Are you a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person? Here’s how to inject a little more positivity into your daily life…
Do you constantly see the negative in things and automatically assume the worst? If so, you could be damaging your wellbeing more than you think. According to research, looking at life in an optimistic way can allow you to become more resilient and confident, and also make experiences more fulfilling and enjoyable. And on top of that, it could dramatically impact your physical health. In fact, data published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that optimists are less likely than pessimists to die from health conditions including cancer, heart disease and strokes as well as enjoy healthier lives in general. Other studies show that optimists are more likely to earn a higher income and have better relationships, too. So, just how can you alter your way of thinking and approach life with a different perspective? We’ve asked the experts for their top tips…
Unfortunately life can throw all sorts of difficult situations at us, but as mindset coach Suzy Ashworth (suzyashworth.com) explains, it’s how to we choose to perceive these events that will determine how we respond to them. “When you are able to see the gift in challenging situations, it becomes much easier for you to release the stress and move on positively,” she explains. “Ask yourself, what’s the lesson or the gift in what you’re experiencing right now?” And remember, it’s usually when we’re challenged mentally and physically that we grow and learn the most about ourselves.
When faced with a demanding issue we’re often guilty of seeing the problems it can cause, rather than considering what solutions there are. Neil Seligman, a mindfulness and meditation expert (neilseligman.com), says that although we can be inclined to dwell on, or catastrophise problems, the key is to redirect our mind to a more positive outcome and visualise how the situation might work out well.
“Remember that your track record for getting through tough days is 100 percent so far,” he says. “You will also get through this one and the act of visualising a smooth path forward can take you into a resourceful and creative mindset.”
If we think about it, there are all sorts of things that could cause us to feel anxious and miserable, but in reality, very few are actually important. “Becoming an optimist is really about focusing your attention on the things that matter to you,” Suzy explains. “So, if someone cuts you up as you’re looking to park your car, for example, you could rant and scream at them, or you could just be grateful that you’re safe and the car isn’t damaged. This is really powerful when it comes to keeping your focus on the things you can control and making it easier for you to let go of things that cause you stress.”
For life coach Elisabetta Franzoso (elisabettafranzoso.com), it’s essential to take the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for all the good things life brings us. “It’s great to both start and finish your day by expressing gratitude for everything that makes you happy,” she says. “Try also saying thank you during the day for the little things you are facing: before you eat, for example, when you receive good news, after coffee with a friend, and even before taking a walk in the sunshine.” Suzy also recommends writing a list of the things you are grateful for on a daily basis. “I love an appreciation list, because the more good things you notice about your life, the more you train yourself to notice even more good things,” she says. “Lots of people find that simply by picking three things to appreciate before they go to bed leaves them feeling more optimistic. However, I personally love this as both a morning and an evening practice where I will list out 50 things I appreciate in each sitting. Try whatever number works for you and look out for the difference in your own optimism levels.”
It sounds obvious, but who you spend time with can have a big impact on how you view different situations. “If you’re constantly surrounding yourself with people who think negatively and talk negatively, then it will be much harder for you to maintain your optimistic outlook,” Suzy says. “Choose to surround yourself with people who look for and notice the good in life and in others and this will rub off on you too.”
“Having things to look forward to in the future practically supports an optimistic outlook,” Neil explains. “This is not just about planning fun activities such as family time or a holiday, but getting into the habit of looking at your upcoming daily schedule and plotting in some time for rejuvenating activities, like catching up with a friend for lunch, or making it to your favourite class. Even planning to spend 10 minutes in the park at lunchtime enjoying the sunshine, or treating yourself to breakfast at a café on the way to work can help lift your mood.”
Optimism doesn’t come naturally to everyone. “If you want to become more optimistic, you need to really want it in order to be successful,” Elisabetta explains. “Willpower or willingness is crucial when we want to change, and it’s not something you can do overnight.” Studies have found that it’s possible to trick yourself into feeling happier simply by laughing and smiling more, so apply the same rules to optimism. You’ll soon find yourself looking on the bright side.
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