Surviving Negativity in the New Year

The holidays are a time of joyous celebration, but also lead many Americans into the post-holiday doldrums. So-called experts encourage us to adopt whatever strategies will enable us to remain hopeful in the face of increasing negativity and despair across the USA, especially along the devastated Gulf Coast region. There are indications that a nationwide sense of hopelessness could push Americans toward dangerous levels of depression not seen since 2001, when the country felt the unprecedented aftereffects of the 9/11 tragedy.
This winter, costs of home heating fuel and gasoline will skyrocket, as gloomy weather conspires to keep us indoors and deprived of sunshine and exercise. The holidays will be fun, but those credit card bills from Christmas shopping sprees will arrive just as we sit down to prepare our tax returns. And after the year-end inventory sales, many business sectors will experience slowdowns and initiate dreaded layoffs.
But a newly published book of positive stories by author David Pippenger, A Raft Around the Corner and other stories to keep you going (Handcrafted Media Press), may contain some timely inspiration. As Pippenger explains, “When we keep working after a negative outcome, we make a positive outcome inevitable.”
American astronaut Jerry Linenger, who spent almost five months aboard the Russian space station Mir, read the book and thinks that Pippenger’s stories are a wealth of positive brain food. “These stories provide an example of how we can shift our own lives to the positive, to thrive no matter what the circumstance,” he says. Linenger used a positive attitude to survive the ordeals he experienced in outer space. “I traveled more than 50 million miles. Many of those miles were difficult, dangerous, and demanding,” he says. “The only way to survive in such an isolated environment is to keep a positive outlook.”
Scientists believe that as we observe a positive role model or contemplate a positive perspective, our brain creates networks or neurological maps to help us follow that example of positive thinking even when it is no longer present for us to observe. Patients who undergo hypnosis therapy, for instance, and have positive reinforcement messages embedded in the subconscious mind, are better equipped to control bad habits like smoking when temptation arises.
The US military did extensive research with firearms training, and found that mental preparation resulted in a superior ability to hold a weapon correctly, properly align the body in a shooting posture, control breathing while aiming and firing, and hit intended targets. New recruits with no firearms experience were split into two groups. One group did not actually handle any weapons, but instead spent a week watching sharpshooters.
The other group went straight to the firing range. The group that spent time observing expert marksmen before going to the gun range scored significantly higher. The results of the experiment showed that soldiers were easier to train because they first observed successful models. Many professional athletes use similar techniques to help them train, by first planning their game in the mind, where a winning attitude can be encoded into the brain’s circuitry. The mental edge also translates into a physical advantage, as the brain develops new pathways. We can actually increase measurable intelligence, by embracing the positive practices of enhanced attitude and outlook.
Dr. Arlene Taylor, a brain function specialist, says that one of the easiest ways to accomplish this style of learning is to put the lessons and positive examples into story form. “Stories form the basic fabric for intelligence,” she says, “because they help determine how you think and behave.” She adds that stories have “elegant power”, and encourages people to take advantage of the insights presented in Pippenger’s book.
As Pippenger explains, “Don’t be optimistic. Be positive. The gambler in Las Vegas is optimistic, while the casino owner is positive. We have to learn to give in to the positive. You cannot imagine all the amazing things that are coming your way, as long as you don’t give up.”
And that is excellent advice for every season of the year.
For a review copy of the book or to set up an interview with David Pippenger for a story, please contact Jay Wilke at 727-443-7115, ext. 223 or at




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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