Learn to Be an Optimist
Lucy Macdonald
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Buy *Learn to Be an Optimist: A Practical Guide to Achieving Happiness* online

Learn to Be an Optimist: A Practical Guide to Achieving Happiness
Lucy Macdonald
Chronicle Books
160 pages
February 2004
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Numerous studies have shown that optimists live longer, happier, healthier lives, filled with more friends and fun -- but learning to be optimistic can be very difficult for those born or bred pessimists who go through life accustomed to seeing the glass half empty instead of half full. It is not easy to change one's habitual way of thinking. But Lucy MacDonald, a motivational speaker with training in psychology and counseling, has gathered the various techniques used successfully in many clinical studies into a "workbook" with numerous exercises and ideas designed to help transform your life. She clearly and briefly presents more than twenty simple exercises ranging from aromatherapy to relaxation, right brain and visualization techniques, with background information and further reading references. All this is presented in a very readable format. She also provides helpful and practical advice on family, friend, and workshop situations, among others.

Two of the exercises she describes, which I as a born pessimist (it can be genetically based) have used for years, are keeping an "optimism journal," and practicing the "relaxation response." The journal, she suggests, is an excellent way to monitor your progress as you first read and then put into practice the exercises of your choice. The relaxation response and other forms of meditation have for years been known to also have positive effects on the heart, high blood pressure and other ills.

Learning to eliminate negative self-talk and replace it with positive observations, transforming your forecasts of doom into optimistic scenarios, can be the most difficult thing to do, but the most rewarding in the long run. I'm working on that.

As MacDonald, originally a pessimist, says in her conclusion, "The ideas and techniques contained in this book will make a positive difference to your life, but only if you choose to put them into action." She suggests practicing optimism skills daily, choosing one exercise for a week, then another, to build your roster of positive thinking habits. The virtue of this helpful little book is that it contains the benefits of MacDonald's experience and the fruits of many studies, brought together in a conveniently organized, easily understood way to encourage the pessimists who read it to turn their lives around, step by step.

© 2004 by Joan Riley for Curled Up With a Good Book

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