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Imagining a Wonderful World of Connection Optimistically!
by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

This column is dedicated to discovering and holding on to the happier sides of ourselves and our lives!  As a psychologist and an educator I have become convinced that we must practice various forms of living and thinking that encourage our minds, bodies and spirits to remain optimistic and full of vigor.  Over the last few months I have shared with you my concept of ENCHANTMENT-that is practicing ways of being and thinking that enhance happiness and fulfillment.

I have shared with you the importance of restoring a healthy sense of self, learning to successfully express ourselves and our needs, and how to go about recognizing what brings us pleasure.  Perhaps one of the most important portals to ENCHANTMENT is that of connection-without it we are often blue, despondent, and without that wonderful feeling of well-being that comes from sharing, being needed and offering of ourselves.

One of my colleagues has so clearly talked about the benefits of reaching out, even in small ways in one's local community that I decided to share his article this month, with a follow-up activity for you to try.  I hope you enjoy reading about belonging from an "optimistic" point of view!

Paul Weinberg is a member of a national organization dedicated to practicing the art of Optimism.  I hope you enjoy reading his reflections on our society and the positive influence that the Optimists have exerted all across the country—in fact the world!  Although he focuses on this one organization there are 10,000 out there that also often a chance to connect, feel good and do good!  May you find yours!


Group Breakdown in America, Its Consequences and Cure
by Guest Writer, Paul Weinberg

Recently Professor Robert D. Putnam of Harvard University wrote an important article on a seemingly minor phenomenon in America today: the loss of bowling leagues in most communities.

Once upon a time America was a country where people joined all types of groups. Bowling leagues, Masons, fraternal organizations, political clubs, bridge clubs, and almost anything that brought people together. Today most of these groups have seen their numbers either plummet or disappear. Thus the loss of bowling leagues is a sign of what is happening to all volunteer groups today.

Like the extinction of the dinosaur, the question of why this has happened is framing the research of social scientists who study the recent changes in America today. One can posit things like television, computers, video, a consumer driven lifestyle, as well as a lack of historical ground-ness in dismissing the past outright, but whatever the cause may be, it is a dangerous sign for the well being of a happy, cohesive society.

In the 1950’s Richard Cloward of the Columbia School of Social Work described the major differences between a slum community and a healthy neighborhood as one which was made up of no volunteer groups (the slum community), and the other (the healthy neighborhood) which was. Unfortunately, today we seem to be going in the direction of the slum community. People go to malls to buy their way out of anomie, and to see crowds to give them a sense of belongingness. That this sense is false is seen by the record numbers of people now on anti-depressive drugs, and in therapy. There is a lot of aloneness and loneliness in too many of our lives today.

Back to the Future

Can we recreate the past in the context of today? The answer is a resounding "YES!" Many of these groups are still active in many parts of the country, and always welcome new members. I speak from personal experience as one who was tired of being alone and joined one such organization: OPTIMISTS INTERNATIONAL.

Six years ago, I decided that I needed more adult interaction. I was working alone in a rural part of Central New Jersey, with most of my friends in New York and elsewhere. Aside from my wife and kid, the only human interaction that I had during the day was on the telephone. One day I decided I was going to seek some fraternal group that would have me. I called our local chamber of commerce to find out what was out there. They put me in touch with the president of the local Optimists Club. Within two days I was a member attending my first meeting. I felt like I had been admitted to an exclusive club with the winners of society. People from all walks and stations of life came to meetings, and accepted all as members and eventually as friends.

What has the optimists done for me? It became one of the highlights of my week. We had fund raising drives to honor high school students entering vocational lives. For the past couple of years I’ve been a model at our yearly fundraising fashion show. We have had a garage sale, craft shows and a County Fair to raise money for youngsters. I even roped my wife into judging an essay contest one year and an oratorical competition the following year. It’s fun to belong and it’s great to have access to a wider circle of people. The adage that giving is receiving is so very true.

What a wonderful antidote to the aloneness and soulless-ness of modern life, with a credo that would make any twelve step group green with envy. Does this mean that membership in the Optimists or other fraternal groups will solve all the problems of society? Probably not, but it will significantly improve your life; enriching it with friends, healthy activities, and helping others. For information on how to join OPTIMISTS INTERNATIONAL call 800-678-8389.


I hope you enjoyed the above article.  Here is a short play-date with Enchantment to practice some of the above.

Even if you never join the Optimists International, what are three ways that you can make your life more connected to others in positive ways?  Make one of the suggestions very easy, one a little more involved and the last stretch mentally to a solution that would involve some work and perhaps pre-structuring in your life.

Write all three down and look at them again in a month.  If they spark your 'soul', go for any or all.  If not, that is fine.  A play-date with positive thinking can have benefits whether the exact action is taken or not.

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, originator of THE ENCHANTED SELF®, a method of bringing delight and meaning into everyday living, invites you to view her new line of ENCHANTED WOMAN products, downloadable e-books, and free gifts at

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THE ENCHANTED SELF® is a registered trademark of Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein.