What do you see when you look at this picture? Is it an ugly close up of a cactus? Are you intrigued with the star shapes made by trimming the cactus? Do you want to leave comments about my photography skills or lack thereof? What and how you think can have a dramatic effect on your body but you can train your brain.
Have you ever considered how your body maintains homeostasis? Homeostasis is the regulation of your body functions to maintain a relatively constant state of health. It's actually one of the most amazing things when you consider the demands we place on the body. When we don't get enough sleep, eat poorly, exercise too much or too little, our bodies find a way to maintain stability. We are capable of adapting to and dealing with a multitude of stressors but we are really designed to mobilize our resources in acute, or immediate situations rather than chronic or ongoing stress. Ongoing stress disrupts balance, weakening the immune system, wreaking havoc on our hormones and ultimately breaking down our bodies and minds. Not all stress is bad of course, most of us need a little stress to get up and do all the things we need to do each day. So how do we find the balance and create healthy habits to help maintain homeostasis?
It can be hard to decide what to focus on, but considering your outlook on life, disposition, or attitude can be a good place to start. I remember a professor of mine asked the familiar question of whether his students saw the glass half empty or half full? We went around the room with students choosing one or the other and making their cases in support of their choice. When it was my turn to add to the discussion I said, "it's just a half a glass, neither full, nor empty". My fellow students turned to look at me like I had a horn growing out of my head and I felt like a complete weirdo as the professor told us no one had ever said that before. While I am not a huge fan of labels, it became apparent that I am a realist.
Over the years I have worked hard to focus on the positive without turning my back on reality. People with a positive outlook on life tend to be happier and healthier and there are a lot of ways to approach how you view the world. Because I come from a family plagued by depression and anxiety, I have naturally been curious about mental health. According to happiness researcher and author Dr.Sonja Lyubomirsky, genetics and upbringing are responsible for about 50% of our outlook on life with 10% attributed to life circumstances. That leaves us with another 40% that we can control through personal choices. The hard part is choosing what will work for you.
I have tried many things such as practicing gratitude, journaling, meditating and a number of mind body practices; yoga, tai chi and, of course, Pilates. Exercise is consistently the best practice for me and I am grateful ( see what I did there?) that it is part of my chosen profession. Moving my body and helping others do the same, is incredibly beneficial both mentally and physically. Meditation has been the most challenging for me, I have a very busy mind, but I am proud to say that I have meditated every morning for the last two months. I have read books, research papers, articles and websites and tried many approaches all with varying degrees of success. The most important factor has been consistency, trying something and sticking with it long enough to decide if it suits me.
So, how is your mental outlook? What kind of person are you? Optimist, pessimist, realist or a combination? Are you good at finding the positive in situations or do you feel like Eeyore most of the time? If you can describe yourself as happy, what do you think makes you so? If you rarely feel joy, think about the things that have been joyful in your life, is there a way to do that more? I am not gonna lie to you and tell you that you will love everything about life. However, if you can tweak those days that you find yourself dreading work by reminding yourself that you're good at what you do, or that you can do things you like with the income, the days go by quicker. The boost you feel by actively working to change your attitude about some part of your life may give you the boost you need to change something else for the better. For a bit more about the impact of training your brain, take a look at this video by another happiness expert, Shawn Achor _
WOW: Gretchen Rubin has devoted herself to being happier and has written two books on the subject. Her website offers quizzes and resources for figuring out how what makes you happy. _