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7 Ways to Harness Spring Optimism

7 Ways to Harness Spring Optimism
By Dr. Sanam Hafeez

We set the clocks ahead for daylight savings last month and many of us woke up to a darker sky feeling sluggish thanks to a one-hour loss of sleep. If you hit the snooze button and pulled the covers over your head, still feeling bummed out about your waistline, bank account, or career, you’re not alone. Despite more daylight, our worries will still be there. So, how do we spring into spring, a season that’s all about new beginnings and rebirth? Here are 7 ways:

1. Focus on the good
A daily exercise I often have my patients do is keep an appreciation or gratitude journal. When you focus on all the things to be happy about in your life, more great things come. Think generally and use your senses. What do you appreciate seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and listening to? Write it down. Within a few weeks you’ll train the mind to pivot to an appreciative thought when faced with a negative one.

2. Make plans
Making plans to see relatives, a new exhibit, a movie, or travel gets our mind moving toward something positive that we can be hopeful and optimistic about. Make plans to do three things per month for the next three months. Choose things that you know will bring you joy and then go do them! Feeling excited about what is coming and talking about how fun it will be keeps us optimistic and forward moving.

3. Control what you can, delegate the rest!
We get pessimistic and worry about the worst possible outcomes when we realize that we cannot control every detail. This leads to anxiety and an even stronger feeling of having to control conditions — and even others. This is a trap. Figure out what needs to get done, what actions you can take. Then let go of anything else that is beyond your control with faith that everything will turn out fine. Envision the desired outcome.

4. Limit your news watching and avoid it before bed
There is a very common pattern. People awaken and immediately reach for their smartphone for headlines. Then they turn on the TV news as background noise. They listen to news in their cars, have news alerts going off on their phones all day, catch the evening news, and then the 11 p.m. news before bed. No wonder they’re less optimistic! What you choose to look at will impact your mood. Remember, good news doesn’t get ratings.

5. Don’t snooze: Instead, just breathe
When the alarm goes off, give yourself a few minutes to just lay there, eyes closed, focused on your breathing. Breathe in counting to 4 and then breathe out. Do a mental scan of your entire body from head to toe thanking your cells for restoring you as you slept. Deep breathing is a form of meditation, and in the morning, you have a small window of opportunity to decide what kind of day you want it to be.

6. Distract yourself with something that requires focus
The key here is to pick something you truly enjoy doing, and do it daily. It can be painting, coloring, yoga, a 20-minute walk or jog, or listening to music and dancing around your living room. When you are fully engaged in something, you can’t ruminate, which leads to pessimism.

7. Make feeling good top priority
When you commit to feeling good, you instantly start to think more optimistically. When you’re mindful of your own negativity and shift to a better-feeling positive thought, you feel powerful. You’ll feel like you can conquer anything when you can master your own mindset.

Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at Columbia University Teacher’s College, and the founder and clinical director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C., a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center.

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