Jesus was always telling us not to worry. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25)

Jesus concludes his teaching with this recommendation: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt. 6:33-34) 

Author Roy T. Bennett put it this way, “If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.” 

Our loving God wants us to be at peace and not to worry about all aspects of life. On our part, we have to be willing to let go of our fears and worries and to take steps to experience a positive attitude toward life even in the midst of this Pandemic that has curtailed most of our plans and activities. We need to develop a positive aspect toward life. 

I want to share some ways I learned at a recent video seminar by psychologist Dr. Kateri McRae how we can be more positive, be at peace, and be able to enjoy life more. She stressed that we need to seek a sense of wellness; that is a state of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being and not merely the absence of disease.

These holistic feelings would suggest that these people feel alive and full of vitality. Their relationships with others and their careers are satisfying and are in harmony with their personalties. They have a sense of belonging and a feeling that they are connected to something that is bigger than themselves – a human family, a local community, a Church, the global family. Their lives have meaning and purpose. They understand their God-given mission in life.

A Mayo Clinic study concluded that optimistic people live 19 percent longer than pessimistic people, take care of themselves (exercise, eating healthy, etc.), take actions rather than give up in difficult circumstances, have the ability to take control and not feel victimized by negative situations, believe that their actions will be helpful in bringing about good results, and maintain some good social networks of people.

In a recent Time Magazine poll, 17 percent of Americans reported “brimming with happiness just about all the time”; 58 percent are frequently happy; 25 percent do not experience much happiness.

For people to have satisfactory lives, they would have to have contentment with their lives and meaningfulness even if not constantly happy in the ordinary sense of the word.

Dr. McRae explained how our brain works with regards to our reward system. In neuroscience, the reward system is a collection of brain structures that attempts to regulate and to control behavior by inducing pleasurable effects. It is a brain circuit that reinforces behaviors. 

A cue is a signal or prompt for action. In a play, your cue is when someone says … In our lives a cue sets off a desire to have a reward. Next, we take actions to obtain it. When we obtain it, we have received our reward. This could be repeated by a cycle of “second helpings.”

Changing the reward is difficult. For example, if the cue is apple pie, the brain knows the difference between an apple and apple pie. The action must change. 

What would be a reward if you are trying to lose weight – healthy snacks, working out, social interaction, planning for the future, meditation, etc.? 

The good news is when you create new habits, they maintain themselves.

Continued next week.

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