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Say It So You Lift Your Spirits

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Even non-Scandinavians and optimists can feel their moods dampen during the dark of night. Luckily there are some easy ways to lift your spirits. Here are three:

1. When describing something in the past, what role do you play in the story? Are more of your most retold stories anchored by a positively or a negatively felt incidents? Those who are most resilient, energetic, caring and involved with others tend to link their stories to redemptive themes.

Those who are plagued by down moods often mark their stories with what went wrong and don't include a redeeming detail. These narrative themes affect our choices -- what we think we have to choose from -- and how others see us.

2. We each have many personalities inside us. Some situations enable us to use our best talents and display our best side. Instead of attempting to be a "virtuoso juggler" as many women do, discover the specific situations where you thrive. When you can identify those moments you are better able, like a defensive driver, to see potential danger farther ahead where situations or individuals spark your discomfort or worse.

Conversely, knowing where you shine (temperament and talent) means you can make smarter choices about how you work and live -- and with whom. While Marcus Buckingham's book is intended for women, I know three male friends who have found it helpful in how they seek the situations that best serve them -- professionally, personally and socially.

3. We each have a set point along the continuum of pessimistic to optimistic. After winning the lottery or experiencing the death of a loved one, we eventually return to that set point.

Since those who are on the positive end of that range are more likely to thrive, have friends and advance in their work, you might want to practice specific ways of "acting as if" you are more optimistic that are described in Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness.

Those who instinctively react more negatively or helplessly to difficult situations tend to experience it as the "three Ps": personal (most of all, it happened to me); pervasive (now everything feels worse in my life); and permanent (it will always be this bad).

One caveat that makes it worth having friends at the other end of the spectrum: Optimists tend to be overly rosy about a situation, leaping into opportunities that, in fact, aren't while pessimists are more realistic -- seeing what is. Together they are more likely to see potential problems and to find solutions. They are also more likely to squabble because the other person doesn't act right -- like them. So it helps to laugh when you recognize when it that is starting to happen.

Hint: Perspective is potent. "Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day." -- Unknown

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