Here are a couple more highlights from the Mind Over Medicine book. I thought the differences between optimists and pessimists were fascinating. I'd never thought of it like this.
The difference between optimists and pessimists lies in how permanent, pervasive, and personal they perceive good and bad events to be.
Because the pessimist views the bad event as permanent (“ It’ll always be this bad”), pervasive (“ This is going to ruin everything”), and personal (“ It’s all my fault”), hopelessness ensues. When you make permanent, pervasive, and personal explanations for bad events that inevitably happen to everyone, you pave the way for chronic unhappiness and, ultimately, illness. Pessimists also believe that bad events are the result of their own failure. Good events, on the other hand, they believe to be temporary, specific, and outside of their control. Optimists, on the other hand, are a whole different breed. Optimists perceive bad events to be temporary, specific, and external, while they believe good events are permanent, pervasive, and the result of their own internal awesomeness.
I also liked this rundown of behaviors that increase or decrease happiness. It's not like you suddenly become a happy person when you achieve certain weight, money, career, or relationship milestones. You can achieve them and still be completely miserable, because getting stuff is not what makes people happy or unhappy. A lot is tied up in how the process or approach makes you feel. Someone who feels supported, connected, and grateful will be happier than someone who accomplishes the same goal using negativity, willpower, and isolation.
The happiest people were not the richest, most beautiful, or most successful. Instead, as it turns out, the golden ticket to happiness lies not so much in changing our natural tendencies or even our life circumstances but in adopting certain behaviors that have been scientifically proven to increase happiness. In her study, happy people shared similar traits. They devoted a lot of time to nurturing their relationships with family and friends, were comfortable expressing gratitude for what they had, were the first to lend a helping hand, practiced optimism when imagining their futures, savored life’s pleasures and tried to live in the moment, exercised frequently, were deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions, and showed poise and strength when facing life’s inevitable challenges.
She also found that you can be happier by avoiding overthinking, cutting yourself loose from ruminating thoughts, eliminating social comparisons, taking action to solve problems right when they arise, seeking meaning amid stress, loss or trauma, practicing forgiveness, engaging in activities that get you “in the flow,” smiling more, and making efforts to take care of your body.
The book was an in-depth look at how our beliefs influence our physical health. It got a little woo for me near the end, but WOW did it make me think!
I loved the discussion about how often in daily life we're exposed to a stress response (work, traffic, guilt, conflict, comparison), and how important it is to counteract that with time spent in the relaxation response (meditation, yoga, creativity, naps, gratitude, laughter). I realize now that a lot of my previous numb-out escape outlets (overeating, overexercising, micromanaging my food) were themselves stressful.