How to become optimistic despite all the setbacks that happen to you? Sometimes bad luck turns into real challenges for you and giving in to negative thoughts may seem like the solution. But have you ever heard of positive lateral thinking?
Thinking positive through optimism can also boost our physical and mental health so why not give it a try? There is research that closely links quality of life with optimism.
How becoming optimistic can help your health
Optimistic thinkers always expect a favorable development of the course of events in any situation. To give an example: “I destroyed my car in an accident, luckily the insurance will pay for the damage!”).
Research suggests that seeing the glass as half full is good for your health , career and love. Studies have found that being optimistic creates lower rates of mortality and cancer development, better cardiovascular health and better immune function (Rasmussen HN et al., 2009), (Maruta T et al., 2002). Other psychological research has found the benefits of positive thinkingthey are particularly noticeable in low-income countries (Pressman et al., 2013). One study also suggests that optimism and a positive mindset help women fight breast cancer. If we then talk about older people, then the research has found that those who use positive stereotypes about their age recover their disability better than those who complain of advancing years (Levy BR et al., 2012).
Some psychologists also argue that optimists tend to be healthier, because they are better able to cope with any failure to achieve their goals (Wrosch C, 2003). It is also possible that people who think positively give less weight to the stressful events that affect them (Boyraz G, 2012).
But the benefits of optimism go beyond good health, they are also important in the search for employment and a future hiring. Furthermore, if you are an optimist you are probably also a good life partner and your love relationship is certainly beneficial (Assad KK et al., 2007). Now you will say that it is easier said than done, after all, how to become optimistic is not learned with a snap of the fingers. I know, it can be quite a daunting task if you are used to thinking pessimistically but you can choose to cultivate the habit of positive change.
How to become optimistic by following an action plan: everything will be fine
While some psychologists think that becoming optimistic can be learned, other experts believe that optimism is an innate personality trait. There are also other factors that influence optimism, such as social, economic and cultural status.
There are studies that have found important relationships between pessimism and states with poor economies, although it is not yet clear whether a low socio-economic level causes people to be more pessimistic or the opposite (Robb KA et al., 2009), ( Heinonen K et al., 2006). Then there are the cultural differences that can come into play. Studies show that Western cultures tend to predict what will happen more positively than Eastern cultures’ expectations. Some psychologists suggest that it is because Westerners focus more on self-enhancement and see themselves more positively than Easterners do (Chang EC, Asakawa K., 2003)
But before you can become the “Everything Is Wonderful” lady or Mr. it is good that you know that having too many optimistic fantasies can come with risks. Predicting the best in any situation can lead to great disappointments in expectations.
Some experts argue that using pessimism as self-defense can sometimes be a good idea: “hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” This approach helps people respond better to certain threats and can also reduce anxiety (Lim L, 2009).
Here are some quick tips on how to become optimistic and see the glass half full:
- Find the good in everything that happens to you. Even in situations that may seem like the worst to you, there is always a way to find something positive. It can be hard to see at first, but try to look closer!
- Take note. At the end of the day, write down some good things that happened, like a job you managed to get done or a phone call from an old friend you haven’t heard in a while. Sometimes creating a habit makes it easier to appreciate the positives in life.
- Talk about what you did as a success. Sometimes it is not the specific situation that determines the good or bad mood, but the way in which it is talked about. For example, you could say that the exam you took was very hard, but at the same time you are amazed and satisfied with how much you gave your best to take it.
- Forget the neighbor’s weed. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and become envious of what you don’t have. But no, avoid it. Try to appreciate your good qualities (because you have them) and remember to be grateful for what you have.In fact, if you want you can train gratitude with quick exercises.
- Take Control: Science has shown that people feel more optimistic about the situations they can control (Kos JM, Clarke VA, 2001). So take the stage that belongs to you, take control of your life even in the little things. Take the time to feel good.
- Smile: In one study, participants who held a pen in their mouth (using their smile muscles) perceived the cartoons they were watching as funnier than participants without a pen in their mouth (Soussignan R, 2002). So not only are smiles contagious, they can actually make more complicated situations less burdensome (Wild B et al., 2003).
- Try to stay balanced. Life isn’t all good, at least not around the clock, so don’t worry if positive thoughts don’t always flow as you would like. Being realistic is not a bad thing indeed it serves and helps to manage anxiety and increase productivity without procrastinating.