Every Day Optimism
by Dani DiPirro
In her new book, Everyday Optimism: How to be Present and Positive at Work, at Home and in Love, (Watkins, $14.95) Dani DiPirro explains why she doesn’t believe in a quest for happiness but in being positively present. Here she outlines the basic principles behind her ideas.
There are six fundamentals to the “Positively Present Principles,” and are essential for living a more positively present life. Some of these principles might speak louder to you than others—and those are the ones you should tune in to the most—but all of these, when put into action, increase the odds of you being able to make the most of every moment.
1. OPEN YOUR MIND TO BEING POSITIVE &PRESENT
The first and most important aspect of living a positively present life is opening your mind to the idea of thinking positively in the present moment. Sounds simple, but when you’re struggling through a difficult time in your life—or simply accustomed to embracing a negative attitude—positive thinking may not seem worthwhile, or even possible. Being willing to seek the good in the now doesn’t mean being naïve about the presence of negativity or constantly existing in a state of blissful cheer; it means allowing yourself to let go of old habits (including old ways of thinking) and actively choosing to focus on the aspects of the moment that will help you create a more positive mindset.
2. BE AWARE OF AND WILLING TO SHIFT—YOUR THOUGHTS
Your thoughts shape your world. When a situation appears to be good or bad, it is because you interpret it as good or bad. We use thoughts to label things, to try to make sense of them and to establish our moral code. Knowing a certain behavior is unacceptable, or someone is a bad influence on you, for example, makes such moral judgments essential; but all too often, such labels can get in the way of the positive things in life too. Amazingly, you can often change what you see by being aware of and willing to change the way you think about it. (It’s kind of like magic!) Tuning in to your thoughts (rather than simply letting them happen)—an act that will take some practice if you’re not used to it—allows you to see them for what they are and make a conscious choice to move them away from negativity and toward positivity. Likewise, you can redirect your attention from the past or the future to the present.
3. REMOVE NEGATIVITY WHENEVER POSSIBLE
Once you’ve made an effort to be aware of your thoughts, it’s time to take a look at what’s happening around you and how it affects your ability to live positively in the present moment. First, identify any negativity in your life. Consider your activities, habits and mindsets, as well as the people around you. What aspects of your life cause you to feel excessively unhappy, stressed, angry, nervous or unsettled? Note the word “excessively.” It’s OK to feel these emotions in moderation, but when you feel them constantly or to a strong degree, something in your life is not good for you. If you can, try to avoid—or at least limit your interactions with—negative influences to free up your life for more positive people and situations. Of course, it’s not always possible to remove negativity completely, but it’s usually possible to limit or reframe your interactions with them. It’s always possible to limit the amount of time you give to thinking about negative situations or people.
4. LOVE AND APPRECIATE WHO YOU ARE
If you feel unhappy with who you are, it’s very difficult to feel happy about the life you’re living. Self-love is about self-awareness—knowing and liking who you are, who you’ve been and who you want to be—but it’s also about acceptance. That means loving not only the obviously lovable parts of yourself, but the parts that you might someday want to change, too. The second and equally essential aspect of self- love involves actively appreciating yourself. You can show appreciation for yourself through your words and actions. Tell yourself—every day, if possible—how valuable you are and how lucky you are to be you. You can also treat your body and mind with kindness. Allow yourself to be who you are without too much judgment. In short, appreciation is love put into action.
5. ADOPT AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
Having an attitude of gratitude might sound clichéd—and even a bit silly—but it means paying attention to the things you have to be thankful for, rather than dwelling on what you feel you lack. When your mind is focused on the positives in your life, you’re in the moment, appreciating what you have and who you are right now in the present, instead of worrying about what you wish you could have or longing for what you once had in the past. When you are thankful, you are attuned not only to your own blessings, but also to those of the world around you, making it much easier to stay in the moment and appreciate the moment for all it contains.
6. FOCUS ON WHAT INSPIRES YOU
The moments you spend doing what fills you with joy and inspiration—like spending time with a loved one or engaging in a favorite hobby—are the moments in which it is easiest to be positively present. If you don’t yet have something you love to do more than anything else, pepper your life with new experiences until you find what excites your heart and mind. When you find yourself lost in the moment, with no idea of the time and little desire to be anywhere other than where you are, you’ve found your activity, whether that’s playing the guitar, painting a picture, spending time with your child or trekking up a mountain. What’s inspiring and fulfilling may not always be straightforward (like raising children) or fun (like a job you love find stressful), but anything that encourages you to embrace the moment is something you should make a priority in your life.