Are You An Optimist or a Pessimist?

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” –Winston Churchill

I’ve always wanted to be an optimist. Mainly for the very simple reason that I’m not. At least I didn’t use to be. Early in life, it became clear to me that I had inherited my father’s propensity for always looking at the gloomy side of things. Following his example, if there was a problem to be found, I’d be sure to track it down. 

Everyone loves an optimist. My mom was an optimist, bright, cheery, sunny-hearted. “You think too much!” was her standard response to my frequent, ten-minute long tirades about all the things that were wrong with my life.

I loved my mom. I badly wanted to be like her: cheery, happy, somehow always rolling with the ups and downs of, well, everything. I wasn’t, however, cut out that way. And that was just one more thing to be depressed over.

Over the years, however, I have discovered something interesting. Slow learner as I am, it took me years to figure this out, but here it is: I am not necessarily always a pessimist. My outlook on life, how gloomy, morose–or, happy, cheerful, and content I am is linked to the state of my body.

For many years now, I have been practicing yoga and meditation, and with my practices one of life’s simple, little equations has become a wisdom I live by. Here it is:

Too little sleep, no yoga, disrupted routine, bad diet = really bad day, lots of problems, sad, gloomy, depressed.

Enough rest, nice long am yoga practice, meditate, eat those veggies and fruit = sunshine day; problems covering in the shadows; I’m the cheery bright, bushy-tailed queen of my world!

I have come to believe that we are not by nature optimists or pessimists. The state of our body determines the state of our mind. Our mood, our well-being, our energy boils down to this one thing: how freely and abundantly the life force flows through our body. The ancient yogis, of course, realized this millennia ago. Unfortunately, this simple truth is often lost on our evolved, “modern” society, causing much unnecessary suffering.

This simple principle holds even when it comes to emotional and mental issues, which so many people struggle with in today’s society. How vulnerable we are to stress, depression, or anxiety is related to how freely the life force, prana, vibrates through our extended body-mind. When prana doesn’t flow freely, our light is dimmed and we cannot stand in our fullness.

This is why the work that LifeForce founder Amy Weintraub does with yoga for depression is so important. It is widely recognized that exercise in general is one of the most effective ways to relieve depression. In her work with yoga for depression, Weintraub takes this one step further. She has zeroed in on the fact that many yoga exercises and techniques afford greater therapy for depression and anxiety than regular exercise—because the very aim of yoga is to free up the flow of the life force by releasing energy blockages in its path. 

Yoga therapy can help create greater emotional well-being by releasing tension and dissolving the emotional blocks that hold us back from living a happy, healthy life. A regular yoga therapy practice over the long term can be a powerful tool for emotional healing and integration.

So ultimately, the answer to the question, are you an optimist or pessimist is neither. Nothing in life is cut in stone. Everything depends on how you create your life day in and day out, as you string all the moments of your life together. We here at offer our gratitude for the tools that yoga offers to turn those moments into a beautiful, bright, shiny strand of pearls.

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