From Pessimism to Optimism 1: I am happiest when …

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.

Drat.

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.

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