Are you a glass half empty or full kind of person?
Your answer to this question might be dependent on what time of the day you’re asked, as moods tend to fluctuate on a minute by minute basis, which can be a challenge to your well-being.
Why is well-being so crucial?
Mental well-being describes your mental state and how well you’re coping with daily life. Since it’s dynamic, itcan change from moment to moment and you’re probably noticing this fluctuation more during this time, as all the crutches you relied on previously might no longer be available to you.
Common life events can have an effect, especially when you experience loss, bereavement, loneliness or relationship problems. Some of these might be happening in your life and this makes the situation especially challenging.
If your mental well-being is good, you’ll be relatively confident, have good self-esteem, have the ability to express emotions and be engaged with the world around you. If you want to successfully overcome difficulties and achieve what you want, it’s crucial that you feel healthy, happy, satisfied with life and have an ability to manage stress.
Are you an optimist, pessimist or realist?
A pessimist is a person who considers the glass half full, an optimist considers the glass half empty and the realist drinks the water.
When we examine different communication styles, optimists tend to have a more positive explanatory style that views bad or unfortunate events as isolated incidents that are outside their control. Pessimists, on the other hand, usually have a negative explanatory style and see events as more common and might blame themselves for this.
Optimism can be broken up into realistic or unrealistic.
Those who have unrealistic optimism tend to repress problems, insisting everything is fine and the future is rosy and can be out of touch with reality.
On the other hand, realistic optimism is a byproduct of good mental health and shows you’re aware of the challenges ahead and the action that needs to be taken to achieve what you want, whilst accepting the things that cannot be changed.
We’re aiming for realistic optimism.
What are the medical benefits of being optimistic?
A study from the University of Pittsburgh concluded that those who had an optimistic outlook had a 30 per cent lower risk of heart disease, they also linked optimism to a lower risk of having a stroke.
The medical and scientific studies show that our stress and anxiety decreases when we just feel optimistic, and we know this is true because when we’re in a positive state of mind, life feels effortless and any problems that occur are encountered head-on.
What happens if you’re not an optimist?
People tend to slot themselves into categories such as ‘introvert, extrovert, pessimist, optimist, etc’ this locks in your character as if it was airtight, yet we are far more malleable than this.
Imagine if someone were to potentially reward you with £10000.00, or hand you the one gift you’ve always wanted, the only condition being that you have to be optimistic for 24 hours.
Would you behave in a more optimistic way?
If the answer is ‘Yes’, then you have the ability to become more optimistic about life and your situation. Right here right now.
Optimism Is a choice.
Once a pessimist always a pessimist does not apply in my book. We get to choose how we interact with any situation each moment of every day. You have the ability to shift mindset.
You weren’t born with the pessimistic trait, it’s just developed over time, possibly because of negative situations you had to undergo in life, these all built up a defence mechanism which homed in a message saying ‘the world isn’t safe, it’s out to get me.’
Reflect on which past event began to sow the seeds of negativity?
Don’t forget that even within those moments, they must have been punctuated with other positive ones to be grateful for.
Optimism is a muscle that needs strengthening.
If you’ve spent years being pessimistic, doing the complete opposite is going to take some practice. In the same way as going to the gym after years of not stepping into an excersize class is not going to make you fit overnight.
You have to practice and strengthen this muscle as it constantly needs confirmation and refinement.
This doesn’t mean ignoring sadness, upset or negativity about a situation, we all have those moments which are so normal, especially during this time. But when these moments drag on and extend to the point where you don’t know where it ends and you begin, this is when you can choose to shift to an optimistic state.
How can you strengthen your optimism muscle?
We can’t go from pessimist to optimist in a heartbeat, especially if you’re not optimistic in general, but I’m a great believer that taking small incremental steps can help you get started.
Any step in the right direction can yield results, and prove to you that the more you integrate even a tiny percentage of optimism into your daily life, the better you will start to feel within.
There are changes you can make which will pave the road to optimism.
Recognise your negative thoughts.
Recognise the thoughts which are trying to sabotage your future. Write them down and question how realistic they are.
