We all have the ability to be optimistic about life (and yes – that includes the grumpy old man who serves you your morning latte!).
Each each of us are born with an innate level of optimism, and throughout life depending on our environment and the experiences we go through, this optimism can turn into more pessimism – some developing into severe mental illness.
For many of us to be able to ‘re-shape’, ‘heal’ and in a sense ‘re-wire’ our brains to be more resilient and optimistic about life, we need to think about the following elements:
Positive emotions – Surprise; we need to experience more positive emotions to over-come the negative thoughts each day.
How do we learn to do this to the point that we can self regulate?
Start by writing down 3 positive events that happened to you each day before you go to bed.
According to research, each negative emotion, we need to have 3 positive emotions to re-balance – the reason being that unfortunately negative emotions tend to hang around for longer.
So – get that gratitude journal cranking again! If you’ve had a bad day, I’d challenge you to think harder to write down more positive events to balance it out (I mean ANYTHING – e.g the weather, a smile from a stranger, you letting someone drive in front of you at the merging lane on the way to work, a nice, crispy apple you had today).
Practice makes perfect – so do this each day for a couple of weeks and reflect on the difference.
Engagement – The more regularly we engage in things that give us a sense of ‘flow’, the higher our sense of well being and outlook on life.
When we engage in things that we find ourselves getting completely absorbed in, challenged, feeling as if we felt a sense of ‘hey – that was fun’ or ‘woohoo, when can I do that again?’, and something that giving us a sense of jumping out of bed each day to participate in – we’ve found our flow, similar to a passion.
It might be something that is totally irrelevant to anything else we do in our day to day things, but just something that we can lose ourselves in – and do it regularly! (Think long runs, writing, meditation, reading, singing……..).
Think about creating a ‘vision board’; and posting photos, images, quotes, words or mementos of the things you enjoy doing to get you to focus on the things that might give you your flow.
Positive relationships – Arguably the biggest and most necessary – the types of relationships we have in our lives can impact greatly on our outlook.
Think about the relationships that are important to you; circles of friends, community groups, family.
Which of these generally make you feel good about yourself and are supportive? Which of these perhaps do you not feel supported by?
Is this a relationship you wish to continue?
Who do you look up to in your life and why?
Meaning – Meaning is how we make ‘sense’ of the world – finding this reason why we get out of bed and what makes us tick is extremely helpful in getting us to achieve the things we want because it gives them meaning and value.
Ask yourself – what really matters to you?
If you could do anything you wanted (with no financial, social, work etc. barriers), what would it be?
What do you hope will be your impact on the world?
When you think about what is important to your life, question yourself as to why it really matters?
Achievement – Having a sense of accomplishment and success in being able to reach your goals gives you the confidence to try again! The more success we experience – the more likely we are to feel optimistic about life and a greater sense of well being.
Start by setting yourself one or two small, achievable goals each week to build your confidence in your abilities, your satisfaction with life and your place in the world. This could be something as simple as ‘I will have breakfast each day this week’, or ‘I will walk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week for 45minutes at my lunch break’.
By working on all of the above regularly, we are more likely to be resilient when things don’t necessarily go our way, build on our own strengths and values, cultivate and enjoy the things that are going well in our lives, have an increased level of hope and optimism, have an increased sense of empowerment, and be more grateful for the things around us – positive and negative!
Sounds exciting doesn’t it!
It all comes back to the idea that we are responsible for our own lives and happiness, and can control the way we react to and think about life.
Love it or hate it – it’s up to us!
I know which I’d prefer!
**(www.positivityratio.com – a great site to test your in-built ratio of optimism vs. pessimism).
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