Optimism and Emotional Hygiene™

John Bailey
4 min readDec 8, 2020

This article shares a step-by-step recipe for building your own powerful reality-based optimism — a resource you can enjoy and use every day.

Generating reality-based optimism is as simple and easy as copying a bus schedule. Just remember to get the schedule for the right bus!

If you’re just determined to list buses you think are going the wrong way, start by noticing some things that suck — and list (in writing) the exceptions to them.

Think of bad things you could be afraid of, but that haven’t happened to you.

List them in writing. Then, measure how many people they aren’t happening to, and list that in writing. When you’re ready to write down the schedules and stops for buses going your way, start with the buses you’ve already had a ride on:

List in writing some good things that have already happened to you.

When you’re ready to look for the next bus you want to catch, think of the great things that COULD happen to you and list those in writing.

Finally, think of the things you can influence with action — the buses you may have to hustle a bit to catch. List those in writing — and then get your feet moving!

The best way to get where you want to go is to jump on the bus that’s going that way. The best way to catch those buses is to have a handy list of them — and to get to the bus stop.

This is part of what we call Emotional Hygiene™.

It’s an everyday practice — like brushing your teeth or bathing to clean off the emotional dirt that we all accumulate. Emotions involve the entire organism, with every emotion shifting hormone levels, blood pressure, heart rate, etc. Those emotional states function in cycles — like every other biological process. And, doing something every day brings the biology along. For instance, exercising daily creates a more consistently energetic biology.

Humans are hard-wired for empathy. We feel others’ emotions when we are around them — or even watch them on television. Who doesn’t laugh at funny movies — or cry at sad ones? That’s genuine emotion in our bodies — actual change of physiology — from watching a chunk of glass and electrons.

Mass media makes profit through marketing — getting people to buy things. People who are safe, warm, and comfortable don’t buy things — people who are scared, lacking and uncomfortable do. The most important part of any marketing program is to get you scared, feeling lack, or otherwise uncomfortable — to get you to do the opposite of the blueprint outlined above.

Even if you don’t own a television set or are very diligent about turning commercials off — it is likely that most people you associate with in person don’t do that. They are going into feelings of fear, want, and discomfort in a huge way.

Just as shaking hands or touching work surfaces invisibly contaminates your body with dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria, being in the space of others invisibly gets their fear, lack, and discomfort into your physiology — through your natural unconscious empathy.

In the way washing your hands cleans-away those dead skin cells, bacteria, and general dirt, Emotional Hygiene™ washes out the fear, lack, and emotional discomfort.

Two parts of Emotional Hygiene™:

Gratitude is what produces “reality-based optimism”: a list of the things that have already gone your way — like being born into the most peaceful time in world-history — or into a place with technological and economic opportunities — or being healthy — or having access to lots of information and free communication opportunities. You get the idea…

Daily written list of your personal good fortune is a great way to build reality-based optimism, and to “set the dials” of your biology to an emotional state that supports noticing the buses that are going your way that day.

Excitement is what produces energetic activity: It’s also known as the giddy-up factor that so many successful and personable people have. Excitement is also contagious emotion — like anything else you can “catch” from television or friends. And, just like the list of good fortune, a list of things that will be exciting to learn, experience, or cause — will jump-start that emotion for your day. It doesn’t take a very long list of “what I’m excited to learn, experience, or do” in your morning to stoke the motivational fires and get your body into motion.

Good physical hygiene is proven to improve the quality and length of life. Good Emotional Hygiene™ is a simplest, easy key to enhanceing success and enjoyment. The gratitude part alone can improve your health, get some sleep, reduce anxiety, improve your love life — and even how long you live!

Practice Emotional Hygiene™ by keeping a journal — writing down a handful of reality-based optimistic observations (things you’re grateful for).

Follow that with a short list of what you’d like to learn more about, what you’d like to experience (see, hear, feel, smell, taste), and what you’d like to do (cause to happen). A daily practice of this will increase your happiness and personal energy — and will boost your personal relationships and even the quality of your conversations. (Do the experiment for 30 days and you’ll see.)