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Get Happy: 15 Ways to be More Optimistic in Life
by Karen Asp, LamasBeauty Correspondent

I set a new goal recently: If my health's good, I want to live to be 100

I've got almost 70 years to reach that goal, but in the meantime, I'm going to do everything I can to increase my odds of celebrating 100. I'll eat well every day, exercise my mind and body regularly, and think optimistically.

That's right. By thinking optimistically, you can increase your odds of living longer. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic found that pessimism is a risk factor for premature death, even when other risk factors such as age and sex are discarded.

Okay, so maybe you don't want to live to be 100. But if you're more optimistic, start seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty, you'll handle stress better, get sick less often, and experience success in work, school, sports, relationships with your family and friends, and everything else you do.

Choosing sunny-side up

Believe it or not, being optimistic is a choice you make. Every morning, you choose to wake up grumpy or happy. Roll out on that ugly side of bed, and you'll face a long, tough day, which means you'll have to work extra hard at pulling yourself out of your gloomy mood.

Unfortunately, though, life is a rollercoaster ride riddled with ups and downs. "You either have a problem, you just got over one, or you're about to hit another one," says Willie Jolley, author of A Setback Is A Setup For A Comeback (Griffin Trade Paperback, 2000). Which is why you have to focus on the positive rather than the negative to get through the ride. There's a catch, though. Just because you're an optimist doesn't mean you're not going to have bad days. You will. That's a guarantee. So you can't possibly be upbeat all the time. You have to be realistic and understand that life isn't always fun. But if you're a true optimist, you'll deal with the rough spots and move on. As Jolley says, "Expect the best, prepare for the worst, and celebrate it all."

15 ways to get more happy

Sure, you can buy happiness in a pill. Yet rather than relying on a drug to boost your moods, you can make changes in your life to help you become more optimistic. But the choice is yours. Here's how to make your world brighter:

1. Live by the one-day principle: "The only day you have is the day you wake up," says Tom Bay, Ph.D., author of Look Within Or Do Without (Career Press, 2000). Yes, you can plan for the future, but live every day as if it were your last. By doing so, you'll let go of the past, stop worrying about the future, and make this one day your best.

2. Pay Attention to your personal needs: Put yourself at the top, suggests Bay. It sounds selfish to say you're No. 1, especially for women who take care of husbands, kids and parents, but you are. Take care of yourself first and you'll have plenty of enthusiasm, energy and optimism to give to others.

3. Let go of things that drain your energy: "As we lose ourselves and get more busy, we often lose our optimism," says Shirley Garrett, Ed.D., a professional speaker, writer and facilitator in Georgia.

4. Feed your mind positive thoughts: Does the news always bring you down? Then quit watching it. Read a book that makes you feel good. See a movie.

5. Know that you always have a choice: Is your job a bummer? Get a new one. Not ready to leave because of your 401K and vacation time? Then celebrate those reasons and remember that you chose to stay.

6. Indulge your passions: What is it that makes you tick? Painting? Playing the violin? Writing in a journal? Then do it. And don't feel guilty about doing it.

7. Find positive friends: As they say, if you want to soar with the eagles, you have to stop hanging out with the ducks. "So get around some eagles," Bay says.

8. Get the negative out of your system: Kick a desk in your office. Scream at the top of your lungs. If you don't dump it, it'll only come back to hurt you later.

9. Chase rainbows: Listen to your dreams and go after them.

10. Plan for down days: The sun doesn't shine every day. So create strategies in advance to help you dump the gloom. Bay carries comedy cassette tapes in his car. If he's in a bad mood, he pops them in and takes action to get out of his yucky mood.

11. Keep a feel-good journal: Bay says. Buy a blank journal and fill it with things that make you smile. Like that note from your friend, your fortune from the cookie at the Chinese restaurant, a photo of your pet. Stick only positive things in your journal and open it up whenever you're feeling down.

12. Enjoy the simple things: There's a cap to how much happiness fancy cars and big homes will give you. But there's no limit to the joy you'll get from playing with your kids, watching hummingbirds flutter at a feeder, or gazing at fluffy clouds.

13. Laugh: There's a reason we always feel great after a good laugh. It's called endorphins, and when you laugh, they rush through your body like a burst of happy energy.

14. Get moving: Remember those endorphins? You'll feel them when you exercise, whether you're walking the dog or raking leaves.

15. Catch a whale: Put such an emphasis on the positive that you're ready to tackle anything. Says Jolley, "I'm so optimistic that I'm going fishing for Moby Dick in a rowboat and I'm taking the tartar sauce with me." Karen Asp is a noted health and fitness writer whose work appears in leading publications including Shape, Fitness, Cooking Light, McCalls and Woman's World.

Karen Asp is a noted health and fitness writer whose work appears in leading publications including Shape, Fitness, Cooking Light, McCalls and Woman's World.

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