Instead of focusing on worst-case scenarios, wasting so much energy and time on these, understand that you have the ability to cope with most things that are thrown at you. Re-framing thoughts into more realistic ones can help you maintain a healthy dose of optimism. You are more resilient and resourceful than you realise.
It’s crucial you stop predicting the future.
Most people live in two time zones that don’t exist.
These time zones are the ‘past and future.’ You might be going back and forth between these, remembering either negative things you’ve experienced in the past, or attempting to predict the future ahead, and this prevents you from enjoying the present moment.
It’s more beneficial for you to focus on the day to day matters, rather than thinking and worrying constantly about what life will look like in a years time. Aim to become more present in the moment and what is needed of you now.
Unless you’re a qualified Psychic with a crystal ball who can truly tell the future and what awaits you, there is no point trying to second guess what will occur. It’s far more lucrative to reflect on your future self instead.
Do you still want to be drowning in pessimism in a years time, or do you want your future self to be more optimistic, hopeful and grateful?
This is a better focus of your attention and can help you grow and improve your mindset.
Look back at your successes
If you’re a living and breathing human being (which you must be if you’re reading this) there must be a multitude of things you’ve achieved in life, not to mention difficulties you’ve overcome.
Reflect on your strengths and the type of a person it took to get through all those challenges and difficulties in the past, you’ll realise you’re far stronger than you tell yourself.
You’ve already succeeded so much, purely by being here, a living, breathing human being, who’s managed to navigate over 20 years on the planet, that in itself is a success.
Become creative rather than reactive
People tend to be reactive to situations, especially in times of crisis.
The first stance that is taken is the pessimistic one and reacting in a way that is woeful stops you from really getting creative with the situation. By taking a moment to reflect on the event (pausing to take a breath is a simple way to do this) and making sure you’re giving yourself credit and not blaming yourself for things outside of your control is a good way to do this.
If unexpected situations creep up, instead of immediately reacting, ask yourself one question.
Based on what’s occurred, instead of reacting, what would I like to create?
This shifts your mindset from reactive (pessimistic) to creative (optimistic) in a moment.
Avoid positive energy vampires
Energy vampires (I’m sure you’re familiar with a few of these individuals) suck the positive energy out of situations, and you want to avoid this at all costs. Keep away from friends who are either sharing depressing news stories or pictures on social media.
It’s important to keep a distance, as your well-being at this time is crucial, and the last thing you need is a friend who insists on sharing their latest predictions about the end of the world. Take a media detox and decrease your consumption of political news, as it can hinder your ability to maintain positive.
Instead, follow all the inspiring podcasts and initiatives that are being posted on social media as this can be tremendously uplifting.
Fake it until you make it
Smile, even when you’re having a difficult moment (I would suggest you do this privately). I’ve tried this many times as it’s so effective. It’s incredible how just changing the contours of my face, changes the way I feel about an event.
Become more open to laughter and fun, recognising the potential humour in a situation, as this can decrease the stress and illuminate your outlook.
This isn’t about denying negative feelings, but there are times when you’re nurturing those feelings for far too long. Sometimes we are so attached to a negative way of being, that to discard this isn’t easy, but using a smile to practice being optimistic, can make you feel totally different inside.
Optimism is infectious, it affects people in your world in such an incredible way because frankly, no one wants an Eeyore around. You impact others around you when you’re a ray of sunshine on a dark day, this can make others feel great when in your company.
Like any goal, the key is to stick with it for the long-term. Even if you find yourself dwelling on the negative thoughts, find ways to cultivate a more optimistic outlook. Remember that to think positively, you need to nurture and encourage yourself by investing energy in things you enjoy and (virtually) surrounding yourself with optimistic people.
With the pandemic at the forefront of our minds, now more than at any other stage in life, our mental well-being and our optimistic outlook must be at an all-time high. There will be times when you’ll trip up, this is normal, but the goal is to continue to cultivate a hopeful attitude that will carry you throughout.
If you liked this article, you can read more chapters like these in my latest book ‘Look Inside: Stop Seeking Start Living’ available now on Amazon.
If you want to connect with me to share insights from this article, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org