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Live Life Fully: How will your lens affect your outlook in 2013?

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Here it comes -- a fresh, clean slate that's yours to create.

The new year -- 365 brand-new days, 12 delicious months, 52 amazing weeks. An opportunity to take lessons learned from the past year and move forward.

And what a year it's been. From a long and exhausting political season to natural disasters to random violence in schools and shopping malls.

Of course, there have been plenty of positive things. It's just that we enter this new year on a somber note.

And the lens we choose has everything to do with how we view our world, internally and externally. With the increasing challenges around us, it's crucial we're aware of what comes into our consciousness.

Pay attention to the information you take in, and the credence you give it. We're continually bombarded with messages from the media and from others in our lives. It's up to each of us to sift through and discover what holds value for us and what doesn't.

Maybe you need to set some boundaries on the amount of negativity you allow into your life in the coming year whether that comes from a complaining relative or friend or too much time in front of the TV or computer.

You always have a choice. You can hang up the phone, walk away or turn off the electronics. A lot of us get sucked into negative situations before we even know it.

It's been said that 70 percent of what we hear is negative -- yikes! How 'bout fortifying yourself with an emergency toolbox? Keep some positive reading material close at hand. Cue up a favorite piece of music or YouTube episode. Take a walk. Pet the dog. Call a friend.

Simple things can help flip a switch to jump-start your system. Often, that switch is an internal one, fueled by our own negative self talk:

Filtering: Do you magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out the positive ones? Say you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and felt great. But you forgot one minor step. That night you focus only on your oversight -- and forget about everything else.

Personalizing: When something bad occurs, do you automatically blame yourself? For example, you hear an evening out with friends has been canceled, and you assume it's because nobody wants to be around you.

Catastrophizing: Do you always anticipate the worst? The drive-through coffee shop gets your order wrong and you automatically think the rest of your day will be a disaster.

Polarizing: Do you see things only as good or bad, black or white? There's no middle ground? If you're not perfect, you're a total failure? With practice, you can learn to flip your negative switch. The Mayo Clinic offers a few tips:

  • Identify areas to change: Zero in on areas you think negatively about -- work, a relationship, etc. Start small; focus on one area to reframe.
  • Check yourself: Periodically throughout the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If your thoughts are mainly negative, find some small ways to inject a more positive focus.
  • Use humor: Give yourself permission to laugh. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
  • Surround yourself with positive people: Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your abilities.
  • Practice positive self-talk: Don't say anything to yourself you wouldn't say to someone else. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with an affirmation of what's good about it.
  • So, how will you show up in your own life this year? What kind of lens will you be looking through? Being present or staying stuck in the past? Being grateful or worrying about the future?

    This has everything to do with the quality of life we experience whether we're just going through the motions or weaving a rich tapestry.

    That's what makes this time -- the new year -- so impactful. We get to take stock of the year we're saying goodbye to and welcome the one that's ahead. I refer to it as "the year in review and the year in preview." A foundation of gratitude and faith helps to set the stage for things seen and not yet seen.

    As author Carlos Castenada says, "We either make ourselves happy or we make ourselves miserable. The amount of work is the same."

    Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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