Turn that frown upside down It’s been long and brutally cold winter in Calgary this year. As the calendar officially flips to spring tomorrow, the snow and ice here aren’t quite ready to leave . A recent house-bound week of -30 temps makes me want to flee to Hawaii, but too many work commitments mean sifting through old vacation photos instead. With a long-term outlook that calls for more chilly days ahead, my personal level of optimism matches the temperature.
For a little spring training in harnessing the power of positivity, I turned to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, who frequently appears on CNN and Dr.Oz. She’s a NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist and teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College. These are her suggestions for turning that frown upside down.
1. Focus on the good.
“Keep a daily appreciation or gratitude journal. When you focus on all the things to be happy for in your life, then more great things come. Think generally. Use your senses. What do you appreciate seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, listening to? Write it down. Within a few weeks you’ll train the mind to pivot to an appreciate thought when a negative thought comes,” explains Dr. Hafeez.2. Make plans.
Making plans to see relatives, a new exhibit or to travel gets our mind moving forward, toward something positive that we can be hopeful and optimistic about. Dr. Hafeez suggests making plans to do 3 things per month for the next 3 months. “Choose things that you know will bring you joy and then go do them! Feeling excited about what is coming and talking about how fun it will be keeps us optimistic,” says Dr. Hafeez.3. Control what you can, delegate the rest!
We get pessimistic and worry about the worst possible outcomes when we realize that we can’t control every detail. This leads to anxiety and an even stronger feeling of having to control conditions, and even others. According to Dr. Hafeez, this is a trap. “Figure out what needs to get done. What actions you can take. Then let go of anything else that is beyond your control with faith that everything will turn out fine. Envision the desired outcome,” advises Dr. Hafeez.4. Limit your news watching and avoid it before bed.
“There is a very common pattern I see people falling into,” says Hafeez. “People awaken and immediately reach for their smartphone for headlines. They then turn on the TV news as background noise. They listen to news in their cars, have news alerts going off on their phones all day, catch the evening news and then the 11pm news before bed. No wonder they’re less optimistic! What you choose to look at will impact your mood. Remember, good news doesn’t get ratings,” she adds.5. Don’t snooze. Instead, just breathe.
When the alarm goes off give yourself a few minutes to just lie there, eyes closed focused on your breathing. Breathe in counting to 4 and then breathe out. Do a mental scan of your entire body from head to toe thanking your cells for restoring you as you slept. “Deep breathing is a form of meditation and in the morning, you have a small window of opportunity to decide what kind of day you want it to be,” says Dr. Hafeez.6. Distract yourself with something that requires focus.
Pick something you truly enjoy doing and do it daily. It can be painting, coloring, yoga, a 20-minute walk or jog, listening to music and dancing around your living room. “When you are fully engaged in something, you can’t ruminate — which leads to pessimism,” explains Dr. Hafeez.7. Make feeling good top priority.
When you commit to feeling good, you instantly start to think more optimistically. According to Dr. Hafeez, when you’re mindful of your own negativity and shift to a better feeling – positive thought – you feel powerful. You’ll feel like you can conquer anything when you can master your own mindset.
Sounds like a recipe for springing into spring! I’m going to try these tips on for size. You?