Finding the Good in Everything

January 3, 2011

Yesterday I was faced with my newsletter deadline but writing a typical list of New Year’s resolutions just didn’t excite me. Instead, I plopped down on the couch to watch the 1960 version of Pollyanna which was based on the 1913 novel by Eleanor Porter. I was nine years old when I first saw Hayley Mills play the orphan girl who comes to live with her wealthy, cold aunt and charms the grumpy New England town with her infectious optimism. I have seen the movie many times over the years and its message never fails to move me. You can’t help but smile and feel good watching this heartwarming story and it is every bit as relevant as when the story was written almost 100 years ago.

Pollyanna’s way of turning every negative into a positive is at first met with sarcasm and bitterness. As the undertaker says, “She’s been pestering everyone all over town with this sunshine and happiness thing.” But she perseveres and her joy inevitably takes root. She comes carrying with her the lessons of her dear deceased father who taught her “the glad game” which was all about finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how dire. She melts the fire and brimstone preacher by telling him that her father once read “When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it you surely will” and so he began looking for the good in people instead.

The impact this character had was enough to earn her a spot in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster’s definition of a Pollyanna is “A person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything”. Unfortunately, the term Pollyanna has taken on a negative connotation. Today, if someone calls you a Pollyanna, it’s likely they think you are excessively and blindly optimistic. Hmm, too optimistic? I like the first definition better.

What does all of this have to do with our health? Plenty, it turns out – both physical and emotional. Ancient medical traditions have know for thousands of years how connected our mind and body are and finally, western science is reaching the same conclusions. We’ve all heard that “laughter’s the best medicine”, well, optimism is too. If you start to pay attention to how your body feels when you are being positive rather than negative you will quickly see the health benefits optimism offers – less stress, a healthier heart and mind and many more that you won’t even be aware of.

Pollyanna and her glad game changed a small New England town (albeit fictitiously!). Imagine how our world would change if each and every one of us became just a little more optimistic, in spite of all our troubles. We would all be healthier, happier and our world would be a better place.

My thanks to each and every one of you who have inspired me this past year to continue learning and sharing ways to live a healthier lifestyle!


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