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New Year, New Outlook

New Year, New Outlook

Oh, 2018: a year of new beginnings. As we enter 2018 it is important to take a moment to reflect on the previous year and look ahead to the new year in front of us. What did you accomplish in 2017? What do you want to accomplish in 2018? How can you make this possible?

We’ve all heard the phrase “New Year, New Me.” But every year, our New Year’s resolutions don’t end up following through. We end up forgetting about them or just give up before the year ends. This year, try and break that cycle by creating a New Year’s resolution that’s worth following through with.

Practicing optimism and positive thinking in your everyday life can drastically change the way you live. By taking steps to change your outlook on life you can begin to improve your mood and change both your personal and professional life for the better.

Now you may be the kind of person who can remain cheerful, despite rejection, failure, loss, or trauma.  You may be able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again and continue to see the positives in life. But for those of us who don’t naturally have a positive outlook on life, it can be much more difficult to change our thinking.

Perhaps there have been a few negative situations that have occurred in your life recently that have caused you to start seeing things through slightly grey-tinted glasses.  Subtle, and easy to miss, your mild depressive thoughts start to take over and you don’t even notice you are not as positive as you usually are.  You are still taking part in life and even smiling along the way, but just not reaping as many pleasures as you once were.

It can be difficult to remain positive about the future when faced with adversity; however, it is entirely possible. Switching your focus from a pessimistic view to an optimistic view can dramatically improve your quality of life as well as your relationships.

Viktor Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, stated, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Learning how to stay positive during negative situations is an invaluable skill to master to live a healthy life.

You can build up a mindset based on positivity.  Here are three simple, but effective tips to get to the silver linings amongst the grey clouds:

1. Stop and Unplug

In today’s technological era we spend so much time in isolation in front of our computers.  People become so attached to their multiple social media accounts that it overtakes face-to-face interactions.  With social networks constantly at our fingertips, it can become our nightly ritual to compare our perceived humdrum lives to those of others who appear to be glamorously based on what they’re posting on Facebook.

Additionally, people are able to hide behind their computer screens, which makes it much easier to spew negativity. Anonymously behind the safe haven of their screen, the negativity can be released through harassment, rumor mongering, rude comments, or exclusion of others by a simple click of a button. Gretchen Rubin, the author of “The Happiness Project” said it best when it comes to our constant attention to our social media accounts – “technology is a good servant but a bad master.”

As well, technology allows us to film every waking moment.  Some of us can be so caught up trying to capture all of life’s precious moments on camera that we lose the thrill of just enjoying the actual moment.  Why put a screen between you and your life?  It’s isolating enough when you’re alone in front of a computer, but now many of us are doing it when out amongst the crowds.  By recording the moment, we miss feeding off the energy of others and contributing our own energy to these once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Therefore it is important to take the time to stop and unplug from the digital world and connect with others.  Be present.  Live and experience each moment with all of your senses.    Interact with real people in real-time rather than connecting virtually through your mobile devices.  “To be able to stay positive it is essential to have influences in your life that support you and lift you up instead of dragging you down.”  Staying in touch with friends and loved ones is extremely beneficial for our happiness and well-being. Research demonstrates that spending positive time with other people improves our happiness immediately.

2. Practice Self-Care

In order to stay positive during difficult times, it is important to take care of ourselves.   “Inadequate self-care, that is the inability to put yourself first by making sure you get the rest, nutrition and movement you need to perform is the cause of much stress, re-work, and poor leadership.”

We all know that exercise is good for our bodies, but it is also great for our minds.  Study after study has shown the positive effect that being active has on our brains. Exercise produces endorphins and proteins that make us feel happier – it increases your cognitive abilities, helps you sleep better, enhances your self-perception, and improves your overall sense of well-being.   Exercise is also an excellent way to ward off negativity and stress.

In addition, consuming healthy, wholesome fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, grains, nuts, and seeds provides your body and brain with the nutrients needed to function at optimal levels and to stay healthy and happy. Unhealthy foods, especially those that contain processed carbohydrates, sugars and fats, and artificial sweeteners have been linked to many diseases, depression, and even brain shrinkage.  Remember – you are what you eat.

Finally, getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Sleep gives your body a chance to recover from the day and repair itself.  Sleep is also important for increased happiness. Having a good night’s sleep can have a big impact when we have a lot of tension inside and our thoughts are pessimistic.  When we are well-rested, we can think more clearly and optimistically.

Therefore, in order to stay positive about the future, make self-care a priority, especially given the emotional strains inherent in our professions and personal lives.  Don’t feel guilty about making time for yourself.  Studies show that when we care for ourselves, it not only has an impact on ourselves but also on others that we interact with.  Here are some ways to incorporate self-care into your busy lives.

3. Clean Up Your Life and Be Grateful

Many times there tends to be a reason when you have a negative attitude or outlook. Maybe it’s the negative people you surround yourself with, or maybe it is the dissatisfaction you have with your current job. Whatever the reason, remember you only have one life, so make sure that you make the necessary changes to live a more positive life. Oprah once said, “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”

Once you have taken an inventory of the negative influences in your life, cleanse yourself of everything keeping you down.  Get rid of the negativity, and remember to shift your focus onto all of the positive aspects of your life.

Voice your blessings and commit to practicing gratitude on a regular basis.  Keep a gratitude journal and write down what you are grateful for each day – like a daily appreciation exercise. Share these thoughts with friends and family and show your gratitude to others often. Continue to talk about the things you truly feel grateful for.

The power of positive thinking can put negative situations in perspective and can help us deal with them as they arise.  On especially difficult days, read back through your gratitude journal to help shift your attitude and remind yourself about all of the good things in your life. Winston Churchill’s famous quote said it best – “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

There you have it, three simple steps to becoming more positive for New Year 2018. Don’t worry if it doesn’t happen overnight…these three steps are progressing you in the right direction – onwards and upwards.

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