Does anyone remember the nursery rhyme:
Monday’s child is fair of face.
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is full of woe.
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving.
Saturday’s child works hard for a living.
What about Sunday you might ask. Oh yes.
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
Well I was born on a Sunday which allowed me to lord it over my siblings. And you’d better believe that I did.
But lately I’ve been wondering if bonny and blithe and good and gay actually means being born an optimist, which to me means living life expecting the best. And then I wondered if optimism isn’t our natural state, and if so how can we reclaim it if we’ve turned into a pessimistic Penny.
Maybe right now current circumstances aren’t the best, maybe it feels as though everything is working against us…it’s a perpetual struggle or we’re just in that place of overwhelm. Can anything be done? Are you aggravated by something or someone and your response is…well let’s say less than positive or optimistic of good things showing up any time soon.
Cheerful Charlie me says yes, a hundred times, yes…or maybe that was Elizabeth Bennett when Mr. Darcy asked her to marry him. I confess I’ve been watching Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. I love happy endings…and it doesn’t hurt that they validate my optimism.
I recently read that optimists who believe they can achieve success are in fact more able to do so plus they get fewer illnesses, have longer relationships are less likely to get depressed and as if that isn’t enough they live longer.
We already know that what we believe, we’ll receive.
So back to the question, if optimism isn’t your current default mode what is it that’ll make a difference?
If you lean more to the pessimistic side of life the first thing to do is to ask questions.
Do you believe nothing ever goes right, or this always happens to me, and basically you’re just a victim of what’s happened. It’s got nothing to do with cause and effect, we’re all just victims. So with this belief, yes, you probably are a victim…of catastrophic thinking.
None of this is true or real of course, it’s just an interpretation of events, through the lens of pessimism. So let’s turn it all around:
Something happened that we don’t like. What do we do? We begin to feel bad, we begin to feel unhappy, we begin to feel all manner of lousy things.
But we don’t have to feel any of them. Circumstances can’t make us feel anything. Only we do that. So how about a feeling intervention.
Check your feelings.
Take a minute and determine what you’re really feeling.
Pause and choose a better feeling. Find something that feels good, even if it’s a memory, or something as simple as I have great friends, or I love feeling happy, anything that feels remotely good will do.
Stay focused on your feel good thought for a minute. Doesn’t matter if your old feeling resurfaces, just go back to the one you’re choosing. You’re in charge of your thinking, not your circumstances. You’re driving the bus.
Since the old adage, practice makes perfect is probably true, practicing this can turn a sense of doom and disaster into a better feeling of well being. Pretty soon, you’ll find it to be a more automatic response. It might not be an instant response, but after a minute or two, your habit of finding a happier feeling will win the day.
You’re more able to say, no thanks, to things that don’t feel so good and why wouldn’t you…you’re saving yourself from attracting more things that most definitely won’t be bringing a sense of well being any time soon.
We can all cultivate optimistic thinking and our optimism can sometimes be a lifeline for someone else.
Lo those many years ago when visiting my husband, Brian, in hospital I would sometimes sit outside his room whilst the nurse was making him more comfortable. On one occasion another patient came wandering by and sat down with me and we began chatting. I don’t even remember what we spoke of, but I do know it would have been about hope and celebrating life because they were the feelings I had.
The next day a woman introduced herself to me. She told me that her husband, who had the same form of cancer as Brian, had spent some time with me yesterday, and she didn’t know what I said to him, but she wanted to say thank you. Apparently whatever I said had lifted his spirits and he felt hopeful for the first time in many a month.
I was glad.
Later I learned that he had been discharged from the hospital and was in remission and I was even more glad.
There are always steps we can take to cultivate optimism if we would remember that there are actions we can take to change a situation, giving us a greater sense of power. There are specific reasons something happened, starting with our consciousness…thoughts and feelings.
We can face our pessimistic, negative self talk head on, by intervention as above and by not responding to our self talk as if it were true. All we need do is be aware of it, and treat it as though it were some miserable person who revelled in making us miserable too.
Hanging out with positive people is another good way to go.
Finding something to be grateful for…also useful.
Inspirational books, music, quotes…all great ways to top up our optimism levels.
Not forgetting being born on a Sunday seems to work just fine. Oh, we can’t fix that?
Never mind, focus on the real stuff and begin to reclaim your true self, your optimistic you. I know you can do it.
Encourage one another.