The Sunnyside of Life

by
Jim Roberts, CEO/Founder
April, 2, 2020 -

DARK and discouraging are these times–all sense of normalcy has been vanquished by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Sheltering in place”, overloaded hospitals, significant shortages of medical and personal supplies, a looming major recession or worse, a depression, and the fear that hundreds of thousands of Americans will die, is all daunting to say the least. Add to these there is an unparalleled political polarization and terrible, ineffective leadership at the federal level. Yes, this is a DARK, foreboding picture indeed!

So what are you doing about it? Are you depressed and withdrawn? Or have you thrown down the gauntlet, armed yourself for battle and now stand poised to conquer at whatever cost? The truth is, the battle is won in our head, and it is a “battle!” On one side, there’s a torrent of negative news, hyper critical commentaries, and the stark reality that life is different now. On the other side, we are groping for any good news, heroism, joyful moments, words of encouragement and gratitude. And we know, the condition of our thinking directly translates into our physical health and wellbeing.

If you must, fault me for being a bit Pollyannaish or ridiculously old-school, but please consider these words penned by the Carter Family in 1928,  

    There's a dark and a troubled side of life

    There's a bright and a sunny side too

    Though we meet with the darkness and strife

    The sunny side we also may view

    Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side

    Keep on the sunny side of life

    It will help us every day, it will brighten up the way

    If we keep on the sunny side of life 

What the Carters’ presented in their words almost 100 years ago is now scientific fact. Much of what we see in the world is a reflection of how we feel inside. The brain is literally creating your experience moment to moment, and part of this is by a “top-down” process. This means that your prefrontal cortex, the newest part of your brain, which deals with your thoughts, is relaying information to your mammalian cortex, which handles emotions. These emotions then go on to inform deeper and older parts of the brain, including sensory experience and pain. This means that when we say “a positive attitude can recreate your reality,” it’s not just a metaphor--it is a physiological fact!

Gratitude is a key tenet in all major philosophies, religions, and schools of thought. That’s because gratitude is a foundation of positive thinking. We only have a limited amount of focus, so when you are able to be appreciative of what you have, your brain is unable to give life and energy to thoughts about what you don’t have. Seeing events in your life as gifts allow you to perceive how they may help you grow and become a better person, and the application of this attitude during tough times is the hallmark of resilience.

Here are my seven steps towards living on the Sunny Side of Life!

First, start your day with a positive, thankful thought. Sometimes this takes a little discipline, but once you make it part of your routine, it sets the stage for your brain to function in a healthy frame of mind to drive the rest of your day.

Second, learn to reframe negative situations into positive thoughts. For instance, if your heart is set on a certain meal and you can’t find it, try something new. If you get stuck in traffic, put on some nice relaxing music or listen to your favorite podcast. When our brains are saturated with negative, fearful thoughts, it creates chemicals and hormones which can become physically harmful. Form new mental habits!

Third, laugh a lot and find humor wherever you can. Laughter does really good things for us. It reduces pain and allows us to tolerate discomfort. Its role in intimate relationships is vastly underestimated and it really is the glue of good, lasting marriages. It improves your job performance, especially if your work depends on creativity and solving complex problems. Laughter helps your blood vessels function better. In other words, it's good for your heart and brain--two organs that require the steady flow of oxygen carried in the blood.

Fourth, focus on what you have, not what you don’t have! All of us have many blessings and things to appreciate. As I stated above, see events in your life as gifts and keep your mind off of destructive mental garbage. The application of this attitude during tough times is the hallmark of resilience. It makes no difference if you live in austerity or grandeur–there is always something to be grateful for. Like laughter, gratitude affects us physically to our benefit and wellbeing.

Fifth, never put yourself or others down. Honestly, we all blow it, we all fall short, we all have faults and a “not so pleasant” side. That’s where the power of forgiveness comes in, including self forgiveness. Too often, self-criticism turns into self-pity and a very unhealthy self-concept. Often this is tied to a lack of gratitude. Concerning others, I’ll quote a Byrds’ song from the sixties, “Everybody’s been burned before, everyone knows the pain...” our job is not to dwell or ruminate on it. Forgive, forget and move on; don’t let a root of bitterness destroy you from within.

Sixth, don’t focus on “what-ifs” and fearful speculations. Fear and anxiety has a way of sending our imaginations into overdrive, and unfortunately in the wrong direction. To stay healthy we need to keep our minds saturated in healthy, positive and uplifting thoughts. Whatever is true, whatever is pleasant, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. By doing so, we block the insidious corruption of fear and enhance our mental wellbeing.

Seventh, hang around with positive people. Seriously, the worst thing we can do is to hang around others who are a never ceasing fountain of negativity. It is important that we choose our friends and associates carefully and wisely. Have you ever noticed, negative, critical conversation reverberates, grows and consumes. Once you get going down that path, it is hard to turn back. There is something about the human persona that wants to migrate to the negative. Don’t allow that to happen. Be a shock absorber absorbing negativity without allowing it to do its damage. The best way to do this–be a positive person!

To live on the Sunnyside of life takes a conscientious effort and discipline. But, I can guarantee that when this happens, you become like a bright light drawing others into the joy of your soul.

    Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side

    Keep on the sunny side of life

    It will help us every day, it will brighten up the way

    If we keep on the sunny side of life

    Oh, the storm and it's fury broke today

    Crushing hopes that I cherished so dear

    Storms and clouds will in time pass away

    And the sun again will shine bright and clear

    Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side

    Keep on the sunny side of life

    It will help us every day, it will brighten up the way

    If we keep on the sunny side of life

So join us on the Sunny Side, focus on the positives, help others around you that are in need, and donate to support local children & families during this difficult time. Click here to donate now!