Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Over the last few months I have been reading Martin Seligman’s work. He has a pretty impressive resume to say the least. He’s a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, a best selling author and he has helped create a course in positive psychology for the US Army.

All of his work is steeped in scientific study. I definitely recommend checking out some of his books. I have read all of these, all are good, but if you are going to read one I’d read the first one.

  • Learned Optimism
  • What You Can Change and What You Can’t
  • Authentic Happiness
  • Flourish

What’s the difference between optimists and pessimists?

Well according to Mr. Seligman:

Pessimists think problems are permanent, and pervasive. Pessimists think wins are just temporary, happened by luck or chance and setbacks are permanent.

Optimists think problems are temporary and specific. Optimists think wins are permanent and setbacks temporary.

So which are you? If you say “realist’ then you are probably more of a pessimist. Pessimists tend to be able to judge things more realistically than optimists. However, optimists live longer, have better health, better relationships, are happier and more successful.

A few tips I learned:

  • Ruminating thoughts? Put a rubber band on your wrist and snap it every time you have a thought that you don’t want to think.
  • When you lie down to sleep at night focus on the thing you want to dream of. Imagine it and this will make it more likely that you will dream of it.
  • 3 good things. Write down three good things that happened to you today before you go to sleep.

Here’s a good resource.

For the Critic

Criticism and judgement. Where does it stem from? Many critics and trolls can be found on the web. If you go to Amazon you can write a review about a product someone has perhaps written or created. You can head on over to Youtube and also leave a comment about what someone has created. But before you do, ask yourself, “What have I created?”.

“In many ways the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little. Yet enjoy a position over those who offer up there work and their sales to our judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write or read. But the better of truth that we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so…”

Anton Ego, from the movie Ratatouille

How to Meditate

Here is a guide on how to meditate. Here are some important things to remember:

  • Get comfortable. You can sit in lotus pose, in a chair, or lie down in corpse pose as they call it in yoga..
  • Keep your body erect. Sit up if you are sitting.
  • Relax. Focus on relaxing the muscles in your body. Especially focus on relaxing the muscles in your face. Make sure you’re not holding any tension there. Relax.
  • Focus on your breathing. Breath in through you nose and out through your nose. Your breath is key.
  • Set an alarm. I used to meditate 2 times a day for a total of 40 minutes a day, but now I do it for 20 minutes a day. Sometimes I will break these sessions up into smaller increments like 10 or 15 minutes or longer sessions for 30 minutes or more minutes. If you’re just starting out then start small with say 5 minutes or perhaps even less if that seems difficult. Consistency is key, it is better to do it more frequently for a shorter period of time than it is to do it infrequently for longer periods of time.

Here are some other tactics that can be used when meditating:

Use a tone. These are tones like ahhhhhhhhh, ohhhhhhhh and ummmmmmm. You use these when you exhale and you hold the tone for the entire breath in a steady manner until you’re out of breath. Inhale and do it again.

The vibration feels quite therapeutic.

Close your eyes. I always do it this way.

Open your eyes. Focus on a point in front off you. Keep your focus there. Some meditators suggest holding your gaze slightly down.

Pause between breaths. This one is like holding your breath between the inhale and exhale, vice versa or just try it after the exhale or inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds or however long you feel comfortable with. You shouldn’t have to gasp for air. You’ll notice that your thought typically stops when you momentarily hold your breath.

Focus on your stomach. When in you inhale imagine that your stomach is a balloon and fill it with air. When you exhale release it and gently suck in. This technique works well on nerves. If you’re nervous or stressed a few minutes of doing this will calm you down and get you in your body. This also works well with addressing stage fright, nerves with an interview, public speaking and any situation that gets you worked up.

Scan your body. Start with your feet and move up slowly to your scalp. For example, first focus on your feet and any sensations you feel there and then your ankles up to your shins and so on.

Count breaths. One inhalation and one exhalation is considered one breath. Simultaneously visualizing the number as you count helps too.

There is no magic number as it depends on how fast you count. Counting to 10 is not so difficult for me.

Alternatively you can use a four count. Inhale for four seconds, pause for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, pause for four seconds and then continue.

Learn more about using your breath to meditate.

Watch your mind. Watch what thoughts come and go. If you find yourself getting into a train of thought then let the thought go and return to your breath. Observe your mind.

Rock. Try gently rocking back and forth as you sit.

Generally you want to remain relatively still, however if you have a scratch then scratch it as you will waste more energy trying not to scratch it. Sometimes while sitting I will also do forward folds (used in yoga) where I’ll clasp my elbows and fold over my knees and hang. I can at times also clasp my hands together and put them behind my head. This will help straighten your posture while simultaneously stretching behind your shoulders.