The Dr’s Blog

How does it influence our thoughts and feelings?

Can you fake it and still get the benefits? 

great to be - here & now

Gratitude means to be grateful, appreciative, and thankful. Gratitude is a positive emotion. Practicing gratitude increases positivity, and that in turn increases gratitude. 

I chose this picture of honey in honey comb from our bee hive because helping our little bees makes me feel everything from gratitude for the gift of their honey, to hope for their health and colony growth, to optimism about the future of our natural world. 

In this blog I'd like to take a deeper look at how to TAKE KoNTRoL of, or at least harness, positivity, hope, and optimism. And yes, you can fake it! By acting and speaking in a more positive manner, gratitude and optimism will increase. 

topics in this post include:

  • the health benefits of positive thinking
  • gratitude for beauty all around us lifts the spirit and inspires hope and optimism
  • humor helps our positivity & reduces stress

a little science 

Positive thinking, gratitude, hope, and optimism are closely related.

But first, why bother trying to be optimistic?

This article from Mayo Clinic has a great summary of the health benefits of for positive thinking, copied here, as well as a good discussion of what it is (and is not)

"Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress"

All of that sounds like a really good deal! 

sun shining into the eye sockets of this skull model illuminates where the orbitofrontal complex of the brain sits

Positive thinking is a higher brain function, meaning that we have to think and reason; we have to do it on purpose.

Optimism is more or less a state of mind. One definition of optimism is "a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome." Some people are born optimists, but anyone can become an optimist by using positive thinking.

Related to this is "hope," which wiki defines as "an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large." Even people with less natural optimism tend to experience hope. Hope is what gets us through the worst of times. 

Optimism takes place in the orbitofrontal complex of the brain, which is part of the prefrontal cortex. In the picture of the inside of the skull, you can see the lit up portion #39 - that is the bony plate behind the eyebrows, lying over the top of the eyeballs, and behind the nose where the olfactory nerves enter the brain. 

Gratitude for the beauty all around us lifts the spirit and inspires hope and optimism. Look how close the eyes are to that part of the brain! Take time to look and see beauty around you. Savor the taste of your next bite of food and your next sip. The same with the nose- take time to stop and smell the roses and everything else that gives you warm feels. Practice self soothing and caressing; as well as pet cuddles, bubble baths or floating, gentle massage, and connecting with nature by slowing down during a walk or drive. Listen to your favorite song and as it plays, pay attention to the change you feel happening to your mood.

The five senses are really fascinating, there's so much to take in. And we DO take it all in, even at a subliminal level. 

eye candy & beautiful bounty

We were grateful that the garden bugs left something for us this year.

We got about 5 gallon bags of cute little hotties (habaneros).

We couldn't eat them, but on a positive note we were able to share. 

I hope we have another good growing season next year. 

Pro tip: as you experience the world through your senses, practice gratitude (thankfulness and appreciation) for it and at the same time think about the experience with a positive and hopeful attitude. This builds stronger neural pathways.

humor and laughter

When I was in my early 40's I became aware that I had no sense of humor. It was a revelation. A shock. A tragedy!

It's been fun building new neural pathways. Commander Data was my role model, haha. 

Me, training the neural pathways for humor.

Anyone reading this knows: laughter feels GOOD. Here's some of the science for those of you who can't help themselves. For everyone else, here's a brain joke: What do you call a skull without billions of neurons? A no brainer! 

But seriously folks, laughter releases all kinds of good brain and humoral chemicals (get it? humoral?*) that benefit the body and emotions. It's a form of emotional release. It causes the release of nitric oxide which makes for very healthy blood vessels. Have you ever had laughing gas? We *make* that when we laugh!

So what's better than laughing? Sharing a good laugh. And here's something wonderful about sharing laughter - it works just as well with strangers as with close friends. I'm not talking about mean-spirited jokes, but unexpected moments of appreciation for a humorous word or innocent slip up. It can defuse tense situations, put others at ease if they are anxious, and lighten the mood when things are getting too serious. 

* Humoral: Pertaining to elements in the blood or other body fluids.

Pro Tip: Choose carefully what you will look at, listen to, and interact with in your mental and physical environment. Look for positive messages and positive friends. The brain is like a computer that is programmable: #GIGO. (garbage in, garbage out)

Feed the brain with beauty and positive thoughts, then on through the amygdala... my lil' buddies and the key to your superpowers. 

The amygdalae are the paths, gates, and gatekeepers to the brain's memory, emotion, and decision-making areas. These little almond-shaped brain nuggets integrate emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation. They are key players in accessing and creating deep memories and have a feedback loop to the OFC optimism center during the processing of smells. The amygdala get smaller when we practice meditation. (Wait, what?!) 

Choose beautiful images to see, listen to pleasing music, and smell things that remind you of the way you want to feel. Pamper your mind and body while focusing on positive thoughts, even if only for a few minutes. If it's not easy for you, no pressure. Something will come up that will brighten your day, I'm sure of it. 

We don’t have any time to waste when it comes to developing our superpowers! It's not doing anything invasive, or sneaky, or dangerous by using our own minds and making our own informed decisions. It's not possible to take advantage of ourselves, the way we are taken advantage of by commercialization -- we're taking advantage of our innate abilities in the same way we'd train to sing, or paint, or dance. 

It's a choice you make. #optimismoptin

Last minute advice:

Wear a face covering Always & Everywhere, take some vitamins (zinc and zinc ionophores to be precise), love the ones you’re with, stay super duper hydrated, and just breathe and smell stuff. Because we are lucky ducks if we can still breathe and smell, don’t you think? Stop and smell the roses, literally and figuratively. Stay busy with good endeavors, try to fill your heart with good vibes, laugh until your sides ache, and don’t put garbage into your brain.

We Got This!