Can we learn to be optimistic?
I believe so, and researchers agree.
But it will take some undoing of early programming.
The average fourth grade child has heard the words “no, you can’t do that” over 70,000 times. So we have to work to overcome that negative imprint.
Not only are optimists happier than pessimists, research shows they are healthier, live longer and make more money.
Today I’d like to offer some historical anecdotes about all the times pessimists were wrong. Hopefully it will give you more inspiration to hold onto your dreams in spite of the naysayers:
For starters, remember how absolutely certain people used to be that the earth was flat!
In 1847, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis was the head of Vienna General Hospital’s First Obstetrical Clinic, which at the time had a mortality rate of 10-35%! When he suggested doctors and mid-wives wash their hands before attending mothers and newborns, he was ridiculed by the medical authorities of the time, and fired by the hospital that employed him. In 1851 he moved to Hungary where his theory was accepted and hand-washing reduced mortality to less than 1%!
“Don’t ever let somebody tell you that you can’t do something. You got a dream, you got to protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you that you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.” Will Smith, actor
Can pessimism be helpful?
I think not.
Not that there’s anything wrong with critical thinking and trying to be aware of potential obstacles.
But I’m talking about people who are negative for the sake of being negative. Because they have not succeeded, they don’t want anyone else to succeed either.
AN EYE-OPENING COMMENT
I like to increase my odds of success by being a thorough researcher. So when I was working on The Wind Is My Mother, I took a class on how to get a non-fiction book published and did absolutely everything suggested. It worked.
The Ten Indian Commandments are all we need to know to heal ourselves and the planet!
1. Treat the earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
2. Remain close to the Great Spirit.
3. Show great respect for your fellow beings.
4. Work together for the betterment of all humankind.
“Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins.” Native American proverb
Years ago, my friend Carol stopped at a gas station while driving through Oklahoma. Just as her car was approaching the pump, she was cut off by a big RV that pulled in ahead of her.
Carol was pissed and found another pump. When she went inside to pay, the woman who had cut her off was standing in front of her in line. Carol resolved to give her a dirty look when she turned around.
But her world was turned upside down when she heard the woman say to the cashier,
One of my subscribers asked for a suggested reading list to help gain more insight into Native American spirituality and I am happy to oblige.
I have one caveat, however: Indigenous spirituality cannot truly be understood intellectually. It is based in the heart and the body and communicating with the natural world. I strongly recommend following the practices I share in my posts, particularly those that involve communication with nature. The reading will be a nice supplement to that.
This is a list of some of my favorites:
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Gandhi
I’m a big fan of peaceful social activism. Having marched in the 1970s in opposition to the Vietnam War, I’m proud that my generation helped end it.
We have even more opportunity today, with the advent of online petitions that are getting lots of results, fast.
UGLY SOCIAL ACTIVISM
But there is also un-social activism that causes me concern. I’m thinking specifically of Spike Lee’s ill-advised re-tweet of the supposed address of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
It’s not hard to learn how to meditate. The secret is to find the technique that works for you.
Psychologists estimate the average person has at least 50,000 thoughts a day and 90% are the same as yesterday. Meditation is simply stilling the chatter of our mind to come to a place of relaxation and peace.
Here are a dozen methods for you to try. Start with five minutes once or twice a day and work up to 15-20 minutes.
Last spring as I was walking around the lake near my home, I came upon a family of swans by the shore: two beautiful, huge adults and 10 little baby swans. Ten!
[Yes, I know they’re called cygnets but that word isn’t cute enough to do them justice].
The two parents were putting up a very loud squawk and, as I got closer, I saw that one of the babies had become stranded on the shore side of a big log and the parents were encouraging it to climb over.
The baby kept trying to get over the log but the log was too big and the baby too small. So the parents took turns stepping up on the log, turning around and squatting in the hopes the baby would grab on to them and be pulled out. After about a dozen attempts, they succeeded.
The irony was that if any of them had looked to the baby’s left, they would have seen it could easily have swum around the log to freedom! But they were all too focused on the problem right in front of them to look for other solutions.
It struck me that this was a perfect example of the benefits of meditation. Stop, take a break, relax, regroup and look around for a fresh perspective. That usually allows inspiration and new ideas to flow in.
Traditionally, April 1 is “April Fool’s Day,” an opportunity to play harmless and fun jokes and tricks on others. Frankly, I’ve never been a fan.
