To increase optimism is a practiced skill. It takes time to cultivate an optimistic mindset, and once you do, your life will dramatically change for the better.
Optimistic people seem to deal with chaos smoothly. They don’t get rattled by small things that pop up and get in the way of pre-planned events. They ride the waves of uncertainty with a smile and a boatload of faith that all will work out in the end.
Optimistic people rise above fears, stomping them out with action before they have a chance to root themselves. They view a setback as an opportunity to learn something. They go with the flow, remaining flexible even when a certain level of rigidity seems like the more prudent option.
Easy in the good times
I think for most of us, it’s pretty darn easy to increase optimism when times are good. From this position, it’s easy to say how we’d act in stressful times. It’s easy to say we’d be cool, calm, and collected when disappointment strikes.
From that vantage point, we can visualize how we’d handle things because our emotions are in check. We’re calm. We’re rational. More notibly, we’re not operating on the tailwind of hormonal fluctuations. Those fluctuations cause the stress hormone, cortisol, to press our nerves. We need our nerves to thrive on good fuel, not cortisol. The last thing we need is cortisol taking up a fight with our cells.
When we increase optimism, we have the feel good hormones on our side. In that position, hardly anything can crush us.
So how can we remain optimistic when stress rushes in unexpectedly?
How can we feel joy when disappointments knock on our heart?
I discovered something during my recent reflection on how to increase optimism. By its nature, optimism is a tool to help us deal with the hand we’ve been dealt. Put simply, optimism is what prompts us to learn from mistakes rather than feel defeated by them.
When we feel defeated, we shut down. We stop looking for solutions. Essentially, we start acting like victims. For the most part, we pout, cry, throw a fit, and go into self-pity mode. Essentially, we destroy any chance of finding a good outcome from a current circumstance. Defeat clouds our judgment. It places blinders over our eyes, making it impossible to see the way out.
So how do we avoid getting sucked into the vortex of defeat?
Do we just think we can be optimistic and bam we’re optimistic?
I don’t know about you, but I need real facts, real solutions, not just some mumbo jumbo psychobabble that ultimately ends up making me feel like a failure for not getting it.
So, let’s dissect this optimism thing. We want to:
- feel good
- be strong in the face of adversity
- remain calm amongst chaos
- maintain a clear mind to make sound decisions
- find the lessons hidden in the struggle
- walk away from a stressful situation with our wits
- capture an inner peace
First Step to Increase Optimism
So, the first step to increase optimism is to decide that’s how we want to be. Truly imagine ourselves strong, capable, and calm.
We need to claim that view. Decide that’s who we want to be no matter what is happening around us. Nothing will happen if we don’t first decide. If we don’t make a pact with ourselves while times are good, it’ll be hard to once times get rough.
Times are guaranteed to get rough. This is life were talking about. It’s seldom a smooth straight uneventful road. How boring that would be anyway! We don’t want that. Rather, we want to be challenged on some level. That’s when we see what we’re made of. That’s when we feel life breathing alongside of us and when we feel the extremes of being alive.
Embrace these challenges. Don’t resist them. We need to decide who we want to be, and then we need to go out there and be that powerful person.
Second Step to Increase Optimism
Seek solutions instead of problems. Oftentimes, when we’re faced with issues, we end up going down a rabbit hole of anxiety. We worry over the negative possibilities, forgetting about the positive ones that may result. When we choose to find the problems, we land in a precarious position of becoming part of the problem.
By switching our attention to the more positive possibility, we effectively begin to search for solutions. Whenever we are in a solution seeking phase, we’re going to increase optimism.
Our brain wants to find a happy ending to the situation at hand. So, it’s going to go on a hunt for that and find it. But, only as long as we keep marching in that direction. We also can’t forget to celebrate the small advancements forward. They are advancements after all!
Third Step to Increase Optimism
Our imaginations are powerful drivers of positive change. If we let our minds wander, it’ll take us on a journey. And, what that journey becomes is due largely in part to our ability to steer it in the direction we favor.
This is great news.
We have the power to turn that vision into whatever the heck we want it to be. Want to be more financially savvy? Visualize yourself living in that reality. How would you be spending your time living in that dream? What kind of contributions would you be making? Would you be serving food to the poor? Fostering a bunch of dogs? Reading to elderly patients? Telling stories to children? Investing in people’s dreams? Living in peace? Vacationing in paradise?
If you don’t imagine your life optimistically, what’s the alternative? Is that really the alternative you want to see happen? I’m guessing if you’re reading this post, likely not.
To begin visualizing, turn on an alarm for one minute, and in that one minute, close your eyes and see your struggle disappear. What would life look like without the problem? How would you feel? What would you be doing instead?
Fourth Step to Increase Optimism
I would recommend to be your own success coach. How would a coach talk with you about this? What suggestions would she recommend? In what ways would she encourage you? How would she cheer you on?
Be your own coach. Tune your inner voice into that of your success coach. If this is difficult, try and imagine what you would tell a friend in that same position. What suggestions would you offer? How would you encourage her?
Fifth Step to Increase Optimism
Take inventory at the end of the day by asking yourself ‘What went well today?’ You will search for those situations that went in your favor. Congratulate yourself as you would anyone you love and care about. Be proud of the accomplishments, the steps forward, the moments you felt surrounded by peace or empowerment. Celebrate those victories no matter their size. They all add up and eventually create success.
You can’t be disappointed in yourself when you’re building yourself up this way. It’s impossible. So, have fun with this part. Maybe make it a part of your routine by coupling it with brushing your teeth. Typically, you’d brush your teeth for 2 minutes. Make this the time you take that inventory.
Sixth Step to Increase Optimism
Take care of your mind and body because ultimately a healthy and sound mind and body will be better equipped to handle the sudden stresses in life. If you eat nutritiously 95% of the time, get daily exercise – and this can be as simple as a brisk walk – and spend a few meditative moments being grateful to be alive, then you’ll win. You’ll set yourself up to life a live that shines with positivity and attracts more optimism to you.
Be a seeker of good things, and good things will find you.