The Fiddlehead Life series
My favorite cartoon character is Ziggy, by creator Tom Wilson. He’s a chubby little guy with lots of pets who seem to take over his house. And pretty much anything that can go wrong for him does–but he takes it all in stride. He keeps on. He stays positive (or at least neutral and somewhat ironically oblivious), even though his life seems to be one long Monday morning.
I have often said that I lead a “Ziggy life,” and I really, really do. Counting up my woes can be a tempting habit; one that I fight against and try to keep in check. Life, as our little bald friend Ziggy teaches us, is full of ironies, disappointments, and confusions, but with a few good friends and a curious nature, we can navigate it positively.
Today’s Live Your Best Life message:
That’s it. Two simple words that can often feel very big, especially if life seems to be “picking on you” lately. You may not be able to change the situation, but you can always change how you respond to it.
Adopting a little positive thinking goes a very long way to keep your mind and body healthy.
Johns Hopkins Medicine details a few of the health benefits of a positive attitude, and some of these physical benefits may surprise you:
- studies have found that a positive attitude improves outcomes and life satisfaction across a spectrum of conditions—including traumatic brain injury, stroke and brain tumors.
- even people with a family history of heart disease are one-third less likely to have a heart attack when they have an attitude of positivity (compared to those with a more negative outlook)
Very Well Mind reports that a positive attitude can help with:
- Longer life span
- Less stress
- Lower rates of depression
- Increased resistance to the common cold
- Better stress management and coping skills
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease-related death
- Increased physical well-being
- Better psychological health
You may not be able to change the situation, but you can always change how you respond to it.Christina
So how do we do this? When the car won’t start or the job is getting on your very last nerve? When you buy 200 dollars worth of long-overdue groceries, pack the freezer, and then the freezer dies overnight?
To be honest, it takes work. It takes a deliberate choice, each day, and when it gets tough, each minute.
Choosing an optimistic view means changing your perspective on what would normally feel to you like a negative experience.
When something negative happens:
- Try not to make it “bigger” than it is. All to often I hear someone lamenting over a problem and my first thought is–that is really not a problem. This is not meant to be dismissive, as we all face challenges, but intentionally making a problem bigger than it is will just cause you more grief. Try taking a step back from the problem and thinking ok, what are the solutions? In the long run, will this matter all that much? Is this really something to get all bent out of shape about? How might I make the best of this situation?
- Consider every challenge an opportunity. A chance to think outside the box. A chance to offer compassion. A chance to demonstrate your strength of character. An opportunity to rise above the situation and overcome. These things are self-esteem boosters, at the least.
- Take a deep breath. Don’t dismiss the power of a deep cleansing breath. This lowers your blood pressure, centers your thoughts, and puts you in a better frame of mind to deal with the issue at hand.
- Realize your own limits. Can you solve every problem? Of course not. Sometimes a level of acceptance and decision to allow a situation to just be will help you to release yourself from the responsibility you feel to fix or change things that are out of your control. The well-known Serenity Prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) embodies this perfectly. Though you are likely more familiar with the truncated version of this prayer, here is the full version which began appearing in sermons as early as 1934.
Prayer for Serenity
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
- Not feeling the Serenity Prayer? Find a mantra, a poem, a quote, a song–something that grounds you in times of trouble, and cling to that when things get difficult. Find your strength and hold on.
- Do something to distract yourself from the frustration. Listen to classical music. Exercise. Take a walk. We all have activities that help us to calm ourselves. Put those activities into action when your life seems out of control. You’d be surprised how much clarity a simple 5 minute walk can bring.
- Reach out to your support network. Notice I didn’t say phone a friend and vent until you run out of breath–this can be a tempting way to manage problems but in the long run it will tax your relationship and create a negative way of coping. Keet “venting” in check as it leads to more negative emotions.
- Have yourself a quick cry–then get on with it. Constructive crying can help to clear the air for you and hit the reset button on your emotions. Like venting, this is one to use constructively and wisely, not overly and widely. A well-used cry can be a good way to just let the emotion out a bit and reduce the pressure you are feeling. I used to play a very sad song, have a bit of a cry, then turn off the music, take a few deep breaths, wipe my face and set my jaw to move forward with an “ok, let’s do this” attitude. I can’t tell you how this came in handy when I was a single mother in college–every day was so difficult. Sometimes crying was impossible to avoid–but I learned not to let it overwhelm me or take over my whole attitude. I learned, crying had function.
Have any other tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments. Give this article a quick “like” and share if you found it helpful. Thank you for being here with me on this “best life” journey. I hope today you find your strength and your peace to navigate the rough spots. YOU CAN DO THIS.
–author of “organic,” a poetry collection that sits at the heart of this “Live Your Best Life” movement.
You may find this bestselling collection on Amazon at ORGANIC–FIDDLEHEADS & FLOSS VOL. 1