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“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”
– Shirley Temple  
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 12 December 2017  

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Janice Tollini

  Perspectives — a column
  Turn that frown upside down — really?
  By Janice Tollini

   Janice Tollini has worked in the health care industry as a clinical psychologist for 15 years. She is now a Talent Management Consultant, and is completing additional graduate training in industrial/organizational psychology. In 2017, she will become certified as an executive coach through the World Coaching Institute. Check out Janice’s website at http://talentworksconsulting.com.
I feel that this is the best possible time to write on this particular topic. The weather is dark and foreboding, as is my mood. It is one of those days where everything terrible seems to rise to the surface, and everything good seems hidden behind those dark clouds I just mentioned. The sun keeps trying valiantly to make an appearance, but at best, I get only a glimpse here and there. I am in, as my friend described so eloquently a few days ago, a Grinch-like mood. A perfect time to write about creating happiness.
   
   Some days the negativity seems indisputable; whereas, optimism seems to be intangible. Other days, all seems well and good with the world. The operative word in all of this is seems. It is a matter of perspective. Avoiding the tired old ‘half glass empty or half full’ cliché, I could say, “The sun wasn’t out at all today,” or I could say, “‘The sun kept peeping through the clouds.”
   
   Clearly, the weather serves as a good metaphor for our mood. And, as much as we can change our description of the weather, we can also change our view of the world. I know, it sounds like all happy-happy Pollyanna nonsense, so let me give you something more practical and concrete.
   
   Where and how we focus our attention has a huge impact on how we feel. For example, as I am writing this, I look out the window and see the flowers I planted this spring, my horse grazing in the pasture, the neighbor’s chickens chasing grasshoppers for their lunch — and a piece of trash, a plastic bag, that has blown in from only God knows where. If I focus on the plastic bag to the point that I am no longer enjoying my horse, the flowers or the chickens, I start thinking about how it got there and who is so negligent that they let their trash blow around — and what about the environment … well, you can see where that path would take me.
   
   The important thing to recognize at this point is that I have a choice. I can focus on the trash or I can redirect my focus to the flowers, etc. If the trash is really going to cause problems, I can go grab it and put it in my trash can and be done with it.
   
   Obviously, this is an overly simplistic and somewhat limited scenario, but the main concept remains true.
   
   A few months back, I had reviewed Shawn Achor’s book, “The Happiness Advantage.” In this book, Shawn talks about what he calls the “positivity ratio.” The positivity ratio is the proportion between good and bad needed to maintain, or create, positivity. That ratio is 3:1. So for every one negative thing in our day or in our thoughts, we can actively create a more positive mindset by consciously thinking of three positive things. Admittedly, some days that is more easily done than others. On those difficult, “cloudy” days, it takes conscious effort to locate the good things and bring them into focus. Truth be told, those days take work.
   
   I also believe that on those days where we find ourselves battling pessimism, we need to be nicer to ourselves: nicer as in kinder, more compassionate and more forgiving. That can be as simple as stopping at Starbucks for your favorite flavored coffee or wearing the outfit that always gets you compliments. It can be taking time for a long, hot shower or watching your favorite feel-good movie. Some days we need a leg-up to feeling good.
   
   So today, as I sit here bemoaning my own struggles and maladies, I force myself to recognize the many good things in my life, making a mental note of the ways I am fortunate, the talents and strengths God has given me and the wonderful friends and family I have to support and encourage me as I tackle life’s inevitable obstacles. The wind has blown the plastic bag away, and all I see is my horse and the flowers as the sun emerges.
  
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