Mindset dramatically affects how we interpret events in our everyday lives. Optimists (people with a naturally positive attitude) experience less stress and feel happier than their pessimistic counterparts.
Not born with an innate ability to see the glass half full? That’s OK. Optimism is a skill you can learn.
Here are some tips to increase optimism:
Reframe Stressors: Embrace change, mistakes, and mishaps as inevitable in everyone’s life (not just yours), making it easier to see these moments as opportunities to learn, grow, or have an unexpected adventure. Also, remember that there’s an upside to everything. Practice noticing silver linings.
Practice Self Compassion: Set attainable goals. Notice every small step in the right direction. Celebrate when you accomplish the goals. And, if you don’t make it 100% of the way, remind yourself that you are a human doing your best and that you tried.
Let Things Go: Right-size situations by asking yourself: Is this a problem that needs a solution, or will it go away on its own? How long will this situation impact me? Is the problem the situation or my perfectionistic ideals? Allow little things that may have previously preoccupied your time to downgrade in importance and mental energy.
Avoid Comparing: You’ve read it before, I’ll write it again. When you compare, you despair. Almost always, if you internally compete with others, you set yourself up to lose. Don’t engage in comparison; instead, devote that time to experiencing or expressing gratitude, which bolsters a sense of connection and community.
Increasing optimism takes consistent practice. Consistently incorporate optimism-building skills into your day-to-day life to help achieve a lasting mindset shift.
Teaching Example: LATE BLOOMERS by Deepa Varadarajan
Suresh is newly retired and recently divorced from his wife of thirty-six years. Many things in Suresh’s life have changed, but his pessimism has remained consistent. A confirmed pessimist, Suresh’s ex-wife once said that he “suffocated her with his pessimism.” When Suresh talks to his daughter, he grills her on what he perceives as failings: her lack of husband and kids and her career he doesn’t understand. Before Suresh goes on dates, he predicts negative outcomes (which then unsurprisingly become self-fulfilling prophecies). Suresh is a living, breathing Eeyore.
Apply The Skills
Suresh could decide to live a happier, less antagonistic and stressed life. To that end, he could reframe dating and see it as an opportunity to meet new, interesting people as opposed to an exercise in being deceived (Reframe stressors). He could remember that meeting new people and finding a suitable partner is a process, and he set the goal of trying to meet a variety of people instead of immediately finding the one (Practice self-compassion).
With his daughter, Suresh could notice that she is happy with her career and not focused on finding a spouse, and try to embrace the priorities as she has set them for her life (Let things go). Finally, instead of comparing her single/childless status with others of her generation, Suresh could list what he appreciates about her. This would help build their relationship, which his judging comments and questions have harmed.
With enough time and practice, using these skills would lead to a more optimistic (and happy and resilient) Suresh.