I helped talk a couple of friends into volunteering at an event for the Food Bank in Omaha, NE. (http://www.owhataduckrace.org) One of them had volunteered before, but the other one had so much fun that he asked us to contact him if the Food Bank needs any more help at events. 4 years ago
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Shane did a really nice thing over Xmas. He gave a Xmas bag to a homeless person. Cheers. 5 years ago
thought you might enjoy this article.:)
by Elissa Sonnenberg
Take a close look at that glass of water. Half empty? Half full? What you see could make a difference, not only in your daily health, but in how long you live.
So say the results of a new Mayo Clinic study that tracked 839 people over 30 years. In the 1960s, study participants took a standardized test to determine whether they were optimistic, pessimistic or somewhere in between. Those who scored high on the pessimism scale turned out to have a 19% greater chance of premature death than those who scored more optimistically.
The Power of Optimism
“I believe we have compelling evidence that optimists and pessimists differ markedly in how long they will live,” says psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania in his editorial accompanying the study. “It is not clear if pessimism shortens life, optimism prolongs life, or both.”
Seligman says there are at least four ways that optimism can affect longevity:
- Optimists tend to be less passive than pessimists and less likely to develop “learned helplessness” or negative and debilitating responses to things that happen to them.
- Optimists tend to be more likely to practice preventive health measures because they believe their actions make a difference.
- Optimists suffer depression at a markedly lower rate than pessimists; depression is associated with mortality.
- Optimists’ immune systems have been shown to function more effectively than those of pessimists.
Learning to See the Bright Side
For decades, psychologists have studied the link between positive thinking and physical and mental health. According to Seligman, author of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, it’s more important to change negative thought patterns into positive ones than to worry about being optimistic. The picture of optimism he paints is not one of Pollyanna-like blindness to reality, but of a learned optimism grounded in accuracy and non-negative thinking.
Based on the results of several large-scale, long-term, carefully controlled experiments, Seligman discovered that optimists are more successful than pessimists—optimistic politicians win more elections, optimistic students get better grades, optimistic athletes win more contests, and optimistic salespeople make more money.
Why would this be so? In his book Self-help Stuff That Works, Adam Kahn says it is “Because optimism and pessimism both tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies. If you think a setback is permanent, why would you try to change it? Pessimistic explanations tend to make you feel defeated—making you less likely to take constructive action. Optimistic explanations, on the other hand, make you more likely to act. If you think the setback is only temporary, you’re apt to try to do something about it.”
Optimist vs. Non-optimist
How can you determine whether you think more optimistically or pessimistically?
“I don’t like to use the word pessimistic because most people would never consider themselves pessimistic,” says Khan, “but many people are willing to admit they aren’t optimistic.”
Khan, like Seligman and other experts on motivation, defines optimists and non-optimists by how they explain events in their lives. Optimists see setbacks as specific, temporary and changeable, and are therefore motivated to take action. Non-optimists tend to look at setbacks as general, permanent and hopeless, symptoms of widespread failure that cannot be changed.
For example, an optimist who didn’t follow through on an exercise routine for a week might say, “I had a lot going on this week. I didn’t plan my time too well. I’ll have to do better next week.” A pessimist in the same situation might say, “I have no self-discipline. I obviously won’t be able to meet my goals. Exercise just isn’t for me.”
A Matter of Degree
Dr. Pierce Howard, author of The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, contends that the line between optimism and pessimism is far from clear-cut.
“You’re not just an optimist or a pessimist, it’s a matter of degree,” Dr. Howard says. “You can be successful in life anywhere along the continuum.” He points out that pessimistic thinkers make great tax accountants, while optimists are more suited for careers in sales.
Getting into a Good Mood
Mood also has an influence on whether optimistic or pessimistic thoughts dominate your brain, according to Dr. Susan Vaughan, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and researcher whose latest book, Half Empty, Half Full, explores how working to gain control over moods can result in more positive thinking.
“Mood is a powerful filter on how we see things,” maintains Vaughan, who sees most people as a blend of optimism and pessimism, depending on the situation with which they are faced.
She points to three methods optimistic people tend to use to lift their moods:
- Alternative thinking. When bad things happen, optimists tend to take them less personally and come up with multiple alternatives for why they might have happened, then work actively to fix the situation.
- Downward comparison. Though it sounds unkind, optimists compare themselves to others who are in worse situations as a way to brighten their own spirits.
- Relaxation. Optimists tend to use exercise, yoga, and even “putting on a happy face” as ways to relax and thereby improve their moods.
Optimism Not Always the Answer
“The idea that optimists are healthier than pessimists is overly simplistic,” says Dr. Howard Friedman, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside. “Many times, excessive optimism can be harmful to one’s health. This is especially evident among teenagers, who take many risks.”
Friedman contends it can be damaging to think optimistically when it comes to difficult health choices like quitting cigarettes, using condoms or wearing seatbelts.
