How to Join the Ranks of the Shiny Happy People. 3 Steps to Recovery for the Eternal Pessimist
By Jackie White
Who are these people who go around smiling all the time? I mean what are they so happy about? They obviously have a screw loose, right?
I used to work with a group of people who were infinitely cheerful and pleasant. I would see them in the hall and I would greet them by saying “hello, how are you?" I would always, and I mean always, be met with, “Great!” “Terrific!” “Super!” I remember even saying one time to one of them “Aren’t you ever just ok?” It was sort of grating on my last nerve that I worked in Pleasantville, USA! It’s funny for me to look back on that now because, truth be told, I am one of those irritating smiley people. I am an eternal optimist, a hopeful horizon kind of person. I have always been predisposed to be like that. My experience in Pleasantville actually was quite pleasant, but my initial flinching of the over-the-top co-workers also gave me a peek into the world of the not-so-chipper folk.
These not-so-chipper folks are interesting cats to me. They see a world vastly different from the one I see. If the perky peeps, like me, see the world through rose-colored glasses, these other cheerless friends see the world through a hazy windshield. They seem to focus on the negative. They label themselves as “realists” or maybe even admit to calling themselves “pessimists”. They don’t get too excited about life because something is bound to go wrong. They tend to slug through each day without much of a spring in their step and if they are being honest, they really can’t stand the highly irritating happy-go-lucky peeps.
It’s an interesting contrast and a bit of a wonder to me. I looked into what makes these fine friends tick and what I found was that many of the realists strongly protect their ground against the head-in-the-clouds optimists. They might even use the word foolish to describe the Positive Pollys. I get it, but this is where I have to put my chirpy little foot down. You’ve heard the saying "life is too short to drink cheap beer”, right? Well, life is also too short to pigeonhole yourself into a pessimistic demeanor or identity you have long held onto. Standing on my soapbox, I want to shout that you are short changing your possibilities in life when you keep your feet firmly planted in negativity. Listen, life is not a guarantee of endless happy times, rainbows, and puppies, it is, however, lived best when you can see the good in what’s in front of you. You see, my dear cynical friends, I know that looking for the good might feel silly and out of your comfort zone. That can be scary for anyone, but life begins outside your comfort zone! That’s where it gets good or, at the very least, interesting!
1. Phase One: Now, if you have read this far, I think there is hope for you to change your ways! If you have always been inclined to feel negative about the world around you, I am going to challenge you to begin changing your behaviors to favor a more optimistic outlook. Are you ready? Let’s begin with something simple, smiling. Yes, I said, smiling. I can already hear your inner critic saying that is just about the stupidest thing you have ever heard! That’s ok, shake it off and smile. Work it out by looking at yourself in the mirror and smiling, smiling at strangers passing by and if you are really uncomfortable with the whole smiling thing, start with smiling at kids. They do it naturally and will be filled with joy to see you smile! The science of smiling shows that smiling releases endorphins, other natural painkillers, and serotonin. These brain chemicals elevate your mood, relax your body and reduce physical pain. Smiling is a natural happy drug.
2.Phase Two: Phase two of becoming a reformed pessimist is to work on filling your mind with the good stuff of life. Take time for gratitude and appreciation, spend time with people who lift your spirits (no negative kvetching!), and focus on the beauty of life. When your mind wanders back to being cynical or you hear negative chatter in your brain, be aware and correct your focus to accept that perhaps an optimistic outlook can’t hurt and might help.This will begin to reset your mindset.
3. Phase Three: In this phase, you need to practice focusing on positivity. Where focus goes, energy flows! When you focus on the sunny side of things, suddenly the things you see more often are bright and hopeful! This takes practice, especially for a recovering pessimist, but being the eternal optimist that I am, I know you can do it!
This is exciting! I am happy for YOU! Soon you will begin to experience a life full of possibilities! Through retraining your mindset you will see that life has so much to offer you, and it won’t be long until the person reflected back at you in the mirror is one shiny happy person!
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
We have all heard that phrase at some point in our lives…or, perhaps, experienced it ourselves. On the heels of all the havoc the pandemic has brought into all of our lives, this might be an unfortunate commonality more and more of us will share. Spoiler, DreamChasers, being on the burned out track is not Best Life material!
Once you reach Destination Burned Out, you are in a place of physical and emotional stress like no other. (And, as a reminder, chronic stress states are detrimental to your health and well-being.) What you might not realize, however, is that the road to burn out starts earlier than you think. Burn out is terribly destructive to your life, but the early signs are surprisingly benign. But like most things, going unchecked and unrecognized, burn out compounds over time sending your life in a tailspin.
