I’ve worried whether I’d be a pessimist for the rest of my life. But, oddly, after our time in France, something paradoxical happened. I became strangely positive. But then I read the book Learned Optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD, and took a little test that bothered my little paradigm. Even though I felt more optimistic, I really was a true pessimist.
On a few points, I was moderately optimistic, tempered by a slew of “very pessimistic”s. These results, of course, result in more pessimism.
So I’m on a little quest this week about optimism. I’m learning and doing things that help tilt my scale toward optimism, and maybe along the way, it’ll help you too.
One thing I read recently (and I have to admit, I can’t remember where) was that one way we can turn pessimism on its heel is to list the things that makes us happy. And then, the kicker: actually reorient our lives to do those things. So here’s my list:
I am happiest when:
- The kids aren’t spread out around the house, each of us in our own rooms.
- I am gardening.
- I am outside.
- I am praying for others, directly.
- I am running.
- I am creating art in some way.
- I’m taking pictures.
- I’m cooking something new and creative.
- I’m writing.
- We eat outside.
- We do something together as a family.
- We vacation. (Oh how we missed our vacation last summer!)
- I am exploring the Bible, particularly around a topic.
- I’m decorating the house.
- I’m at a farmer’s market.
- I’m reading a cookbook.
- I’m spending one on one time with one of my kids.
- I’m dating my husband.
- I’m riding my bike.
- I’m listening to worship music.
- I’m singing worship songs.
- I’m talking to a great friend.
- I’m having lunch with a great friend.
- I’m planting flowers.
- I’m reading something beautifully written or compellingly fresh.
- I’m communicating with someone from another culture.
- I’m speaking to groups about healing from the past.
- I’m deliberately choosing not to worry and resting in God’s peace.
- I’m receiving feedback about how one of my books has blessed someone.
- I’m drawing goofy cartoons.
- I’m investigating something and actually getting somewhere.
- I’m sitting quietly in a well organized, non-cluttered home.
- I’m donating excess stuff.
- I give money or possessions away.
- I surprise someone.
- I cook something for someone else.
- Guests are over.
- I’m hiking.
- I can smell the freshness of air.
- I’m reading/looking at decorating magazines.
- Flowers are blooming.
- Birds sing and I’m slow enough to hear them.
- Something new in nature catches my eye.
- I let go of the people who don’t like me.
- I discover something new about Jesus.
- I’m laying out in the sun.
- I’m on the beach.
- I’m viewing the stars.
- I’m taking a walk with my husband.
- I’m with a group of dear friends on vacation.
OK, that’s a long list!
Here’s your assignment. RIGHT NOW, grab a piece of paper and a pen and jot down the things that make you truly happy. Feel free to share a few here. And then, this week, give yourself holy permission to do a few of them. Let me know how they affect your pessimism levels. Really, go. Write. Even if the things on your list are crazy, write them down anyway.