Avoid the Dark Side: Most of us don't have to worry about being overly optimistic. It's the negative thoughts that are hardest to overcome. So how can we go about cultivating our positive affect? Here are 7 ways to do it:
- Diet and exercise: Certainly controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and weight while boosting energy are all positive things for mood. As for exercise, there are enough studies showing the value of regular exercise in fighting depression. Take care of yourself and the world will look better.
- Stress management: Living under the gun creates an internal environment of fear, mistrust and disharmony. Daily relaxation practices, be they meditation or prayer , not only reduce stress, but also pump up your mood, motivation and optimism.
- Sociability: Tellegen says people who are prone to depression create a vicious circle: Withdrawal from social settings leads to depression and thus further withdrawal. Get out and mingle, whether or not you feel like it. Being sociable may change your mind-set all by itself. Also consider the benefits of sociable exercise.
- Ambience: Bob Arnot, in his book The Biology of Success, talks about how good lighting, pleasant fragrances, music and even comfortable, functional office furnishings create a positive mood or at least coax a better mood on a daily basis. He also advocates keeping company with positive people.
- Sizing up depression: Before you start figuring out the feng shui of your office, you should think hard about what is driving your internal turmoil, says Tellegen, adding, "You don't always know what the trick may be to turn your situation around." Not all of our mood problems can be solved by eight laps around the track. Sometimes we need the professional help of a therapist.
- Challenging pursuits: If positive affect makes you seek activity, does incorporating activity in your life improve your mood? Of course, says Tellegen.
- Learned optimism: So much of our thinking happens below the level of awareness. If we could hear our negative messages played back to us, we'd be shocked. Cognitive therapists tell us much of our thinking is merely habit. Adopt some new habits, and you'll cultivate a higher level of positive affect.
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