Let’s begin at the beginning…being aware that what we are experiencing might indicate we have started on the road to Destination Burned Out. Awareness is the first pit stop to start your course correction. Here are the Sneaky Early Signs of Getting Burned Out:
When these early signs are missed and burnout continues, you may start to develop more obvious symptoms. These can appear as physical or emotional symptoms, or both, and are related to the chronic stress state your body and mind have entered. These might include the following:
Sounds pretty horrible, right? That’s because it is, Dream Chaser! Confession time…I can recall 3 times that I made it pretty far on the Destination Burned Out journey, twice professionally as a nurse and once as a new mom. And, I will add that I did not realize I was on this path at the time; it’s that easy for burnout to creep in!
I promised simple solutions, and we are almost there, DreamChaser! As a Burnout Champion (I like that better than survivor…lol), I want you to know that no matter where you are in this process, you can take action to make it better. You are in a good place with us at SoulShine Life Connections; we want to equip you with the skills and tools to take on life challenges so you are empowered to take action so you can live that Best Life you deserve. Burn out is just one such life challenge; don’t give it any more power than it deserves. You’ve got this!
As I have already mentioned, you need to be aware that you are on the burnout path. There is a difference between having a stressful day and being burned out. Typically, burnout starts to happen as you string more and more stressful days together without a break. A single stressful day typically isn’t enough to trigger burnout. But, the strategies to combat burnout can be used for stressful days in general…bonus! Here are my top 5 Tips to Beat Back Burnout:
One final but very important point about burnout, DreamChaser. When you become aware that you are on the path to burnout, you need to take a deeper look at the situation. Is this a season of burnout, as in, there is a finite end in sight? Is this cycle of feeling overwhelmed or burning out happening more frequently? Or, are these feelings of being burned out a constant in your life? Burnout can happen professionally, personally, or a combination of both. Getting to the point of being burned out is a symptom of an underlying problem. If you are experiencing these feelings on a consistent or continual basis, it’s time to take a deeper look into where and how you are spending your precious time. But, Dreamchasers, that’s a lesson for another day so stay tuned!
Your Most Precious Resource, Your Energy. The Top 7 Energy-Zappers to Watch Out For
When you think of all the things that make up your day, energy might not be one of them. You might say at the end of a long day that you are exhausted or out of energy, but there is more to energy than just physical energy stores in our bodies. There are a number of things that can drain your energy. Being aware of them and managing them can make a profound difference in your life.
1. Emotions: Your emotions and thoughts have a lot to do with the energy you have. The internal center of the energy you feel stems mainly from these areas. If your heart is heavy, then you might feel sad or depressed. These emotions take a toll on your body, leaving you feeling low energy and lethargic. In people who are experiencing sadness or depression, we see the body sends out enzymes that inhibit serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. When these hormones are inhibited, your mood is negatively impacted resulting in a sad or depressed feeling. The depressed feelings then trigger the body to have low energy.
What Can You Do: Do what you can to combat the depressive reactions in your body. Exercise, a positive mindset, and lots of self-love can help you manage the ups and downs of emotions. Reaching out to a friend or therapist, if needed, can assist in moving through this energy zapper.
2. Avoidance: Sometimes people are carrying feelings that they are not recognizing or perhaps just altogether avoiding. Holding on to unresolved feelings can have a similar low energy effect on the body. You may be wanting to keep yourself from expending the energy to work through the feelings, but the daily avoidance is just allowing the feelings to eat away at your energy. This is why it is so important to work through whatever may be bothering you.
What Can You Do: Some heavy work may be needed here to work through feelings that have been burdening you for a while. Journaling is often an effective way of processing unresolved feelings. Sometimes a professional therapist may be helpful to guide you through to resolution.
3. Thoughts:. Another hidden zapper of your energy is negative thoughts, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness can create chronic stress. This will very quickly deplete your energy and create the chemical cocktail that blocks your happiness hormones (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine). Stress such as this is not only an energy zapper, but can negatively impact your overall health.
What You Can Do: Building yourself up by eliminating these negative feelings. An intentional positive mindset will do wonders on banishing feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. Reach out to a friend or therapist for more support.
4. People: It is impossible to live a life unaffected by others, that is, I guess unless you are a hermit in the backcountry living under a rock! Assuming you are doing life like many of us, in a society where we are interconnected by people, then it’s important to realize that their energy can affect you too! Living with a negative person who is angry most of the time will wear on you. Working with a Negative Nelly can take a toll.
What Can You Do: Remember you are a culmination of the top five people you surround yourself with. If you find many of these people are sucking the energy from you, it might be time to trade up and find people who are supportive and positive.
