By Georgianna Donadio, PhD – When was the last time you cracked open a fortune cookie? Those little slips of paper filled with uplifting, motivational messages always seem to brighten our days. Their snippets of inspiration, such as “you will be sharing great news with all those you love,” “be patient — success is near” or “happiness awaits you,” get posted on bulletin boards as a reminder of possibilities yet to come. These little harbingers of imagined visions or destiny spur us on and make us think: “What if it really could happen?”
The One-Minute Reflector
When you take a minute out of your day to pause and reflect on the fortune cookie’s positive message, you might suddenly stop and realize it’s the first affirmative message you’ve received all day. Amid the hustle and bustle of looming deadlines, gridlocked traffic and disgruntled coworkers, that little paper has provided a ray of light and a reminder of filed-away visions and dreams.
But this seemingly random and well-meaning message invites an even deeper question: What are we getting from these little fortune cookies that we are not getting in our day-to-day encounters that may be essential to our spirit, our sense of well-being and even our health? When was the last time you got this kind of a message from a friend or from your partner? Positive reinforcement can relay a possibility of hopeful outcomes or imagined dreams being fulfilled.
Optimism has been shown to be an important part of good health and wellness. Without such sparks of inspiration or encouragement, we can tend to forget that life can be more than just the daily grind of work and responsibility. We can lose our optimism and forget our wide-eyed wonder at the things that inspire us, lift our spirit or open our hearts.
There is something significant to this power of suggestion and optimism. Reasonable optimism has been scientifically proven to impact nearly every aspect of our live: living longer, improving our test performance and enjoying success in our work. Likewise, pessimism has been shown to contribute to feelings of depression, illness and withdrawal from the world. 
We can all become someone’s fortune cookie message by bringing hopeful communications to those around us. We can offer words of encouragement to coworkers struggling with tough projects. We can give our partners shoulder rubs and tell them how much we appreciate having them in our lives. We can share moments with our children and let them know how great their latest efforts in school are or how much we enjoyed the dinner they prepared or how well they did at soccer practice.
We can choose to be people who communicate just how special and valued others are in our lives, and we can reinforce their deeply held hopes that good things will come soon. By sharing meaningful communication and hopeful affirmation with those we love, our words become a soothing balm that makes the bitter stings of the bad news and turmoil in our everyday lives not so disappointing.
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