Times are tough and many people are struggling to stay optimistic given the state of the economy, the insecurity of their jobs (if they have one), the size of their mortgage and the strain that puts on relationships at home. Maybe you are one of them, or maybe you know someone else who is having it tough.
But just because you can find lots of reasons for feeling down and becoming a bona fide pessimist doesn’t mean that you should. The fact is, optimism creates opportunity and pessimism kills it.
Research has found that seeing the glass half full not only makes you happier, it makes you healthier and wealthier. A study by Psychologist Susan Segerstrom found that ten years after graduation, law students who were optimistic earned an average of $32,667 more than their glass-half-empty peers.
Expecting good things to happen will lead to taking actions that produce positive results. Expecting only more bad stuff to come your way will keep you from doing the very things that might have minimized or avoided just that!
The word “optimism” actually derives from the Latin word “optima,” meaning the best outcome or belief in the greatest good. As I said during my interview on the TODAY SHOW, while some people are naturally more optimistic than others, ultimately we all get to wake up every day and choose whether we are going to be a glass half-full, or a glass half-empty person.
Below are 7 strategies for filling up your cup of optimism. My challenge to you is to try at least one of these and notice the difference it makes to your outlook and your life.
1. SET YOUR INTENTION
Before you step out of bed (and if you forget, before you leave your home) take one minute to set your intention for the day by coming up with one word that resonates with you about the attitude or spirit you want to bring to the day. Being intentional acts like a compass and helps you better focus your time and energy. For instance, if you’ve been looking for work but have found yourself stuck in a rut and procrastinating, you might choose to be proactive and set yourself a goal of making at least 5 calls/emails today to follow up on job leads and opportunities. The intention you choose will vary according to the challenges you are facing.
2. DO SOMETHING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Often the very thing we need to improve our circumstances requires courage. That is, closing the gap between where you are now and where you would like to be in life will require stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something that scares you in some way. It could be picking up the phone to invite someone to dinner, attending an exercise class, or having a conversation with your boss about an issue that’s been upsetting you. There is no better way to build self-confidence than by doing something that stretches you as it teaches you that you are capable of more than you thought you were.
3. REFRAME A PROBLEM INTO AN OPPORTUNITY
You can’t solve your problems by complaining about them. But you can solve them (or at least learn to accept them) by reframing them so that you can approach them from a new angle. To quote Einstein: “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created.”
Where pessimists see problems, optimists find opportunities. If you change the way you look at your problems, your problems change and transform into a rich array of opportunities to grow, learn and discover inner resources you never knew you had!
4. AVOID ENERGY DRAINERS
Optimism is contagious. So too is pessimism. If you are struggling to feel more positive, don’t spend your time hanging out with “emotional vampires” – those people who suck the life out of you with their complaints and commentary about everything that is wrong with both the world and the people in it. Choose your company wisely and limit the time you spend with people who don’t fill your cup of optimism and “can do” self-confidence.
5. CARRY YOURSELF LIKE AN OPTIMIST
Scientists have already proven that how you present and carry yourself on the outside has a huge impact on how you feel on the inside. Harvard researcherAmy Cuddy has gone a step further, discovering that specific adjustments in your body language make you feel more powerful and confident – which in turn can positively affect the quality and outcome of your most important interactions (think meetings, interviews, and other potentially stressful conversations). To see more on this study, click here.
If you change how you hold yourself physically, it will change how you feel emotionally. Slump your shoulders, pout your bottom lip and look down to the ground and optimism and opportunity will elude you. But stand tall, chin up, smile and engage with people as though you were the outgoing, confident, optimistic and successful person you aspire to be, and you will attract all sorts of positive people and opportunities into your life.
6. LIGHTEN UP
Why is it that comedians tend to live very long lives? It’s because they have become so masterful at finding the humor in even the most unfunny situations. While it’s not always easy to see the lighter side of things, it’s always helpful. Humor is a highly effective antidote to almost every ailment, anxiety or adversity. Watching a funny movie or spending time with a friend who really makes you laugh is literally medicinal.
A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Maryland has shown that laughter has more health benefits than we can imagine. Laughter can flush clots, cholesterol and inflammation from the body. It increases heart rate and blood flow, and has similar health benefits to exercise. Endorphins are released during laughter, which help to relieve pain, reduce cravings and stress, and slow the aging process. Laughter can also lower blood sugar levels, improve your immune system, and increase our disease fighting antibodies. If that’s not enough, laughter is a natural sleep aid. So what are you waiting for? We all know it takes more muscles to frown than to smile – start laughing and increase your beauty sleep!
If you are one of those people who never exercises, then I’m sorry, I know you hate to hear it again, but EXERCISE IS
GOOD FOR YOU. Not only is it great for you physically, it’s a very potent drug for making you feel better psychologically. As your heart starts pumping, your body releases endorphins into your system which not only burn off stress, but allow you to view your life and challenges through a more empowering and optimistic lens. Seriously, what’s not to like about exercise? (Besides doing it?)
Please try one of these strategies today and let me know how it helps. Because as an optimist, I KNOW it will!