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The Tough Love Guide To Finding Optimism

The Tough Love Guide To Finding Optimism

There’s a reason why the phrase “down in the dumps” exists.  It’s a real thing. Sometimes it feels like the silver lining stood you up and now you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go. Problems are problems. No matter what size they may be. There are times when they can feel so much bigger than you and you’re all alone in an empty room with them without any furniture for you to hide underneath.

Here’s some good news: you’re not alone. At some point or another, we all encounter dilemmas that challenge our happiness. It’s how we react to these challenging times that determines how long they last, what lessons we draw from them, and whether or not we change for the better. Optimism is a necessary tool for climbing out of the dumps and a strong device to draw out the best in this world.

When you feel like you’re so far down the hole that you can’t even see it, try these steps to ascend towards optimism.

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1. Find your people (or person)

Get on the phone, or better yet, meet in person with a good friend or family member who makes you feel safe and talk it out. If you don’t have this person in your life, pay someone like a therapist or a bartender with a good ear. Either way, connect with another human being who has the capacity to be warm and/or the ability to listen well.

Expressing your troubles aloud can have a cathartic effect. Getting whatever is bothering you off your chest will help alleviate some of the pressure built up from suppressing it. Plus, if you have the right people/person by your side, they can fill you up with some of that much needed optimism that you’ve had a hard time accessing.

2. Give it a name

This one you can do by yourself or you can make it a group activity. Dealer’s choice. Part of what keeps us from optimism is the inability to truly name what is at the root of our issue.

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Focus – truly examine what’s making you so blue. Many times the small things that we find dissatisfactory are really symptomatic of a bigger issue. Maybe it’s not really about the fact that you lost your job but the fear that your spouse might think you’re not able to pull your weight as an equal partner. Or maybe it’s not the fact that your boy/girlfriend picked a Lebanese film tonight and you hate subtitles but that all things Lebanon remind you of the one that got away. I don’t know. Whatever it is, give your oppressor a name so you know what to call it when you tell it to leave.

This could be hard because identifying a root problem requires some H-O-N-E-S-T-Y. However, in the long run, you’ll take pride in your bravery and that can bring you closer to optimism.

3. Exercise your talents; give away your gifts

Remember what you got, because it’s a lot. I don’t remember where I heard that. What I do remember is that there are certain things that I’m really good at. You have those too. Everyone has talents; some of us have gifts.

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What’s the difference?

Simply put: talents are abilities we’re naturally inclined to but need to be put into practice often in order to develop them. Gifts are characteristics that are in our nature that we operate in the world with in a more organic manner. One person can be a talented musician, well versed in multiple instruments. Additionally, they have the gift of patience which enables them to teach music to others. Pick one of your talent seeds, plant it, water it daily, and it may bring you a harvest one day. If you’re lucky enough to have a gift, then find a way to dispense it freely. Good vibes have a reflective quality. Witnessing your talents and gifts in play will definitely put optimism in your life.

4. Go outside and move around

If you’re like me, at some point, you might have had a string of days where blending into the couch seemed like a good idea. Trust me. It’s not. Motivation is scarce when you’re feeling down and maybe it really is too cold, or too sunny, or too scary to go out but you won’t know until you do it. So just do it.

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During one of my few couch spells, I read an article that proclaimed that simply walking is scientifically proven to release endorphins, a stress fighting chemical, in your brain thus making a person feel better. You know what? When I finally got off the couch, showered, then went for a walk I found out it was right. Crazy. I know. The only things that should be between your couch cushions should be some loose change, popcorn, and maybe a condom wrapper- not your hind-parts sinking into them because you’ve been sitting for that long. Optimism is definitely not there. Go outside, take a stroll, and find it.

5. Buck Up

Chances are if you and your loved ones are healthy, all else is solvable. Not to trivialize what may be going on with you but to break it down to a base level: this holds true most of the time. I remember when my father had his stroke a decade ago, other problems seemed to have melted away.

Looking back at the years that followed, I never heard my father complain about the state of his health or about all of the changes he had to make in order to stay healthy. The man adjusted his diet, exercised, and monitored his blood pressure regularly. All of this he kept to consistently. Recently, I had the privilege of traveling with him to the Philippines. Through the multiple flights and long days of exploration, he maintained the stamina of a man decades his junior. He was able to do that because when the most important thing: his health, came into question, he bucked up and just did what he had to do. He didn’t get weighed down with what ifs or the negative possibilities. This may be the most important step in claiming optimism.

6. Trust

When you try your best, you never have to be ashamed of the outcome. Whether the scale tips to your side or not, trust that the tide is in your favor. Your best efforts will put you on the best path for you. If you can make room for trust in your thoughts, you can bypass inner judgements that often create unnecessary comparison, worry, and overall displeasure. There are so many great things around you; happening for you. Trust yourself to do right by you and you may find yourself making better decisions more suited to your overall health. A balanced mind, body, and soul are definitely in possession of optimism.

Featured photo credit: Have You Seen This Man/Tony Fischer via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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