“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” ~Dalai Lama
Over the years, various researchers have published studies that prove it - the fact is that optimists live longer, achieve more and generally enjoy greater happiness and health.
(If you're NOT an optimist, you probably just thought, "Oh, great - another reason I'm gonna die!")
But stick with me, friend - and hey, I've got good news for you. Even if you tend to see the glass as half empty, you can tap into the power of positivity by simply learning to be more optimistic.
Why should you bother?
While a recent study says that being optimistic can change everything from your health to how long you life, it also says something a whole lot more specific - and something I've thought for a long time.
It turns out that, according to reports, researchers and doctors are now actually prescribing optimism and positive thinking for cancer patients. WHAT? Yes.
Even nurses who work in cancer hospitals are being specially trained to keep the atmosphere and their behavior positive at work in order to best foster the positive, healing energy for their patients.
“Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical well-being, reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.” ~The Mayo Clinic
While researchers say they're not sure why it works, it does.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "one theory is that having a positive outlook enables people to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on the body."
Of course, the fact is that when you're a happy person, you tend to live a healthier life, right?
Either way, I can attest to the fact that being optimistic and keeping my thoughts in check have made a seriously positive difference in my own life.
Be Happy, Get Healthy: Optimism 101
So how do you start being more optimistic? Apparently, part of it has to do with who you are biologically (who knew?).
Supposedly, psychologists believe that about 50% of your optimist quotient is determined at birth.
So, even if that's true, you're still half full (yes, I AM an optimist!). Anyway, that still leaves the remaining 50% of your "self" that you can work on.
So how do you do THAT?
You knew I wouldn't leave you hanging, didn't you? It's not so hard! Try giving yourself a little bit of training in optimism! That's right. Train yourself to become more hopeful.
Ready? Here it is: your complete guide to becoming an all-out optimist!
You can complete most of these steps instantly, and a few require a little more time.
Instant Changes for Becoming More Optimistic
1. Get your grin on! Your facial muscles communicate with your brain. Putting on a smile will make you look and feel more cheerful.
2. Create a distraction. When you find yourself dwelling on the size of your thighs or how slowly traffic is moving, switch your attention to something more entertaining. Sing show tunes or remember romantic moments with your spouse.
3. Never let go of the 'bone.' Study your dog. Especially when he's got a bone. And remember that dogs will often keep returning to the spot on the sidewalk where they found a burger wrapper last June. Let man's best friend inspire you to hold on to your dreams, right?
4. Count your blessings. Gratitude reinforces optimism. Wake up each morning thinking about what you're thankful for. Write a gratitude list and post it near your desk where you can see it all day.
5. Challenge your assumptions. You know what happens when you assume, right? You make an "ass" out of "u and me." Ha! But seriously, though. You can transform your self-talk by arguing the opposing side when you start to criticize yourself. Remember to run a reality check because unpleasant events tend to make a stronger impression than positive ones. The day your hot water heater broke stands out more than all the years it worked fine.
6. Build on your strengths. Studies also show that using your core strengths will cause you to view your future more favorably. If your friends rave about your watercolors, enter a group exhibition. Apply your aptitude with numbers to tutoring children in math.
7. Focus on solutions. Put your energy into overcoming challenges rather than STRESSING THE HELL OUT about how much can go wrong. So you need a new transmission? Big deal. One step at a time - first, find a mechanic and then look at your budget. Step, step, step - solution. You can do this!
8. Exercise daily. Hey now, you're an all star. Go play! Physical activity is good for your mind as well as your body. A vigorous workout will brighten your outlook. Play competitive sports or sign up for a dance class.
9. Practice mindfulness. Trying to make yourself happier tends to backfire, but there is a better way. Engage fully with whatever you're doing. As you increase your awareness and act from your heart, even tedious tasks become more meaningful and rewarding.
Go the Long-Haul: Optimism Tips to Carry You Through Your Life
1. Marry an optimist. Hope is contagious. An idealistic spouse sets a good example and encourages harmony. If neither of you is optimistic, you and your partner can work on becoming more optimistic together and find friends who will be good role models.
2. Adjust your explanatory style. When optimists receive disappointing news, they usually view it as temporary and attribute it to external causes. Lighten up if you're taking the weather personally and remember the rain will end. It's good to hold yourself accountable for behavior you can change, but avoid beating yourself up.
3. Plan ahead. Feeling in control also helps to boost optimism. Clarify your goals and strategies to makes it easier to anticipate obstacles and persevere. As your successes add up, the process will become more automatic.
So, this one seems like a no-brainer to me. Just put on your fancy rose-colored glasses and strut on the sunny side of the street. Being more optimistic is likely to extend your life and help you to enjoy those extra years more - and I don't know about you, but for me? Being happy is what it's all about. Why not do whatever you can to stay that way, safely and health-consciously?