Good Day Sunshine: How To Be A Positive Thinker

Joanne Kathleen Rowling is the wizard behind the spellbinding Harry Potter saga – but the media bewitched her image. “I did and still do write in cafes, and I was broke,” says the creator of Hogwarts, Quidditch and the Daily Prophet. “But the early stories neglected to mention that I come from a middle-class background, I have a degree in French and classics, and that working as a teacher was my intended bridge out of poverty.” The power of positive thinking has changed the course of history countless times. If there’s a Will there’s a Way – and there’s also a Won’t, it depends on you. Here are the five steps in developing optimism as revealed by psychotherapists Joseph T. Martorano, M.D., and John H. Kildahl, Ph.D., in their book Beyond Negative Thinking (Insight). 1) Tune in to your thoughts. The mind and the body are one, so if you think you will succeed, you will. But “If you’ve been feeling down, it could be you’re sending yourself negative messages,” says Martorano and Kildahl. Good or bad, “Soon your thoughts will do your bidding” and “your feelings and actions will change too.” Noelle Wenceslao, followed closely by Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino, is the first Southeast Asian woman to scale the peak of Mt. Everest – despite suffering from pulmonary edema. “You have to be strong mentally,” says the 27-year old Petty Officer Third Class from the Philippine Coast Guard. “What makes the difference is how mentally tough your are.” 2) Isolate destructive words and phrases. Even exorcists and sorcerers agree that words have power. You can wallow in self-pity like in the Filipino song which goes, “Sa tulad kong putik” – or you can psych yourself up like Mariah Carey who sings, “I can make it through the rain, I can stand up once again.” “By isolating words and phrases, you can pinpoint the damage you’re doing to yourself,” say Martorano and Kildahl. “Make it a habit to remember your best self, the You that you want to be.” Oliver Stone has been dismissed as “tainted goods,” the Hollywood term for a pariah because his masterpiece Alexander was a box-office flop – but the indomitable Oscar-winning filmmaker returned with the highly-visceral, gut-wrenching and deeply inspiring World Trade Center. Recalls Will Jimeno, the Port Authority police officer who was trapped under the rubble of Ground Zero and was portrayed by Michael Peña: “I gave Oliver a big hug and kiss and I said, ‘You kept to your word, You told the story as accurate and as true as you could.’ The main thing is when you leave the theater, you leave with a sense off hope and love.” 3) Stop the thought. Sages throughout the millennia have counseled that the conquest of self is a wise man’s crowning glory. “Short-circuit negative messages as soon as they start by using the word command Stop! ‘What will I do if…? Stop!” say Mastorano and Kildahl. “To be effective at stopping, you have to be forceful and tenacious” and “Picture yourself drowning out the inner voice of fear.” Philippe Cousteau was devastated by Steve Irwin’s fatal encounter with a stingray on the Great Barrier Reef – but he suspended his grief and instead focused his attention on their finishing their documentary as a way of honoring the famed adventurer. “I was the only person who could finish it in a cohesive fashion,” says the co-narrator of Animal Planet’s Oceans’ Deadliest and grandson of the legendary oceanographer Jacques Yves Cousteau. “I had a responsibility.” 4) Accentuate the positive. It is more rewarding to face the sunshine than to brood about the shadows. Nature doesn’t allow a vacuum. “Once you’ve exorcised the demons by calling a Stop, replace them with good thoughts,” say Mastorano and Kildahl. “Over the years we’ve discovered that when people think differently, they feel – and act – differently. It’s all on controlling your thoughts.” Jennifer Hudson’s show-stopping performance as Effie White in the critically acclaimed film version of Dreamgirls electrified Tinseltown and vindicated her loss in American Idol – and the jokes about the fat lady who sings. “Why should I feel like the minority when the majority of America is a size 12?” says the Oscar winner. “I have a little singer’s pouch, that’s where the voice comes from, so you’re all going to have to get used to my jelly (laughs).” 5) Reorient yourself. Everything is subjective and your attitude depends on your perspective. Hamlet was living in a castle but he thinks of it as a prison – while Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for years but his heart and soul remained free. “Re-orient yourself right now. You are tense because you must finish a huge project by Friday. On Saturday you plan to go shopping with friends. Re-orient from ‘Friday workload’ to Saturday fun.’ ” say Mastorano and Kildahl. “By re-orienting, you can learn to see yourself and the world d around you differently. If you think you can do something, you increase your chances of doing it. Optimism gets you moving.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was asked by Newsweek how he would handle the situation if South Korea, an ally of Washington, gets stuck in between the United States and other developing countries. “Instead of being stuck in between, South Korea can positively play the role of a bridge,” suavely replied the 62-year old career diplomat and former South Korean Foreign Minister. “At the same time, South Korea can understand the pains and difficulties of developing nations because she has risen by overcoming those.” Harry Potter photo courtesy of ScreenRush. This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama, December 16, 2007 Your comments and blog links are welcome

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