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Embrace optimism

BHARAT SAVUR | Updated on: May 26, 2011

LF27-FITNESS

Believe this truth: Optimism keeps you healthy and happy. Optimism is not a mere feeling but a beautiful belief system, a boundless, joyous credo you can actually live by. It's a positive, powerful current that activates and animates the cardiovascular and immune system's response to an illness and also to a drug taken during illness.

So effective is this belief that it not only stimulates the wishbone, it strengthens the backbone too. Optimism fosters a wonderful willingness — to do what it takes to recover or prevent illness, to quietly continue where others quit, to deftly avoid any food, activity or thinking process that aggravates a dormant, controlled condition. In fact, optimism seems to be the characteristic of the Great Swan or Paramahamsa. From a mixture of water and milk, the Great Swan is said to drink only the pure milk leaving the water!

And that's exactly what optimism is — to see the big bright white square space on the paper rather than moan over the tiny black dot on it.

Please understand: any negative response creates agitation; darker, depressive feelings are churned and they create a wobbling, disabling, defeated mind-body state. But optimism is an enlightened enabling stability, a state so steady, so peaceful and full of goodwill that we hold our nerve and generate an ‘ I'm-ready-when-you-are' can-do-ness.

If you're not an optimist, please study deeply to be one. It's worth it. You are worth the effort. Ready? Okay, open these three doors to optimism:

Door one: Read inspiring stories about incurable optimists. Let them light your spark. While they may describe miraculous turnarounds, it doesn't mean they didn't suffer sleepless nights or palpitations. The inspirational bit is their marvellous ability to accept What-Is rather than dwell on the What-Should-Have-Been. This sets them apart.

To accept is not to force yourself to yield to something unpleasing, but to wisely comprehend that ‘If I could do something to improve the situation, I'd do it now, so let's see later.' Such mature acceptance smoothens that inner resistance of non-acceptance, and gradually, the nervous system calms and peace prevails. And living doesn't seem strenuous anymore.

If you find yourself miserable, angry, know that you're into non-acceptance — like the bald guy who stubbornly uses combs. To exit this state you got to first stop thinking about the situation. Wait to see what happens. And let the mind be quiet, passive, placid. And… voila ! Either a direct answer wafts in, or an urge for an action that's necessary in the given circumstances is felt, or a clear ‘stay off' signal sensed, or a satisfying explanation flashes like an illuminating eureka! It never fails. Peace enables harmonious solutions to spring forth, just as silence enables harmonious musical notes to flow out.

Door two: Re-direct your mind to a zone where only positive things happen. Everybody gets their fair share of events to suit their needs. But pessimists take such events for granted and, hence, rarely notice the good stuff or realise their good fortune.

To nurture the optimistic attitude, start noticing the good things that happen to you each day. Note them down in a little pad that you carry around. At the end of the day, update and read through it. Share the content with a friend, spouse, companion, sibling, and encourage them to recount the positive things that have happened to them.

This bountiful practice done daily puts your brain in a resourceful state. This is because you're actually telling it, “Hey buddy, life is great, everything works out!” and its responsive neurological signals put you in a strong, can-do state where you want to stride into wellness or make a start towards more positive action.

Door three: Build a rapport with the right signals. Remember this: often, we are completely out-of-sync with situations. According to psychologists, our internal representation which is filtered through our upbringing, cultural context, prejudices is not a precise account of an event. That is, there is zero rapport with the factual state. Say, while driving you to your desired destination, a cab driver snaps: “I should have never taken this fare!”

If you're a pessimist, you'll immediately jump to the conclusion, “Here's one more person out to get me.” While the optimist who is more sensitively organised and more in rapport with others, will instantly feel compassion — perhaps the driver is tired or going through a tough time. If you just listen to him, he'll begin to feel your empathy, your rapport with him and begin to open up about his life in a totally different way. By the time you pay your fare, you'd have helped him get into a calmer, healthier, more resourceful state. And what a beautiful, meaningful journey you've both had.

Have no doubt. If there's a warm glow in your heart, there's a corresponding glow in his heart too.

Ah yes, on life's journey, as you drink deep of its varied experiences, you can either say, “Water is so tasteless” or “Water tastes so pure.” Which would you choose?

The writer is co-author of the book ‘Fitness for Life'.

Published on May 26, 2011
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