An optimist bounces back from a crisis and truly believes things will get better. Consequently, optimists experience many benefits that make them lead happier and more fulfilled lives. Such an attitude even improves the immune system and helps prevent chronic disease.
An added benefit to being an optimist is a longer lifespan, according to a 30-year study. There is plenty of other research that points to cheery types having better health outcomes than pessimists, be it in recovery time from an operation or chronic illness. Who wouldn't want a trait that helps us live longer and keeps us healthy and happy?
As Winston Churchill said: “For myself I am an optimist - it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”
So how can the rest of us foster optimism?
Optimistic thinking is much more than repeating a few positive affirmations when you get out of bed in the morning. It has to become your predominant mental attitude - and the good news is that acquiring a positive mind-set is well within your grasp.
The good news (even, the optimistic news) is that you can actively choose to take the optimistic perspective. When you are feeling angry or negative, you pause - and reframe the events that have put you in this mindset as one-off events. Be aware that the more you think negative thoughts, the more they reinforce the neural pathways and the more negativity becomes an ingrained habit.
It takes conscious effort to see the glass half full as opposed to half empty but it is one you must practise assiduously if you want to jump off the negativity bandwagon.
The best way to deal with pessimistic thinking is to tell yourself that it is incorrect. When you think “I will never find another job in this economic climate”, ask yourself, where is the evidence for this belief? Why shouldn’t I get a job? Always practise challenging your negative thoughts by asking yourself, what evidence is there that they are true? What if they are not?
Believe that you have the ability to create positive events around you, and observe how positivity in one area of your life can flow into other areas. Eliminate negative words from your speech such as, “I can’t” or “I always fail at this”. It also helps to view difficult situations as positive challenges that allow you to coach your brain in optimism, as you focus on the solution, not the problem.
Studies have shown you can trick yourself into faking a more positive outlook by going through the motions such as speaking in a positive tone or smiling a lot. Smiling when you don’t feel like it is a powerful way to change your psychological outlook on the world, says new scientific research.
Learning optimism takes work and patience, but with practice, you can convert from a pessimist to an optimist and enjoy all the associated health benefits.