Do we control our lives? Most of us seek to control circumstances and events around us. Control provides us a sense of power and safety, predictability. However, things happen that we can’t predict or change. Some of these situations are drastic, life changing events that forever alter our lives. Dr. Ken Pelletier, a world-renowned Integrative Health Expert says, at the core of individual empowerment is the ability to make choices, informed choices. When we identify our options and can make a choice, we gain a sense of control. For example, a person diagnosed with a serious illness who is told his treatment plan without consultation or input might feel powerless, even helpless. While a person who seeks out options and adds input to make informed decisions about his/her health will feel more in control of his treatment, leading to more optimism.
In a sense I believe we can control our lives by how we perceive and respond to life circumstances. To be in control means to see our choices and options with optimism and clarity. In its simplest form, our personal perceptions affect how we view and experience the world. Perceptions are very tricky, because sometimes our perceptions are so strong they turn into our beliefs and define who we think we are. We’re smart or dumb, thin or fat, beautiful or plain, kind or greedy, capable or incompetent. Perceptions and beliefs impact how we respond to situations. Perceptions of ourselves impact our self esteem and how we maneuver through the world.
Sometimes we don’t realize that the perceptions and beliefs we’ve adopted are based on distortions, not facts. For example, if I’ve failed numerous attempts to lose weight or start exercising, I may believe I lack discipline or will power. Is this a fact? Or a distorted perception which turned into a belief? Distorted perceptions can wreak havoc with our feeling of self worth, self confidence even our body image. The good news is our perceptions and beliefs can be shifted, and lead the way to more optimism in our lives. When we can see things a little more optimistically, the world opens up to us and we are more apt to take action in a positive direction. What’s the upside to optimism? A healthier, happier more fulfilled life. Try these tips to brush up your optimism muscle:
be actively grateful
According to many research studies, remembering to be grateful reminds us of all the positive things in our lives. If we are prone to seek the negative, we can retrain our thought process to seek the positive and create a shift in perspective. What are the benefits of gratitude? Gratitude puts situations into perspective. When we can see the good as well as the bad, it becomes more difficult to complain and stay stuck. Gratitude helps us realize what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. Gratitude strengthens relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and, in general, makes us happier.
do something nice for someone else
The latest research reveals that when we do a kind act, it has an impact of how we view ourselves; we may see ourselves as more altruistic or charitable and provides a sense of optimism and confidence. Interestingly, being kind and generous leads people to perceive others more positively and more charitably as well, and fosters a heightened sense of cooperation within our families and communities.
connect with animals
Interaction with a gentle, friendly pet has significant health benefits:
- lowers blood pressure
- improves cardiovascular health
- releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
- diminishes overall physical pain
- the act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some folks need
- lifts spirits and lessens depression
- decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
- encourages communication
- provides comfort
- increases socialization
- reduces boredom
- lowers anxiety
- helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders
- reduces loneliness
We can do things to shift our perceptions, be more optimistic and feel more in control of our lives. More to come!