“Two men look out through the same bars: One sees the mud, and one sees the stars.”- Frederick Langbridge, A Cluster of Quiet Thoughts
As a rule, life throws a lot at us, and the way we decide to manage everyday situations or major decisions can be the difference between being fulfilled or unhappy. For example, if you’ve placed second in a writing contest, will you jump for joy and push for better results next time or will you be discouraged and find an excuse not to join again? Our choices help us define ourselves and we can always work harder to improve our lives. We may choose to have a pessimist view on life and feel crushed by destiny all the time or we can choose to take an optimist route and become empowered by our experiences.
5 steps to develop an optimistic mindset
1. Use positive affirmations
Write down all the things that you want to change about yourself. Put them in areas where you can see them every day such as your refrigerator, your notice board or next to the mirror. Reminding yourself each day of the positive changes you want to make will help you focus better on the process.
2. Change negative thoughts into positive ones
Pessimism can be hard to defeat if you regularly nurture negative thoughts. Although it may seem difficult, the negative feeling that sometimes surrounds you can be overcome with the right mindset. If you have a negative perspective, everything you do will be coloured by that and you will not be able to enjoy life or achieve your goals. But, should you embrace the optimist’s view and try to look on the bright side of even the most dreadful situation, chances are that you will triumph over your fears and accomplish your dreams.
3. Surround yourself with optimistic people
It is said that habits and attitudes can be contagious. For this reason, it is essential that you surround yourself with positive thinkers who will encourage you to do your best and help you attain whatever goals you have. More importantly, try to protect yourself from other people’s negative energy by imposing limits and distancing yourself from their negativity.
4. Start making changes
Instead of constantly contemplating the possible effects of a specific situation in your life, start thinking about causes and the best ways to manage the impact. Taking risks is part of life and you have to be prepared to face all the consequences in the best manner possible. Use your negative experiences to make better decisions and build your character.
5. Be rational about optimism
Being an optimist does not mean that you have to pretend that nothing bad will happen. This mentality can trigger you to make poor decisions in your life and make matters worse. You have to learn how to prepare for the worst but still hope for the best. You can become an optimist without being an extrovert.
If by now you are wondering why you should cultivate the optimist in you, there is good news about the benefits of changing your point of view. Optimism has been linked to positive mood and good morale, to academic, athletic, military, occupational and political success, popularity and, most importantly, to good mental and physical health and even to a longer lifespan.
On the other hand, for the past several years, the rates of depression and pessimism have never been higher. Depression affects middle-aged adults the same way it hits younger people, even more so with the growth of social media. The average age of onset has gone from 30 to 15 and it has become a sort of silent epidemic.
Becoming an optimist sometimes takes some effort, but there are real advantages to living your life like this and changing your point of view. Here are some reasons why it really pays to be an optimist:
Optimists expect the best
The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events are their own fault, and this undermines everything they do. The truth is that optimists are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world. What differs is the way they interpret their misfortune, because they tend to believe that every hardship is just a temporary setback, that the causes are confined to each particular case.
Optimists focus on each ‘problem’ at a time and use ‘positive reinterpretation’ to handle the hard times. In other words, they reinterpret a negative experience in a way that helps them learn and grow. Such people are almost unfazed by a bad situation because they perceive it as a challenge and try even harder.
Positive expectations of optimists also predict better reactions during transitions to new environments, sudden tragedies or an unlikely turn of events. If they fall, they will stand up. They see opportunities instead of obstacles.
People respond positively to optimists
Optimists are proactive and less dependent on others for their happiness. They find no need to control or manipulate and they usually draw people towards them. Their optimistic view of the world can be contagious and influence those around them.
Also, people who share optimism are easily accepted and integrated into communities, while those who spread gloom, panic, and hysteria are treated unfavourably. Optimism is a generally desirable trait in all societies.
Optimists typically maintain higher levels of subjective well-being during times of stress than do people who are less optimistic. In contrast, pessimists are likely to react to stressful events by denying that they exist or by avoiding dealing with problems. Pessimists are more likely to quit trying when difficulties arise. Optimists persevere, they don’t give up easily, they are patient in following the path closer their goals and dreams.
Optimists are healthier and live longer
Medical research has shown that simple pleasures and a positive outlook can cause a measurable increase in the body’s ability to fight disease. Optimists’ health is unusually good, much less burdened by the usual physical illness of middle age. They age well and usually outlive those prone to negative thoughts.
So what’s stopping you from becoming an optimist today?