Some people focus on their anxieties and anticipate negative outcomes when they face decisions. Everyday challenges from work and family, health issues, and social commitments can make it hard for them to stay upbeat.
Genetics certainly play a role in a person’s overall disposition. For instance, if your parents tended to be pessimistic, you have a greater likelihood of inheriting those personality traits.
But it’s possible to teach yourself to see the cup as half full instead of half empty.
Barry, a 60-year-old real estate agent, had been an avid skier until one winter when he fell and ruptured a disc in his lower back. His doctor put him on bed rest for two weeks until he could manage the pain without medication, and encouraged Barry to take up swimming because it would be easy on his back.
Barry liked swimming, but after five months in the pool he developed tendinitis in his left shoulder and had to stop; it hurt so badly that he couldn’t even get dressed without help from his wife.
Barry was convinced that, at his age, exercise equaled pain, and he stopped completely. His wife, Candace, did her best to get him to go outside for walks, but he wouldn’t do it — his whole attitude about fitness had turned negative.
Candace noticed that Barry was becoming negative about other things too. He even canceled a trip to Florida because he was worried that lifting luggage would trigger back and shoulder pain. The situation was getting depressing for both of them.
One of Candace’s friends recommended that Barry see a physical therapist who treated a lot of athletes with injuries.
The therapist, Greg, was using some very innovative methods and getting amazing results. After much cajoling, Candace got Barry to see him.
Barry was surprised when he entered Greg’s office — it looked more like a private gym than a physical therapy clinic. Greg asked Barry questions about his injuries and pain.
After a brief physical assessment, he assured Barry that he would be back to his old self in just a few weeks. Barry was skeptical, but Greg’s positive attitude convinced him to give it a shot.
Instead of immediately giving Barry a soft tissue massage and a heating pad, Greg started by showing him some floor stretches that would help release muscle tension in his back and shoulders. Then he taught Barry a few exercises to increase strength and flexibility in those areas.
Greg’s clear explanations about how each exercise could improve Barry’s movement and reduce his pain were encouraging and made him feel more hopeful.
He left Greg’s office with instructions to do the exercises at home every morning, and he made another appointment for the following week.
Eventually, Greg’s positive attitude rubbed off on Barry, and Candace was thrilled to see her husband doing the physical therapy exercises. In addition, she noticed a definite improvement in Barry’s mood.
After a month of going to the physical therapist, Barry started taking walks with her again and even went back to swimming.
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