Not much is known about the origin of this holiday. One popular origin tale is that when the Gregorian Calendar moved the first day of the year from April 1 to January 1, not everyone got the message, or simply chose to ignore it.
After all, there was no internet then to spread the word. Those who continued to view April 1 as the first day of the year were called “Fools”.
But this story doesn’t hold water because the history of pranking on April 1 started long before the Gregorian Calendar came along in 1582, and it also has traditions around the world.
Another theory is that the timing of a day of pranks is tied to the arrival of spring, when nature “fools” humankind with fickle weather. That explanation makes sense to me, particularly this year.
The desiderata is a much loved poem written by American writer Max Ehrmann in 1927. Largly unknown during Ehrmann’s lifetime, It became well-known after being found at Adlai Stevenson’s deathbed in 1965.
In response to losing the majority in the Canadian Federal election in 1872, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau quoted the Desiderata in reassuring the nation that “the universe is unfolding as it should.”
While the writing may seem stilted by today’s standards, the sentiments expressed are profound. And our lives will be better if we embrace them.
“I’m not interested in any philosophy unless it can help me grow corn.” Sun Bear
Meaning, “it gives me practical help in my life.” This post is about how celebrating the Spring Equinox can do just that.
This year the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere is March 20, 1:14 a.m. Eastern Time: a day of equal balance of the hours of light and dark before the sun continues its journey towards longer daylight hours and warming temperatures. The word equinox comes from the latin words meaning “equal night.”
The equinox energy is strong for four days before and after March 20th, giving you time to bask in the opportunities and lessons it brings.
Ancient cultures throughout history have celebrated this time of rebirth of Mother Earth. But what does it mean for us?
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” Thomas Dekker
There may be no better way to improve health and energy, and reduce stress, than getting a good night’s sleep. But that seems to be more and more difficult to achieve in our 24/7 world. Prescription drugs and over the counter sleep aids are plentiful but may not be our healthiest choice.
Counting sheep has never worked for me, but here are 25 tips that will contribute to a good night’s sleep, without side effects:Continue reading
“You can never learn less; you can only learn more. The reason I know so much is because I have made so many mistakes.” Buckminster Fuller
When my niece, Kate was ready to start kindergarten, she had to first go through an interview consisting of ten questions to assess her social skills. Nine of her answers were deemed “correct” but the one she was marked wrong for shocked me.
Question: “What do you do if you break something?”
Kate’s honest reply: “You tell the truth.”
A December 7, 2011 story on the Today Show alarmed me: 25% of adult women take drugs for anxiety and depression, and to help them sleep. 25%!!!
The reason given is that we all have more stress in our lives and prescription drugs seem to help us cope with it.
While scientists don’t always agree on much, there seems to be consensus that at least 70% of all illness is stress-related.Continue reading
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Mohandas Gandhi
I confess. I am a Workaholic. I rarely rest; I want to be working all the time.
It started as a child. My mother told me that once I was old enough to talk, my typical answer when she asked if I wanted to do something was, “I too busy.”
“Molly, do you want to come to the store with me?”
“I too busy.”
“Molly, do you want your lunch?”
“I too busy.”
“Molly, do you want to play outside?”
“I too busy.”
And so it has gone for most of my life.
The incredible irony of this is that I teach people how to de-stress, relax and live a balanced life. And am quite good at teaching these things! Proof of the saying that we teach what we need to learn.
I’m the girl who leaves a relaxing yoga class saying, “I don’t know why yoga has to take so long. I could do all that in 20 minutes.”
When I worked in a law firm, I was often the last to leave at night. And I never, ever said no to overtime projects. It wasn’t for the money; I just had a very strong sense of responsibility.
Years ago, my typical Saturday morning was: work out, clean the house, do the grocery shopping. When I returned at 10 am my roommate would ask, “Now that you’ve done what it takes most people a full day to do, what’s next?” And there was always more.Continue reading
“Too often we define success as financial achievement. I view success as doing your very best at all costs.” — Bear Heart in The Wind Is My Mother
Here in the U.S., “success” is often attributed to the richest, thinnest, youngest and most famous. Is that backward? I think it is.
I recently came upon another meaningful definition of success. I invite you to ponder it. As a reader of this blog, I feel it’s certain to apply to you.
My last post was the “thirty day no-gossip challenge.” Since so many conversations seem to be about other people, particularly in a negative context, I promised to write a post with suggestions for positive conversation topics.
The idea for this post came from the memory of a sweet conversation I witnessed between my then four-year old niece and her 4-year old neighbor, Erica.Continue reading