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 "keeping it real" and when not to use optimism. Enjoy!

Optimism can be transformational to our moods, relationships, health and prospects but it's true to say, that even in this regard, you can have too much of a good thing. If we approached all situations with pure optimism, lets face it, we would become delusional and could make decisions in life that bring us and others unnecessary misfortune. 

The yoga sutras of Patanjali are a collection of aphorisms that were collated circa 1600 years ago. Amongst the many insightful truths within this text, is an observation around balancing our mindset and perceptions, which is particularly relevant in considering how we form accurate judgements, assessment of risk and moderate our thoughts and behaviours. This balancing act is about living in healthy realism. Within the "sutras" there is a description of five different modifications of our mental state. All movements of consciousness can be divided into these five fluctuations of the mind.


They are: 

- true perception,

- false perception,

- memory,

- imagination and

- sleep. 

The different states all interrelate to each other and the principle is that if we fail to balance how long our minds spend in each state, then we loose the ability to accurately perceive reality.


For example, if we assume that all our perceptions are true and we fail to consider the possibility of an illusion at play, then too often will live in a warped sense of reality and make poor decisions. In order to accurately judge the realities of opportunity and risk in a given situation, we must recall our past experiences and visualise the future, thus spending time tapping into our memory and imagination. And, in order to balance the 4 preceding states of mind, we must ensure that we are functioning at our optimum level; spending the right amount of time in good quality sleep ensures that we reduce the chemical, hormonal and neurological misbalances which disturb our cognitive functions and decision making abilities. 


If we are able to balance these 5 states of mind, we can accurately judge when optimism is appropriate and when it is not. Martin Seligman in his book "Learned Optimism" describes the following circumstances when using optimism is not appropriate: 


- "If your goal is to plan for a risk and uncertain future, do not use optimism,

- If your goal is to counsel others whose future is dim, do not use optimism initially. 

- If you want to appear sympathetic to the troubles of others, do not begin with optimism, although using it later, once confidence and empathy are established, may help."


There is merit in realism, optimism and pessimism when used in the right doses and contexts. Being mindful of the cost of failure, never assuming that our perceptions are always true, trusting in our abilities to rebound from personal losses, looking forward with hope and using wisdom that's accumulated through our experiences, gives us balance and equips us with sound judgment in this regard. 

Further resources

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is an extraordinary book but it is by no means an light read! The aphorisms are thought provoking and insightful. If you do choose to dip-in to it's text, then it is best to do just that, dip-in in small doses. 

Rock Balancing
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Bean Chilli by Ella Woodward

I made a batch of this last week and it lasted in the fridge for a week. Have it with a jacket potato or rice, as part of a salad or mix it into some tortellini.

Pulses are a great source of protein. This means they can be particularly important for people who don't get protein by eating meat, fish or dairy products and are also great if you are looking to reduce your meat intake.


They are an excellent source of iron and slow release energy.