5. Environment: Where we live can also affect our energy. If you live in a busy city where horns and sirens are blaring most of the day, that can stress you. Not only where you live, but also how you live can zap your energy. Walking into your home and experiencing clutter can suck the energy and motivation right out of you.
What Can You Do: If you can, move from the chaos, if not, then you must find a place within that can hold the peace for you. Meditation and intentional energy management will assist you with external environmental issues. As for the cluttered home, start with one drawer at a time and gain some ground on creating a welcoming and calming place for you to lay your head at night.
6. Weather: For those of us living in places where the sun isn’t warming our faces during the wintertime, we can be affected by Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). This disorder is created by a lack of vitamin D provided by being outside and catching some rays. It can really cause havoc on some people affecting their mood and ultimately their energy.
What You Can Do: Move to an island! Lol! I know we all can’t just get and sit on the beach, but we can do a few simple things to manage SAD. First of all, if your doctor approves, start taking vitamin D to replenish your possibly limited storage of this important vitamin. Get a SAD lamp to put some simulated sunshine on your face. Work on a positive mindset to help eliminate negative talk about winter weather. Finally, speak with your doctor for further assistance.
7. Social Media: I would be remiss to mention social media as a form of energy-zapping. What you are digesting through your online feeds can and do affect you. If you are reading about stressful topics, engaging with others in sparring matches, or “just scrolling” through feeds that feature foul language, fights, accidents, political banter, or other potentially negative content, get the heck out of there! This can have a much bigger impact on you than you may have ever thought. Taking in this kind of information can make you feel negative, which we now know sends the message to your body expending your energy and making you feel like crap.
What Can You Do: Exchange a feed of negativity for one of positivity! It is equally addicting to have positive messages in your face versus negative ones, so if you are going to be on social media, flood your mind with messages of positivity!
Energy management is key to living your best life. Pay attention to what is zapping your energy and get on it! Freeing up energy will bring you happiness, joy, and peace.
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
Stress…we’ve all had it, right? It’s an unavoidable part of life. Did you ever consider that you can flip the script on stress and make it a positive force in your life, rather than a negative and destructive one? And, Dream Chaser, it all starts with your stress mindset, or where your belief about stress lies. Let’s dive in!
Being the self-proclaimed science nerd, let’s start our stress discovery with physiology. Stress was designed to save you from life-threatening danger. Perhaps you have heard of the “fight or flight response”? That’s stress in action as it was meant to be! When this life-saving instinct is triggered, your body releases two powerful chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline causes your heart rate and blood pressure to go up while cortisol increases alertness, combined these give you the energy for fight or flight. While these are extremely helpful to survive dangerous situations, this powerful stress response is more often triggered unnecessarily in our day to day life.
Experiencing stress isn’t inherently bad, in the short term. The effects of adrenaline and cortisol can increase focus and motivation, resulting in improved performance. On the other hand, study after study consistently demonstrates that chronic stress, or continued exposure to adrenaline and cortisol, has very negative effects on the body and has been linked to health consequences in every body system with contributions towards developing heart disease, depression, anxiety and diabetes.
Phew. Okay…now for the fun and inspiring part!
Have you ever stopped to think about your stress mindset? Your stress mindset is what you think and believe about the stressful event that is happening. (And, quick recap, your thoughts and beliefs are two things in your control…this is an important point to keep in mind.) Psychology has been looking into this idea and has found there to be 2 mindsets on stress: enhancing and debilitating.
A person with an enhancing stress mindset views stress as challenges they are prepared to deal with effectively while a debilitating stress mindset sees stress as overwhelming and they are unprepared to handle it. There was an interesting psychology study that looked into this closer. It found that people with the enhanced stress mindset performed better in cognitive tasks, had more positive emotions during the stressful task and had higher levels of the hormone DHEAS, which is known for promoting mental resilience and positive mood. Conversely, people with the debilitating stress mindset had decreased ability to adapt to the stressful task, paid greater attention to negative events and results, and had higher levels of cortisol in their systems. The difference maker was having a growth mindset, that the stressful situation is a challenge you can handle, instead of focusing on the stress as an insurmountable burden.
Stress is just a part of life, and the presence of stress is out of your control. But, here’s the thing, Dream Chaser…your thoughts and beliefs about stress ARE under your influence of control and this is the difference maker on if the presence of stress is a negative or positive influence in your life. These studies are showing that simply changing your thoughts about stress can decrease the stress response in your body. That is so unbelievably powerful!
