5 Ways to be More Optimistic
Jul 19, 2018
Optimists see the world as a happy place, and they see the future as bright. They are people who love to embrace the moment with a smile. Optimists see the best in others and the best in themselves. As a Clinical Psychologist, I equate optimism with happiness. If you want to be happy, you need to be optimistic. The two go hand-in-hand. But, what happens when problems inevitably arise in an optimistic person’s life? They have the confidence to handle the situation, overcome the obstacle, and move past the disappointment. When an optimistic person faces trouble or despair, he/she may still be sad or disappointed, but they also feel like they can handle it. They see problems as a bump in the road, not as a mountain too high to climb. The good news is, you have a choice as to how you feel. You can say, “Woe is me,” or you can say, “I can handle this!” Becoming more optimistic is a process that takes practice.
The five concepts listed below will help you on your way to a more optimistic mindset. Each one has a statement at the end that summarizes that concept. Practice saying each statement in your mind over the course of the next week in or order to help increase your optimistic attitude and, therefore, your overall happiness!
- Change your Perspective: You have the ability to increase your happiness by choosing to see a situation from an optimistic perspective. This is because thoughts affect feelings. If you have negative thoughts, you’ll feel bad. And, if you have positive thoughts, you’ll feel good. Understanding that you have a choice about how you feel is great news! For example, say you have to give a presentation at work next week, or meet with a new client for the first time, or take a test. Each of these activities could fill you with dread and worry. Instead, change your perspective and look at these situations as opportunities to share what you know, impress someone new, or showcase your talents. Here’s an Optimistic Statement to help you change your perspective: “Every challenge is also an opportunity.”
- Practice Gratefulness: Did you know that there is a strong correlation between happiness and gratefulness? It’s true! It’s really hard, dare I say impossible, to be both grateful and pessimistic at the same time. This means that if you work on increasing your grateful attitude, you will be more optimistic and happier, too. Why? For the same reason as in #1: your thoughts affect the way you feel. If you practice gratefulness, you will start to feel more optimistic. If you focus on being grateful, you will start to notice the positive things in your everyday life. Your attention will turn to the positive and you’ll be better able to tune out the negative. An exercise to try is this: every night before bed, write down two things you’re grateful for, so that after a couple of weeks, you’ll have dozens of items on your list. Here’s an Optimistic Statement to help you to practice gratefulness: “Have an attitude of gratitude.”
- Sleep Well: Good sleep habits have a direct impact on mental health. It’s not uncommon to meet with new clients who don’t know why their mood is low, and then I find out that they are only sleeping five or six hours a night, or less. Lack of sleep can actually cause mood instability including anxiety, depression, and impulsivity. The general guideline is to get eight hours of sleep each night, or more. So make sure you’re getting enough sleep. It will boost your productivity, concentration, mood and happiness! Here is an Optimistic Statement to help you remember to prioritize your sleep habits: “Sleep well to be well.”
- Focus on the Positive: Life is full of ups and downs, so it’s important to focus on the positive rather than getting caught up in the negative. If you’re looking for the positive, that is what you will see. The positive, not the negative, will be what gets your attention. If you tend toward the negative, the negative is what you’ll see. Here is a great exercise to get you thinking in a more positive direction. This happens to be one of my favorite exercises to suggest to my clients. Make a list of ten positive things that have happened in your life. Start from when you were a child, and write down ten things you can think of until you get to the present day. Try not to judge your list, just write anything that comes to mind. Positive events can include experiences you enjoyed, supportive people in your life, accomplishments, nice things someone said about you, cool things you’ve learned, places you’ve visited, and so forth. Some specific examples could be: “I had a wonderful teacher in 1st” “In second grade my team won a contest at school.” “We got a great dog when I was ten.” “When I was fifteen, I got an ‘A’ in algebra.” “My grandpa and I would go fishing when I was a kid,” etc. Everyone’s accomplishments and positive experiences will be different. Make your list and then read it every week as a reminder of the good things you’ve had in life. Here’s an Optimistic Statement to help you focus on the positive: “If I look for the good, I will see it.”
- Believe in Yourself: True optimism is not the same as being blind to the problems and obstacles that life presents. Optimism is about BELIEVEING you can handle the challenges of life. Clients will present with anxiety or intense worry over a situation and I will ask them, “What’s the worst that will happen?” and then, “Can you handle it?” If you believe you can handle it, then there’s nothing to fear. Martin Seligman, psychologist and pioneer in the field of positive psychology, asserts that most people will actually end up handling adverse situations better than they think they will. So rather than having the false belief that you can’t handle something, believe you can handle it at the outset, and then prove yourself right! If you do this then you can let go of worry and live your life, because you feel confident in your ability to get through almost anything. Believing in yourself is a wonderful and freeing feeling. For practice, think of an adverse experience that you handled well. Draw upon this experience when you’re going through something hard, and use it to remind yourself that you can handle this new situation, too. Here’s an Optimistic Statement to help you to believe in yourself: “I’m capable and resilient.”
Having an optimistic attitude is a choice you can make today. Start with the five concepts above and then remember to repeat the Optimistic Statements to help reinforce them. Focus on adjusting your perspective to look for the opportunity, practice gratefulness, sleep well, pay attention to the positive aspects of your life, and believe in yourself as being capable of handling adversity. Do these five things and you’ll be well on your way to optimism and happiness.
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