“I do not agree that in general we could try to make everyone more optimistic. There is absolutely no evidence that trying to do so will improve the general health of the population,” Friedman says.
Choosing the Right Strategy
Seligman concurs that there are times when it pays not to be optimistic, such as when planning for a risky future, when advising those with poor chances for the future and when trying to be sympathetic to others’ problems. When the cost of failure is high, he advises, optimism is the wrong strategy.
Still, there are times when optimism can be a powerful ally. When achievement is the goal, use optimism. If you’re fighting off depression, optimistic thoughts can boost your morale.
Changing From Negative to Positive
Seligman argues that optimism, like other interpersonal skills, can be learned.
“The way you explain setbacks to yourself is as much a habit as the way you tie your shoes,” agrees Khan. “It is no harder or easier to change a thought habit than it is to change a physical habit.” He recommends writing about setbacks and practicing arguing with your less optimistic thoughts until a more realistic vision of what has happened and what is likely to happen in the future emerges.
“It takes work, discipline and focus,” Khan says. “But if you don’t think you have these things, those are the first non-optimistic thoughts to tear apart.”
Positive psychology. Martin Seligman Research Alliance at the University of Pennsylvania website. Available at: http://psych.upenn.edu/seligman/pospsy.htm.
Segerstrom SC, Taylor SE, Kemeny ME, et al. Optimism is associated with mood, coping, and immune change in response to stress. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998;74(6). 5 years ago
visionaries with a poorly developed sense
of fear and no concept of the odds against them.
Robert Jarvik, Artificial Heart Developer 5 years ago
The last time I went to Barbara’s house, she came and jumped in my lap again. She is the most loving and gentle cat I have ever met. Very much an advanced soul in her eyes. I helped her with her feline leprosy at one time when she almost died from it and now, some of it is coming back for her. It’s time for a tune-up session for sweet Daisy. 5 years ago
I suppose I meant this as a gesture of goodwill. Finding such a community has seemed impossible. In a certain sense culture might take precedent, which doesn’t speak well… 5 years ago
spent an hour picking up litter around our neighborhood today. We also discovered an area near the train tracks that looks perfect for a patch of wildflowers but instead is a little mini-dumping ground for bottles and such. We started cleaning it up today, hope to weed soon, and then we’ll sow some wildflower seeds. :o) That should be easier on the eyes. 6 years ago
a little lost dog to her owner. :o) She was so tiny and running alongside a very busy road near our house. I was lucky to bump into her. 6 years ago
My daughter’s art teacher loved my perfume, so I gave it to her. Many people comment on it (it’s Nag Champa), so I think I’m going to buy several vials and carry a few extra with me wherever I go, ready to hand out at a moment’s notice. A little store in Wisconsin sells it, and the people there are very sweet. I’d be thrilled to give them more business. 6 years ago
has always been a favorite community project dear to my heart.
Sometimes the person bringing the shut-in elderly people their meal of the day is the only person checking on them.
I haven’t delivered meals in three years but I think it is time to get involved again. 6 years ago
but that dark cloud did not last long!
The sun in my heart is shining brightly again! This weekend I made butterfly shaped cookies for my neighbor and this morning I have a quick visit to a nursing home scheduled. :) 6 years ago
So cool to see this idea spreading!
I just had to share my new creation – I never made this kind of thing before and it turned out well. I had made a t-shirt quilt for my guest room, and it turned out that the sleeves from those shirts could be cut into 6” squares for a child’s quilt. Since plain sleeves are sort of boring for a kid, I embroidered little monkeys onto the white/beige squares. The whole thing is backed with flannel. And on its way to my friend’s Project Linus chapter! I hope it makes some kid/family smile, at least for a moment!
I have to give a shoutout to Sublime Stitching (www.sublimestitching.com) – Jenny Hart makes the COOLEST embroidery patterns on earth!
I almost forgot to say, I also got the t-shirts for the project at Goodwill, so hopefully they get a bit of a leg-up as well! 6 years ago
That’s why I liked this idea. It reminded me of the saying, and of that other idea of “Paying it forward.”
I am going to take some iris rhyzomes to the park and put them in a barren place along the walking path. Iris do well with just a thin sprinkling of dirt, so I hope they’ll do OK. That’s more of a ‘senseless beauty.”
Even with all the awful things happening in the world today, I have to believe it will get better. And I do. 6 years ago
I’m all for changing the world for the better.
The cheapest way I’ve found to make the world a better place is to make life more interesting by writing, creating artwork, and publishing things on my website. I can only hope that more practical things come easily to other people.
And I recently completed a Red Cross class to become a certified nurse assistant, so I may help people out that way too.
Sure, there’s always a reason to be pessimistic. I thank goodness I’m not personally in a war right now. What a waste it would be for the world to collapse under WWIII!... 6 years ago
and thought it was appropriate to post here. :)
The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident.