Where do you start? The first step is being aware of your stress mindset. Here are some statements researchers have developed to help you evaluate your stress mindset. Read each statement and rate them from a 1 (strongly disagree) to a 5 (strongly agree):
This might not be a surprise…higher scores on the first four statements indicate a more negative stress mindset while higher scores on the last four statements lean towards a positive stress mindset. Having an awareness of your natural tendency is the first step in retraining your brain to reframe stress in a new, more positive way. Here’s the place to start with your reframing, Dream Chaser…
You have made it through every challenge life has thrown at you so far.
These past challenges have equipped you to be able to deal with what’s coming next. The next time you feel stress coming on, stop and take a deep breath. (Okay, take another one, if you need to.) This challenge in front of you is here for a reason. It will make you better, stronger, more resilient. You are stronger than you think. You’ve got this!
Spring Cleaning Isn't Just For Your House. It's Time to Declutter your Mind, Body, and Soul
Winter has been slogging on for a few months now and sometimes it feels like you are too. Hey! The good news is that spring is almost here and it’s time to shake off the sluggish old routines and consider a refresh!
We spring clean our homes by gathering up the clutter, dusting from top to bottom, and opening the windows for some fresh air! Everything feels squeaky and new! Well, what if you did that with yourself? Just think about how that might feel if you gave yourself a good refresh! Wouldn’t it be amazing to revitalize yourself?
Cleaning From The Top-Down:
We begin with spring cleaning for your mind. Everything good in life begins and ends with a positive mindset. When you focus on the good, the good gets better! The best way to go about clearing your mind is by allowing yourself some quiet time where you can sit peacefully and rest your ever-racing mind. Many of us are so used to constant stimulation, sitting quietly with ourselves can feel like a challenge. To begin, find a place where you won’t be disturbed, put on some quiet instrumental music, and set a timer for 3 minutes. Close your eyes and breathe. Focus on your breath and think of calming your entire body. If this still feels difficult for you, one very helpful app that can guide you to a place of calm is called Insight Timer. The benefits to getting still will not only help your mind but your total wellness.
The next place you will want to clean is the place in your mind where limiting beliefs are holding you hostage. Isn’t saying that you are being held hostage somewhat dramatic? The answer is a resounding “no”! The beliefs you buy into are driving your behavior 100% of the time. That looks something like this:
I don’t believe that I am:
Therefore I will not:
go after the promotion
go on to college
to ask that cute guy out
Do you see what’s happening here? The beliefs we default to dictate what we can do in our lives! They are indeed holding us hostage! In this refresh of the new you, you need to examine those limiting beliefs that have been holding you back. Write down those restraining limiting beliefs and get ready to flush them away. To move forward with more confidence and clearer direction replace the limiting belief with a belief that better serves you.
One other pesky mind mess is negative inner talk. It does go hand in hand with your limiting beliefs so when you hear this fool negative talker cluttering up your mind, you have to shut it down immediately. This would be a good time to tap into those new positive beliefs and fill your mind and soul up with goodness and light.
Next Stop - The Heart and Soul
The heart and the soul is where we feel life. When it is gummed with regrets, grudges or old residual feelings from days gone by, your heart won’t be as open as it could be. Here is where another cleaning is needed. The best way to address this is to just let go and forgive. Stop holding grudges and negative feelings towards others. Easier said than done, true, but absolutely necessary. Beginning with forgiveness will release you from the energy you are expending on things that are in the past. Forgiveness is about giving you relief and peace, so do this for yourself. When your heart is cleared, it will be available to new positive feelings of love and connection.
Last Stop - The Body
Now, listen, you clean and clear your mind and soul until it is sparkling, but unless you address your body, you are not done yet. The body needs care. Feed it good, healthy food and drink lots of water. Seriously, your body is made up mostly of water and so you have to fill-er-up every day with the stuff. Also, you have to move, and I don’t mean from the couch to the fridge! Take a walk, do some yoga, ride your bike or try my favorite, dance! Moving your body is not only good for your body, but it is also a mood booster! Remember you want to keep your mind in a positive state and kicking your body into gear will flood your mind with the happy chemicals called endorphins. They lift your mood and help to alleviate stress! Consider this flood of positivity the final touch of renewing you!
Now you see that spring cleaning isn’t just for your house, it’s for the home that resides within you. It is something that we all should do at least once a year, but ideally a good once over every few months with weekly maintenance. Keeping your mind, body, and soul decluttered will allow you to enjoy more of your life.
Jackie White has been writing about life and its ups and downs for many years. With a degree in Industrial Psychology and a life-long student of personal development she is intrigued by how each individual chooses to live their life. Jackie feels strongly that truly living your best life is imperative to attaining peace and fulfillment. SoulShine was borne of her desire to inspire and teach others to live their best life. This is her mission and her dream.