Be Bold – Be Optimistic

I’ve been writing about optimism quite a bit lately. Perhaps because the times we live in are so stressful, I feel the need to try to rise above the stress and bring others along with me. It’s natural to have down days as well as optimistic ones. And of course, things can happen throughout the day even if you start out optimistic to cause you to sit back and reflect, and possibly feel down. But that’s the easy route. Be bold – be optimistic. 

One chance

Be optimistic. Smile. Be grateful - you're alive.

The fact is, we only get one go-round in this life (that we know of). So I figure we might as well make the most of it. I’ve got enough wrinkles from my 65 years of living, I don’t have to manufacture more with frowning. When I feel down and recognize it, I try to bring myself out of the doldrums any way I can. Of course, sometimes I don’t recognize my bad moods and depressed thoughts, and it goes to others (mainly my sister) to figuratively slap me upside the head and take a look at myself and listen to what’s coming out of my mouth. Because when I’m feeling stressed, anxious and in a bad mood, I have the unfortunate tendency to take my bad mood out on others. Again, mainly my sister. For that, I sincerely apologize.

Smiles ahead

So how do you make a frown turn upside-down? Easy. Step one: just smile. Many times your thoughts go where your expression is. So if you’re feeling gloomy, put a huge smile on your face. Exaggerate it. Show lots of teeth. For five seconds. Not feeling so grouchy anymore, are you?

Move it

A great way to feel more optimistic is to move your body. This doesn’t have to be a full-fledged workout, although that is certain to do the trick, but if you get up and move to your favorite music, say, after a couple of tunes you’ll be on your way to optimism.

Exercise reduces bad moods and depression. That “exercise high” is not a myth! Regular exercise helps the brain produce a protein that seems to fortify parts of the hippocampus susceptible to depression, neuroscience has revealed. And Swedish researchers have found that exercise helps to keep your brain safe from harmful substances (one is called kynurenine) that build up during stress. Read more about how exercise will benefit you: http://fitness-over-50.com/2018/04/more-reasons-to-exercise/

Another great way to feel more optimistic (but perhaps not immediately) is to improve your diet. Research has shown that a cleaner diet kind of cleans out your brain too. So, cut back on the processed foods and eat more fruits and veggies. But watch the fruit because there’s a lot of sugar there. So eat more veggies.

Don’t think

Meditation has been shown to be a mood lifter too. You don’t have to be a serious yogi to meditate. Just find a comfortable position and clear your brain for a while. If clearing your brain is hard, you might want to try a guided meditation. And it doesn’t have to be long, either. As short a period as 3 minutes can make a huge difference.

Gravitate to Gratitude

Lastly, a sure-fire path to optimism and happiness is gratitude. You can have no place for unhappiness when you’re feeling grateful. And feeling grateful for something – anything – will set you far along on your path to happiness. It may seem too simple, but it’s true. Just by saying, “I’m grateful for the sunshine” will make my unhappiness go away? Perhaps not so easily, but you’re looking at the sun shining, squinting your eyes, and smiling, aren’t you? And smiling is a definite step to happiness.

And when you write down the things that you’re grateful for, when you journal your feelings of gratitude, your happiness will grow. Just the act of writing something down solidifies it. (That’s one reason we all took notes in class at school!) Of course, you can journal your gratitude on anything, but sometimes nothing comes immediately to mind. It’s OK if you have to look for things to be grateful for. Sometimes days are like that. So it’s helpful to have journaling prompts. This Gratitude and Happiness Journal not only has prompts, but also inspirational quotes to start you thinking along an optimistic path. 

So, be bold. Be optimistic. You’ll stand out, and everyone will think, “Wow, she always seems so happy. I want to be like her!”

Cold, cold, cold …

Outdoor exercise is possible when it's cold.

Here in the Chicago area it’s cold today. Really cold. The high temperature today will not reach 20 degrees F. That’s cold. If you like to exercise outside, do you quit in the winter? Or do you grudgingly move indoors? No need to do either, according to experts. In fact, exercising outside can help you avoid a Vitamin D deficiency by exposure to the sun’s rays (wearing sunscreen, of course, to avoid the harmful effects!).

Don’t stop exercising

You still need to exercise in the cold months. That requirement does not go away when the weather is bad or you don’t feel like going outside. Your lungs, your heart, your bones, your muscles still need the work. To help strengthen the lungs, if your usual running route is snow-packed, then skiing or snowshoeing are good alternatives.

And the old myth that inhaling cold air will damage the lungs is not true, according to Dr. Olugusen Apata, a pulmonologist, critical care physician and sleep specialist with Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. He says that because the air is dryer in winter months, some people may experience coughs, but the air is warmed sufficiently before it gets to the lungs.

The best way to exercise in cold weather

If you want to brave the cold to exercise, be sure to dress warmly and in layers. Layers will trap the air close to your body and warm it, keeping you warm in the middle. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes or boots that are comfortable for the sport you engage in but keep you safe from slipping on unseen hazards, like black ice. And warm gloves or mittens will keep your hands toasty and safe from frostbite. (I personally exercise indoors year-round. I’m no fan of running but when I do it for exercise, it’s on a treadmill. This post explains how I stay warm inside, at my desk at work, where the heater is not the best…)

Hydrate!

And you still need to drink plenty of water. You may not sweat as much when it’s cold, but you’re still burning calories and need to hydrate!

Stress caused me to …

Watching this play out on a live stream!

This has been a difficult time for many of us Americans. A sitting president urged his followers to riot at the Capitol. Through the miracle of technology we saw the events unfold in real time. Barricades fell. Legislators, in the midst of one of the most important jobs in months, were forced to evacuate to safe locations. Rioters overtook the chamber and congressional offices. They vandalized offices, stole equipment and perhaps sensitive documents. People were killed in the melee.

I did not get much work done this last Wednesday afternoon.

Stress takes over

Like many others, my stomach was churning, my head was spinning. I knew I had to do something to reduce my own stress. There was nothing I could do at that moment to alleviate the situation, all I could do was make sure that I did not take my stress out on my family, friends or dogs. I sometimes lash out when I’m feeling stress. It’s not fair to my sister or my friends. And the dogs certainly do not understand. They pick up on stress and tend to act emotionally too. Simon will race around, doing laps around the dining room table and leaping from the kitchen chair, over his brothers to run around. Booker will claw at us, insisting on our complete attention. 

Step aerobics at my age?!?

So I did the hardest step workout I own. Now, at age 65, I won’t do a whole lot of jumping and the step is only at about 6 inches. I modified many of the high impact moves, but still got my heart rate up. Even though I modified the routines and made it more low-impact, it was very high intensity. And 45 minutes of intense cardio on a step is guaranteed to produce a lot of endorphins. (Thank you, Gin Miller!)

A great workout eliminates stress.

Intense physical exercise is a sure-fire way to release stress, burn a whole lot of calories, and leave me more even-tempered. I was much more able to face the rest of the world after that workout!

If you’re interested in step aerobics, check out some videos on YouTube before you invest in a step. For this type of exercise, you definitely need a step designed for it. Also, for those of us over 50, we may have knee and hip issues as well as other conditions, so check with your doctor before you start exercise, especially high impact and high intensity exercise.

And then calm…

And after that high-energy step workout, I did a short guided meditation to calm down. If you’ve heard of meditation and think that is something you’d like to try, there’s really no special equipment or background you need. Just sit comfortably and close your eyes. And then think of nothing. Clear your mind. If you have a hard time doing that, then a guided meditation can help.