I’m sure you’ve read it somewhere, on a social media post, scrawled across the street in chalk or, if nowhere else, in this very column: We are all in this together.
It’s an interesting concept to ponder. Worldwide, billions of people are experiencing a similar trauma. Change is more than a seasonal event – it’s infused into every aspect of life. How convenient that May is Mental Health Month, because right now, it’s a matter near and dear to everyone’s heart – and head. While we’re all in this together, how you approach the tidal wave of change is very individual.
Each day seems to be a whirlwind of emotions stirred up in response to change. For example, I can’t say walking into the grocery store has ever poked my anxiety button before, but it did this month. It’s happy one minute, frustrated and irritable the next. More than usual, negative emotions are surfacing. But, this can change, too. It’s all about perspective.
Whether it’s nature or nurture, who knows, but as individuals, we either tend toward pessimism or optimism. Neither disposition is right or wrong, they just are. However, given the influx of negativity lately, even the die-hard pessimist may be looking for a shift closer to center.
Pessimists, your point of view is appreciated because you’re really good at finding what could go wrong – sometimes, that can be a lifesaver. Optimists, your positive expectations for the future, regardless of current outlook, can also be lifesaver. Harvard Health reports that optimism is linked to improved outcomes on eight measures of physical and mental health over the long term. With a heightened awareness of our well-being, a daily dose of optimism may be just what we need right now.
Martin Seligman, a prominent psychologist on positivity, tells us that optimism can be learned. Since you probably don’t have big plans this weekend, maybe you’ll have time to read his book, “Learned Optimism.” If you doubt you’ll have time to read the book, or don’t believe it’s possible for you to see the glass half-full, then that’s a likely outcome. But just in case you’re curious:
Positivity ratio. For every negative, you need three (some suggest up to five) positive words or thoughts to find balance. This is the value in practicing gratitude. Aren’t you grateful for this tip? Caution with absolutes in your thoughts and words. Absolutes include always, never, nobody, everyone, impossible, all, etc. These definitive words remove possibility and hope.Change is possibility. By definition, change implies different, which does not equate to bad. Expand your thoughts to include all options.Reality of predictions. Think back, how often have your worst-case scenario predictions actualized? Your honest answer has just given you perspective, yet another tool for practicing positivity. Locus of control. Would you laugh at the ridiculousness of becoming frustrated because you couldn’t change the direction of the wind? Exactly, focus on what you can control, such as which way you face it.Laughter is the best medicine. And when it seems there is nothing worth laughing at, you can laugh at that, too. (Ha! Remember the point about absolutes?).Practice physical health first. The term hangry says it all. We need sleep, water and food. It’s hard to have positive emotions when our basic needs are not being met. Nicole Clark is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461.Nicole Clark