let more optimism in.

Look for the good. It’s so easy to find something wrong with just about everything; optimists invest their energy in looking for the good. It’s there in every situation but sometimes we have to look carefully. Ask yourself: what is good about this day? Your brain will go looking for the answer. It’s also helpful to ask yourself what you can learn from challenging situations instead of letting disappointment win. There’s always something to learn that will benefit you in the future.

I want to encourage you to embrace the process of becoming more optimistic even though it’s uncomfortable; even though it may go against deeply engrained habits. We all have negative thoughts, we’re human; it’s what we do with them or about them that makes a difference. I like to remind myself and others that we are all beautiful works in progress and every day, every minute is a new opportunity to learn and grow. There’s no instant fix but the investment you make in yourself by inviting more optimism into your life will improve your overall happiness and allow you to collect more hopeful thoughts about the future.

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