CHIEF RABBI, HACHAM SHAUL KASSIN 5681 – 5779 / 1921-2018

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By: Mozelle Forman, Lcsw

Is your glass half-full or half-empty? This proverbial phrase is really asking if you see the world optimistically or pessimistically. When looking at a situation do you see opportunity or trouble?

The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that every situation may be seen in different ways, depending on one's point of view. We all know that the reality of any glass that is half-full, is that it is also half-empty. Focusing on the empty half does not make it any fuller, but it does deny us the joy of seeing the half full part. Where we fall on the optimistic-pessimistic spectrum will determine what we focus on.

An optimistic person is someone who has a tendency to look on the more favorable side of events, and expects a favorable outcome. This type of person is usually hopeful and confident about the future. A pessimistic tendency, on the other hand, leads a person to see the worst aspect of things, or to believe that the worst will happen. This attitude generally is accompanied by a lack of hope or confidence in the future.

So, if we have a tendency to expect the worst, are we doomed to a lifetime of half-empty glasses? While some people are naturally more optimistic than others, ultimately, we all get to wake up every day and choose whether we are going to bea glass half-full, or a glass half-empty person. We can actually program ourselves to think positively over time.

Here are six strategies for filling up your cup of optimism:

Reframe a problem into an opportunity– Where pessimists see problems, optimists find opportunities. If you change the way you look at your problems, your problems change and transform into a rich array of opportunities to grow, learn, and discover inner resources you never knew you had! If you find yourself obsessing about a problem, feeling negative, or experiencing self-doubt, change your focus by asking: What's one thing I could do differently that might make this situation better? Replacing problem-focused thinking with solution-focused thinking immediately gives you a sense of forward movement, possibility, and hope, which is the foundation of optimism.

Carry yourself like an optimist– The mind and the body have an intrinsic connection. Each has a profound impact on the other. If you are struggling to move your mind into a more positive perspective, try moving your body there first. Try standing up straight, shoulders back, chin held high, stretching your arms out as wide as they can go. Feel powerful. Feel positive. Carrying yourself with “positive posture” will encourage your mind to feel more positive as well.

Laugh– A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Maryland has shown that laughter has more health benefits than we can imagine. Laughter can flush clots, cholesterol, and inflammation from the body. Laughter increases heart rate and blood flow, and has similar health benefits to exercising. Endorphins are released during laughter, which help to relieve pain, reduce cravings and stress, and slow the aging process. Laughter can also lower blood sugar levels, improve your immune system, and increase our disease fighting antibodies. If that’s not enough, laughter is a natural sleep aid. So, what are you waiting for?

Hang out with positive people–Optimism is contagious. So, too, is pessimism. If you are struggling to feel more positive, don’t spend your time hanging out with those people who suck the life out of you with their complaints and commentary about everything that is wrong with both the world and the people in it. Choose your company wisely, and limit the time you spend with people who do not fill your cup of optimism and self-confidence.

Don’t see optimism as a weakness– Many pessimists resist a nod toward optimism for fear of becoming a “Pollyana,” a “blind optimist” that believes nothing bad can ever happen. Blind optimism can be dangerous because it can distort your confidence, or leave you very disappointed if something does not go your way. True optimism does not just ignore challenges or pretend that negative feelings and experiences do not exist. It acknowledges those challenges and then says, “I can work through those!”

Practice gratitude– One of the quickest ways to shift your focus away from negativity, judgment, and disappointment is to list the things in your life for which you are grateful. You see, it really doesn’t matter if the glass is half-full or half-empty. Be happy you have a glass with something in it!