Welcome to this weekly online resource. Wellness professional Jo Foster, offers self care tips through her insights on mindfulness and positive psychology, her weekly online yoga classes and nutritious recipe recommendations.
This week we will be looking at believing in positive possibilities. Enjoy!
"I believe in miracles..." by Hot Chocolate.
The second part of this well known line is not so relevant to todays food for thought! But the first part, "I believe in miracles" is for my part, a true statement. I'm not sold on the supernatural variety of miracles just yet, but I'm certain that everyday events occur that seemingly defy natural and scientific laws.
I have evidence for this. Here are a few of my life miracles:
Miracle 1 (M1): Getting a job in banking even though at interview I told them I wasn't good at maths!
Miracle 2 (M2): Recovering full physical fitness and functionality after being confined to a wheelchair after a horse riding accident.
Miracle 3 (M3): Watching a close family member battle and survive a rare form of lymphoma.
These events in my life all seemingly defied natural and scientific laws and I believe that all of these "miracles" were created by optimism.
To look at the above scenarios in turn;
M1: When at interview for a position in banking, I was entirely honest when they asked me "what is your biggest weakness?"... "Maths". My response was met with laughter, "why are you interviewing for a job in banking then!?". It appeared that my choices were defying some sort of law of logic. But whilst it was true that Maths isn't my strongest subject, I was optimistic that my abilities with Microsoft Excel and other attributes would enable me to circumnavigate this issue.
M2: When I presented with a wheelchair on discharge from hospital, I was informed that this was a temporary measure and that I would walk again. However, this was caveated with "you are unlikely to walk unaided". My response to this was rage, not with the prognosis but with sense of being personally underestimated.
M3: When my Father was diagnosed with Cancer, it was rapidly advancing, stage 4, global and systemic (meaning not a single part of his body was cancer free). His medical prognosis was poor. He had to put up a major mental fight to get through treatment. Today, to his surprise, his families sheer joy and his consultants bewilderment, he is here to laugh with us all and is on his way to full remission.
As well as the theme of optimism in these scenarios there is another a common thread, belief. Belief in the possibility of a positive outcome even in the face of adversity. It is important however, to be clear, that there was also doubt in all of these scenarios, there was no "blind" optimism. Each scenario presented major personal challenges and the positive outcomes did not come with ease or chance.
How do we robustly create belief in the face of adversity?
It is not enough to recite positive mantras and just talk the talk of optimism, you have to truthfully believe in a positive future and be willing to put up a fight to get there and challenge any pessimism that gets in your way.
This is how to show grit against doubt.
1. Pause: as soon as the negative thoughts begin to manifest, notice this and think "STOP!". Use some healthy distraction. Try the box breathing technique, you can do this at anytime, anywhere. Once you feel that you have got some space from the negative thoughts (maybe later in the day or week) come back to the issue in hand. We are not looking to ignore the risks and possible negative outcomes, we are looking to be in a mindset that is able to rationally see the complete picture without negativity dominating our judgement.
2. Debate: When you are ready to rationally consider your scenario be willing to challenge whether your perceptions are "true" or "false". This is were we enquire about the reality and possibility in a scenario. In the three scenarios above there were sources of evidence that ensured that a positive outcome was believable and worth pursuing.
M1: I had done well in accounting aspects at university and in previous jobs, so I had some confidence that I could make this work. This was enough evidence for me that I could believe in my abilities.
M2: I had always been fit and strong, I couldn't imagine not being that again, so I didn't. But in terms of evidence, I had a phone call from a friend whose words "don't let them tell you what you can and can't do" packed a powerful punch. This individual was a notorious disabled sailor. He had suffered with polio in his early years and had battled with his mobility for most of his adult life. He had spent periods of time in and out out of a wheelchair. So his words came from experience
Limitations are doors to be opened but don't presume to know what the key is. A wheelchair, walking aid or if your lucky, the recovery of muscles and nerve tissue are all sources of freedom.
M3: Adversity on this scale can teach you optimism and reveal grit that you never knew you had. There are many stories in medicine where the patient defies the odds. My Father when I spoke to him, told me the positive stories that he had heard from his golf buddies. Or about the patients that his consultant had informed him had fought and won their battles. Defying the odds were clearly in his sights. This wavered on several occasions and it still does, but these stories and every round of chemo endured were evidence of possibility and hope. The evidence speaks for its self.
Seek out the evidence and use it to bolster your case.
3. Act: Decide on what is in your control and what is not. Write it down: for example:
Out of my control:
- the accident
- my injuries
- the need for walking aids at this time
- other peoples negativity
In my control:
- my physio exercises
- my use of pain medication
- how I occupy my mind, who to talk to, what to read, what to plan
- my own positive thoughts
Get stuck into making a good job of the things you can control.
Lastly, make sure you notice even the smallest achievements and progress, they all support your case for belief.
Serotonin is a chemical messenger that’s believed to act as a mood stabilizer. Research has commonly linked higher levels of seratonin to levels of happiness and good sleep. Research has also shown that there is a link between levels of the amino acid tryptophan in our diets and our levels of serotonin. Tryptophan is responsible for synthesising seratonin.
So a diet with plenty of tryptophan could contribute to a positive mood. This amino acid can be found in Cheese, Eggs, Salmon, Nuts and Seeds, Tofu, Pineapples and Turkey.
This weeks recipe incorporates the leaner of the tryptophan rich foods, Turkey and then covers it with indulgent cheese! (substitute chicken with Turkey!)