—Charles Lamb (1775-1834) British Essayist 6 years ago
I went to IKEA yesterday, and after I finished my shopping I was bringing my cart to the cart return area. On the way, I saw several others loading up their cars, and a couple of carts abandoned in parking spaces. I collected them all up and returned 6 carts! 6 years ago
I haven’t done this one, but I saw someone doing it last year and I am still inspired by it:
If you have been to a Kohl’s department store, you’ve probably seen that they always have a display of very cute stuffed animals for $5 each, with all the proceeds benefitting children’s hospitals. So that’s a nice thing right there. The stuffed animals are always so adorable, but I’ve rarely bought any because I don’t know any little kids and frankly my dogs would not appreciate them because they don’t squeak!
Anyway, once I was in line behind two women who were buying several stuffed animals along with their regular purchases, and the cashier made a comment about how some kid was very lucky to be getting so many toys. The ladies said “No, we buy these all year, whenever we shop here, then at Christmas we donate them all to Toys For Tots.”
So it’s the gift that gives TWICE! Brilliant! I can’t wait for that Kohl’s to open in my hometown now – it’s almost done! 6 years ago
My mom and I mailed out 3 big boxes of blankets today! That was fun!
And, I found a big bag of yarn for $1.50 at a garage sale today. Perfect for more blankets! 6 years ago
Should we adopt a kittie that our friend Barbara is being foster mom to now? They are a pair of two kitties that need a home and we are going to have a new home soon. Would that be a good deed for the month? We like kitties and have missed having them around. Besides, Barbara has too many already with the 15 or so that are living around her home now. 6 years ago
This is one of my favorite causes, primarily because I enjoy making blankets very much and most members of my family have already received way too many as gifts!
The chapter I give to not only provides blankets for terminally ill kids, but also to abused women’s shelters, and to a hospital on an Indian reservation in Montana. I’m told that the Indian mothers who gave birth in the hospital were stealing towels because they had nothing to wrap their babies in. So, I enjoy finding soft baby yarn on sale and whipping up a few blankies for them now and then. 6 years ago
But no one seems to want my good-doings. :(
My apartment complex is HUGE and set back from the street by 1/2 mile. I see two women walking to the bus stop every morning, so I offered them a ride yesterday but they said no.
Then on my way home from work I saw the older Asian man who lives in the building just past mine carrying a nightstand down the road. He had set it down to rest, and I offered to put it in the back of my car and drive it (and him) to his building, but he said no as well.
I’ll need to find another way to help those in my complex. 6 years ago
SBedsaul wrote to me and said that she had lost contact with her 1/2 brothers who lived on the Big Island. I looked in our phonebook and and found the person she was looking for. Forwarded the phone number to her. Perhaps I should publish his phone number and have as many people who want to call him and remind him to call his sister in Kansas. That would be a Twilight Zone moment, wouldn’t it?
Aloha 6 years ago
My good buddy took a photo of this lobster while we were diving. He saved it’s life by not telling me about it until we got out of the water. That was his good deed this month. 6 years ago
Our close friend Barbara has a cat who has had chronic skin problems and almost died recently. We used our biofeedback device to run a scan and then treatment on her for her skin issues. Daisy is one of her 10 or so cats and has the sweetest disposition of all her cats. No matter how sick she gets, she always comes out of the bedroom to see me when we go over there for dinner.
So send you alohas and mana to Daisy. 6 years ago
and I will be looking to do some secret do gooder thing for our friends. I will keep the other Soggy Doggies updated as to my secret activities. 6 years ago
but today, I plan to get some fresh pineapple and take it in to my teacher at the 4 day training class I am taking for the US Census. She expressed a desire to eat pineapple for breakfast. She is from Southern California where my wife and I used to live until the population prompted us to move. The trainer is a Chinese woman who immigrated to the US in the 60’s, like myself, and I have enjoyed sharing stories with her about living in the US. It’s nice to connect with someone from the “old country”.
I am one of only 3 people the chose to be hired by the Census on the Big Island. I feel very privileged to have been chosen and look forward to doing what I did for the Census back in 2000. 6 years ago
Probably like most of us, I’ve been doing little stuff here and there but forgetting to mention it on 43 things. What I’ve noticed is that once you make a conscious decision to do this, it starts to come very naturally. I also become more aware of when other people do the same. Last night at a concert, a man offered to let me stand in front of him so that I could enjoy a better view. I thought that was really sweet and told him so.
And as Jean once mentioned, we can’t forget our loved ones. :oD I’ve started turning down the bed for my husband at night. It’s a small gesture, but I know I enjoy coming to a clean bedroom and a neat bed at the end of the day. And he definitely deserves it. 6 years ago
The power was out at my apartment complex, so I was out on the balcony reading. My balcony overlooks the activity center, which is the keycard entrance to the pool. Every time I saw someone trying to swipe their keycard, I yelled down to them that the power was out and that the (usually locked) gate was open.
Since I was hidden by the lattice on my balcony, none of them could tell where my voice was coming from. :) 6 years ago