Choosing to see ‘the cup as half full’ is good for our health. How can we do this?
Perhaps making decisions to alter in small or big ways everything from the way we spend our days to the people we hang with. Let’s explore six healthier habits that can help to change our perspective on life for the better:
Pray or, as I refer to it, cultivate a “practice of stillness.” I have a friend who is a well-known artist who happens to be an atheist. He practices stillness because it helps him with his creativity. He said he “needs that space.”
He also regularly asks me to pray for him. “But if you do not believe in God, why do you want me to pray?” I asked him once. “Because I like the good energy that comes with it,” was his answer. Whether you call it God, the Universe, or Good Energy, practicing stillness allows us to tap into something much greater than ourselves. Someone once likened it to being a member of an orchestra and being receptive the conductor.
It is impossible to be in harmony with the other instruments around us if we just play what we want, when we want and how we want it. We need something to guide us. We can use stillness as a time to listen, hearing the ways we might move in our lives that are in our best interest.
Don’t overcommit: Spreading yourself too thin leaves you irritable. Irritability specifically disrupts the function the liver. Once the liver is stressed, it sets off a chain reaction with the other organs. For someone who reports irritability in an intake, our Chinese medical diagnosis is often “Liver Qi Stagnation.” This can be remedied with a few good acupuncture treatments designed to get the qi and blood moving, but will not go away until the necessary changes are made in one’s life. While it might seem flattering to be included on a certain board, team or group, think about your priorities and adjust accordingly. Maybe you need time to just be.
Awareness of diet: Which one makes you feel better afterwards: overloading on junk food or eating a healthy nutritious meal? In Chinese Medicine, people are encouraged to eat according to the seasons. One suggestion for autumn is to try to consume some bone broth at least once a week. The bones of all living things contain a powerful vitality called jing and can give us strength. I am sure most of us know a good bowl of chicken soup often makes us feel better. Try beef or fish bone soup, too. Look up some recipes, make a batch and freeze it for regular consumption.
Commit to exercise: In June 2010, the New York Times published an article by Gretchen Reynolds entitled, “A Workout for your Bloodstream.” Harvard researchers documented that people who exercise regularly actually change the biochemistry of their bloodstream to improve blood sugar regulation and lower cholesterol while increasing certain substances associated with burning fat. Some types of exercise can lower blood pressure, too. How much better would it be if you could achieve these results without the side effects of medications? Exercise also increases endorphins (the feel-good hormone). Go ahead, choose a way to work out and make it a habit to engage at least three times a week.
Surround yourself with positive people: Is your circle constantly complaining, gossiping, and whining? The first step might be to not join in and change the conversation to something more positive. Perhaps your attitude will rub off. If things do not improve, try speaking gently with one or several about how their attitude is affecting you. If none of this works and you have the chance, find a new crew. In the meantime, if you change your attitude, you will most likely attract other like-minded people.
Choose happiness: I know this might sound like a stretch, especially in today’s contentious environment. It may take some practice, but it is possible. I am reminded of the Academy Award-winning film Life is Beautiful, in which a prisoner in a concentration camp chooses joy, not just for himself, but for the sake of a child. You might want to watch the film if you want some inspiration. If you find it challenging to focus on happiness for yourself, do it for your partner, child, friend or someone you think it will help.
And lastly, just smile more. It is amazing how a simple smile can change the way you feel. When you have the choice between a smile or frown, choose the former. Not only will you feel better, but those around you will as well. We are coming into the season of holidays. Start to prepare by experimenting with some of the above so you will enjoy the holidays more. After a few lifestyle adjustments, you will begin to smile more because you are seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty.