Be Healthier. Be Optimistic

During these crazy times, you can simply squeeze your eyes tightly and pull the covers over your head. You can stare at the TV or at your laptop screen until bedtime, and then have trouble sleeping. You can lash out at the mail carrier and your best friend. You can eat Cheetos till your fingertips turn orange and cheesecake till your pants don’t fit anymore.
Or — you can take a deep breath, realize everybody is dealing with something, and determine to look at life in a better light.
For starters, it’ll make you feel better.
Be honest: Does being crabby make you smile, make you happy, make you want to be around yourself? Of course not.
Second, it will also make others feel better. Who wants to be around a crabby person? I don’t exactly see a lot of hands waving in the air.
Third, if you need scientific proof, consider this: The Mayo Clinic, as well as other top-notch medical and research facilities, finds a strong link between a positive attitude and good health. Study after study reports that ongoing optimism can lead to such benefits as:

  • Lower levels of distress and rates of depression.
  • Longer lifespan.
  • Better physical and psychological well-being.
  • Better coping skills during tough times.
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

 

Researchers aren’t exactly sure why. Maybe optimism begets a healthier lifestyle. Or positivity helps us better handle stress, helping to prevent stress-related problems.
So try these for a week and see what happens. These are my own personal tips — which, in combination with genes from my almost 90-year-old mother, who marvels at plants spurting out of sidewalk cracks — seem to truly help me look at each day with optimism and hope.
Keep tabs on appreciation.
For years, my son and I have written what we’re grateful for in what we call our “Five Things Book.” We’ve kind of lapsed, recently, since he’s now living in Colorado. But when he’s home, we still do it together. When he’s not, I still (mostly) do. These don’t need to be earth-shattering. They can be as simple as a good cup of coffee, or the colors of the sky, or a Scrabble victory, or a call from a friend. Anything counts.
Most days, I bet you won’t be able to stop at five.
Go outside.
Yes, this is Texas, and its summer: A combination for million-degree days. But studies have repeatedly shown the benefits of time spent in nature. So, go outside for a stroll before the sun rises, then watch it rise. Or go outside at dusk, and watch the stars come out.
You’re likely to see neighbors out, too. A little “Hi, how are you” can go a long way.
Move.
Do something every day.
Walking around the block is always good. If you miss the gym, check out YouTube fitness videos. My personal favorite YouTube trainers are Pamela Reif  and Chloe Ting.
If it gets too tough, you can always push “pause” and do the rest later.
Sleep.
I’m usually lucky to sleep through the night. When I do wake up in the wee hours, here’s how I get back to sleep.
I inhale through my nose something I want to fill myself with, then exhale through my nose something I don’t want. For instance, I often inhale courage and exhale fear. Or I inhale calm and exhale stress. The key is to focus solely on your breath. Rarely do I make it to five inhales and exhales before drifting off.
Reach out.
If you’re thinking of someone, send that person an email or pick up the phone and call. Wouldn’t you feel good if someone did that for you — if you received a note that said, “I was thinking about you and thought I’d check in”?
Express yourself.
Next time you’re all masked up and in the grocery store, thank the clerk for being there. Thank your mail carrier. Thank the person who checks you in at the gym. We take for granted that everyone we deal with puts his or her life on the line every time they go to work.
There you have it. Easy-peasy. Once you start, optimism will become second nature. Trust me.

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