‘Keeping it real’-istic on health and fitness – Times News Online

Published November 19, 2021 11:07 PM

You can dismiss the answer as stick-jock-speak, an athlete’s way of getting around the question. It can be heard during a post-game press conference when a reporter asks the star of the game on a team in the middle of a late-season role about his chances of winning.

“We’re just trying to keep it real,” he’ll say. And he won’t say more about it.

While his answer may very well be an attempt to get around the question, it doesn’t have to be. His team made “Keeping it real” – authentic and rational about the success and the season – perhaps very well its mission statement and made this sentence its philosophy.

In an article for WebMD, “Why Realistic Thinking Is Better Than Optimistic,” Martin Taylor sees realistic thinking as a kind of safe haven between optimistic and pessimistic thinking. He suggests that thinking realistically leads to reasonable expectations and less stress – results that can surely help you in your pursuit of optimal health and fitness.

Thinking too optimistically, Taylor warns, leads to disappointment if the results aren’t right immediately. Repeated disappointment creates fear.

Realistic thinking, however, mitigates or eliminates these feelings, a far better situation for your mental and physical health. For an illustration, consider a study published in the July 2020 edition of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Using “two proven indicators of wellbeing” and a focus on finance, researchers measured “long-term wellbeing” in more than 1,600 Britons classified as optimists, pessimists or realists annually for 18 years. They found that not only did pessimism decrease long-term well-being by 21.8 percent, but optimism also decreased long-term well-being by 13.5 percent.

The second number is actually more notable because unrealistic optimism is pervasive. The above study cites another who comes to the conclusion that sometimes over 80 percent of all people are to blame and “show a bias of optimism”.

More water for the mill to keep it real: Several studies have also shown that “positive results are more pleasing when they are unexpected”. So how do you make sure the lenses you really see your health and fitness – and the world, through – are clear, not pink?

That answer is complex – so complex that I would guilt myself of unrealistic optimism into believing that a single column could contain it. But with a little help from The Perfect Advise.com, this column can at least remove the stains from any type of glasses you are currently wearing by offering these three suggestions:

1. Increase the time between the ups and downs of life and your response to them

I love the word “corybantic”. It means wild, insane, and I’ve been looking for ways to use it in a column for months.

It is probably an apt word to describe too much of your typical day. And when things get wild and hectic, good or bad, we often react the same way.

If your unrealistic optimism doesn’t work out, you generally blurt out the opposite. This pessimistic statement can get stuck in your head and spoil your entire thought process – unless you recognize it as a “mistake” and then go ahead with suggestion number 2.

2. Reflect on mistakes made and find their causes

My love of quotes has led me to write some of my own. A sticky note hangs on a cupboard in my writing room: “Mistakes don’t stay mistakes if you stay careful.”

As astute as this observation may be – if it is astute at all – it is certainly a catch-22, because truly mindful people do not make mistakes. Think about it: you only spill the orange juice early in the morning when your mind is on something other than pouring the juice and picking up the glass.

It’s simple enough, but being fully mindful of all of the trivial chores of the day is really impossible, something that even the most staunch monk never accomplishes.

So what is really meant here is to raise your awareness as soon as you make a mistake. Do not rant about it. Reflect it.

And to do this, you need to carry out suggestion number 3.

3. Practice mindfulness

To explain mindfulness, The Perfect Advise.com explains what Buddhists see as the opposite and call monkey mind when your mind “leaps from one thought to the next without self-control”. Mindfulness is nothing more than the awareness of the monkey mind and the subtle redirection of your thoughts to what is happening in the here and now.

This reorientation allows you to view any situation rationally and prevents you from picking and choosing the facts and focusing on the facts that aid and fuel your unjustified optimism or pessimism.

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