Did you know that there are numerous health benefits to having an optimistic outlook on life? Optimists have been shown to have fewer strokes, lower levels of cardiovascular disease, better sleep and a longer life span than pessimists. In recent studies, self-professed optimists had 35% fewer strokes and lived up to 15% longer on average. The dangers of pessimism, on the other hand, include career impairment, poor general health, and earlier death.
But can we change our disposition and outlook? Can we actually learn how to be optimistic? Or are we born or made the way we are with no choice for the future? It’s looking increasingly likely that, with a little effort, we can all raise our levels of optimism. Thereby increasing our general well-being and helping our health in numerous ways. Below you’ll find 5 powerful strategies that you start implementing into your life to start cultivating an optimistic outlook on life today.
5 Ways To Cultivate An Optimistic Outlook
Best Possible Self Intervention
Scientists agree that there are ways we can increase our optimism and something called the Best Possible Self intervention (BPS) is the most studied and well-used method. BPS is a positive psychology intervention where participants are asked to write down some personal, professional and relationship goals and describe a rosy future where they achieve everything they desire. Versions vary – in one study participants were then asked to write this down as a personal story and then spend five minutes a day for two weeks imagining this story. In another version, an online exercise asked participants to write continuously about their BPS for fifteen minutes. These exercises were shown to improve general optimism, motivation, and well-being.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Increasing optimism can be as simple as keeping a journal. It has to be a special kind of journal and includes only positive thoughts. Noting at the end of each day at least three things that went well and anything for which you feel grateful. This has the effect of training the brain to look for the positive and ignore the negative. An attitude of gratitude journal is the perfect solution, spending at least five minutes a day focusing on and writing about all the good things that happened in your day and in life in general.
Use Optimistic Mantras
The use and repetition of positive and optimistic mantras during the course of the day has proved effective. Simply choose a mantra that resonates for you and your goals and repeat it regularly throughout the day, aloud or silently in your mind. Some examples of such mantras are:
– Every day may not be good but there is something good in every day
– I start this day with optimism. I am happy, confident, and optimistic.
– I only have optimistic thoughts.
– I am blessed with optimism.
– I exude optimism.
– The best is on its way to me.
– My daily efforts will bring about success.
– In darkness I always see the light.
– The sun is always shining on me and through me.
Change Your Self Talk
Becoming more aware of the topics that you tend to focus on in your mind, the language you use to talk to yourself and the mood of that talk can have a surprising effect on increasing optimism. Catastrophising is a way of thinking called cognitive distortion. This is when you pre-empt an unfavorable outcome to an event and class it as a disaster. And catastrophizing is a habit that can be changed. When you are dealing with adversity or any kind of setback, check your self-talk for words such as ‘disaster’, ‘horrible’, ‘dreadful’ and ‘unbearable’ and, when you notice them, try replacing them with ‘challenging’ or ‘unhelpful’. This helps your brain to gradually redefine adversity as a discreet and temporary situation, rather than the more pessimistic view of it being pervasive and permanent.
Look for Smiling Faces
An attention training tool in the form of an online game was developed and tested to see it’s effect on optimism. The game consisted of looking at rows of photos of faces, most scowling or unfriendly in some way, and finding as quickly as possible the one single smiling, accepting face. In doing this, the mind was trained to drag attention away from the frowning faces, building a mental habit of moving quickly away from the negative and seeking out the positive. A hundred or more trials would make the habit automatic so that rejection and criticism could be let go of more easily.
Studies suggest that just a few small changes in our habits, combined with effort and awareness, can truly change our outlook in life, and in so doing, benefit our health both physically and mentally. Why not make today the day to start implementing these small consistent changes to foster a sunnier, happier attitude and to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.
If you enjoyed this article on how to cultivate an optimistic outlook, please share. Thanks for reading!