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How To Cultivate Real Optimism In The Face Of Adversity

7 Fun Microtips to Grow Your Resilience With Ease: Day 2. That which we resist persists. That which we accept seems to evaporate.  Hope. Optimism. Goals.  These are the things that, on an average day, help us to get out of bed in the morning. Right now, your life may have totally changed. Your bucket […]

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7 Fun Microtips to Grow Your Resilience With Ease: Day 2.

That which we resist persists. That which we accept seems to evaporate. 

Hope. Optimism. Goals. 

These are the things that, on an average day, help us to get out of bed in the morning. Right now, your life may have totally changed. Your bucket list and your career goals put on hold or seemingly out the door. 

Maybe you’ve lost a loved one or a friend. Perhaps you are sick. Maybe you are simply sick of staying at home.

If you resist thinking about things, you may feel better about it all momentarily, but then you may not be able to sleep, or you may feel grumpy. If you focus on the negative things and refuse to accept them, you will also start to spiral down. 

What can you do? 

Many people think optimism is a personality trait; however, evidenced-based studies in psychology show that it can be cultivated, learned, and built. Optimism is, in fact, an intentional habit.

And so, whether you are normally an optimistic person or a pessimist, I’ve pulled together a few micro tips to help you to cultivate an optimistic outlook, just as if you were building out any other habit or practice.

What is it? 

Optimism simply put is hope for a better future. You may not love where you are right now, but you can see an opportunity to do things differently and maybe even better. Optimism is recognizing that wherever you are right now, even, if you feel like you are in a dark tunnel, you can still see even the tiniest spark of light at the end. 

Proof it works.

There are statistically significant studies that show cultivating optimism helps us to manage life’s ups and downs. It improves our ability to set and achieve goals — even to self regulate — say get up the morning, only eat one slice of cake or check off our to-do list. 

In this, some activities or microhabits can build optimism muscle, so to say. For example, smiling on purpose, journaling, maintaining physical activity, and getting outside in the sun, or even looking at an indoor plant. 

Why does it work? 

Intentionally cultivating optimism builds self-awareness, it asks us to tune into ourselves and our values. The following activities also help you bounce back from life’s dips by activating positive feelings and improving our outlook at the moment. Optimism doesn’t mean that you have to be happy all the time or even right this second, but it does mean that you positively envision the future.

Optimistic thinking also creates opportunities for innovation and problem solving, which means that if you feel stuck, an optimistic mindset might help you get unstuck. 

What can you do? 

Notice Name and Navigate.

Build your emotional intelligence and accept your feelings with Notice, Name, and Navigate. In Buddhism, they say that Suffering = pain + resistance. Merely the act of noticing how you feel, naming your feeling (sadness, grief, anger) and then giving yourself space and choice to navigate through that feeling can make you feel better. The more you do it, the more you resilient you become, and the more optimistic you feel about your future! 

Smiling. 

Put a smile on your face. You’ve read the studies before, but you may have forgotten. Smiling activates neurotransmitters that make us feel good: dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. The more you smile the better you feel. Use a mirror. Smile at your cat. Whatever you do, try out a few smiles today.

Move your body (or calm your mind).

Getting your body moving also releases feel-good chemicals and reduces our body’s stress response. Go for a walk, walk the stairs, do jumping jacks, vacuum the living room. Anything that gets you moving will help you to feel more optimistic. 

If you are feeling particularly down or stressed, you might try out IntenSati, a movement + affirmation activity invented by Patricia Moreno. Get your blood pumping and feel better about yourself and the world all at once in a short five to 10-minute burst, easily accomplished in your living room. There are dozens of videos and short workouts by Patricia and others on YouTube. 

If you are not up for physical activity, you can also try meditation. Calming your mind and focusing on your breath can also give your mind and body a release that “resets” your buttons and improves your feelings of well-being or optimism. 

Journal. 

Various studies have shown that people who write in a journal daily, and in particular those that record things such as gratitude or acts of kindness, feel happier over time. Writing for 20-minutes a day in a journal also serves the purpose of helping you to notice, name, and navigate your feelings and experiences. There is also something therapeutic about the act of writing. Handwriting can help you to process your thoughts in a way that doesn’t happen when you keep them locked in your head. 

Plant a Window Garden. 

Feeling cooped up inside? Order some seeds or pick up some herbs and grow your self some fresh lettuce, basil, or even flowers. Studies also show that people who see plants (even pictures of plants) and nature are happier and more productive. 

There is also something innately satisfying and hopeful in watching seeds sprout. If you need a little life in your life, plant a window garden! 

Which Micro Habit should I pick? 

You can try out one or all of these — there is no need for overwhelm. Think about your Person, Activity, and Fit — when you read this article if you feel cynical about a particular activity skip that one, but if another makes you feel excited, give it a try! 

Whatever you do, remember that optimism can be cultivated and built over time — think of it like building a muscle or micro habit!

You can do it.

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