Living Well Integrative Health Center

2176 Windsor Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (902) 406-1500

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OPTIMISM AND FEAR

January 7, 2014



An optimist sees the glass half full. The pessimist sees the same glass half empty. They are both right so why is one better than the other? Optimism heavily influences physical and mental health. The optimist will live a happier and longer life and research supports this. An optimistic outlook has been shown to decrease stress and depression. It increases a sense of psychological well-being and provides an individual with better coping skills for hard times. From
a physical standpoint it increases resistance to colds, decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and has a favourable effect on pregnancy outcomes, survival rates from cancer, immune function, and pain perception.
Harvard doctors think that the optimist tends to engage in healthier behaviours, build stronger social supports and get better care and that these behaviours may have positive effects on health by decreasing stress hormones and inflammation. Psychologist Martin Seligman found pessimists 8 times more likely to get depression, less likely to succeed at work, more likely to have close relationship break-up and more likely to have shorter and more illness filled lives.
Pessimists focus on the things that go wrong but billions of things go right. Optimists are grateful for those things that go right and don’t dwell on what might or did go wrong. It’s a far easier perspective from which to live well.
You can’t wish yourself into being an optimist. Seeing the world optimistically is a frame of mind, a way of explaining things that is actually outside of conscious control meaning your mind acts before you are aware. In other words your mind either speed dials pessimism or optimism, it’s a kind of habitual pattern.
Pessimism often follows a serious disappointment or loss in life. The pain triggers circuits in the brain to become very sensitive to threats, activates part of the nervous system that makes your body respond for example by making your heart race or your blood pressure rise. Neurochemicals are released that cause you to have a flight, fight or freeze response. By working on changing your viewpoint to positive you can help build up memories of successes rather than of failures and disappointments. This helps rewire parts of your brain and encourage it to
speed dial positive thoughts. Being an optimist doesn't mean you think only good things happen, it just means you are able to imagine a happier outcome and that you experience less stress after bad things have happened. Self-awareness is the key to becoming more optimistic. Once you are aware you can work on
changing ideas to more positive ones and that helps rewire your brain circuitry. When this happens your negative speed dial starts to change and your habitual patterns of thought will become more positive.


Step1. Identify and quiet the fear of disappointment
Step2. Identify and quiet your emotional responses to unexpected setbacks.
Step3. Actively search for positive views on life.


But remember this ... you have to feel that fear to identify it that takes a lot of courage and practice.You also have to practice visualizing successful options in life, to dig deep into your memories of +events and focus on them. Take responsibility and credit for all you do well. You must convince yourself you are able to do well. It takes a lot of practice but eventually, slowly but surely, you start tospeed dial positive thinking and eventually that becomes your new habit. Imagine your mindexperiencing and accepting set backs without stressful self-talk, "its my fault" or "things like this always happen to me". Imagine being able to say to yourself, "what can I do now". Imagine discovering positive things even in the face of grief, loss, disappointment or illness. The recently deceased Nelson Mandela once said that "courage is not the absence of fear but the
triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear. The winter 2014  issue of our newsletter (see options at top of web page) is about individuals that have stood in the face of fear and discovered positive things in themselves. May they stand as examples for us all...
HAPPY NEW YEAR, DR. MARIA PATRIQUIN MD FOUNDER OF LIVING WELL

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