Learn to be more optimistic - today!
Updated: Feb 8
Do you feel you would like to be a bit more optimistic? Try the following easy strategies. (Plus: Learn to use strategies for nurturing optimism in children)
The COVID-19 crisis is showing us more and more that it is key to stay optimistic, and that optimism may be a crucial factor in how we can navigate the crisis with positive outcomes for ourselves and those around us.
By writing this blog post, I acknowledge the role each of us can play in fostering optimism in ourselves and those around us. When we talk about optimism in this context, it is not just about being optimistic that our country can overcome the crisis (rationally we know the country can overcome it, however, at some cost) but also how we as individuals can be hopeful that, after all, we will see some good outcomes for us personally, as families and as businesses. Optimists have a built-in attitude to be hopeful of positive, favourable and desirable outcomes. As optimists we consider the possibilities of good things happening in life and reflect on the positive aspects of life rather than negative ones. Simon Sinek impressively promoted the infinite mindset (optimistic, growth focused) to his team the other day - we can reinvent ourselves when we have to. We can adapt. With a positive and optimistic outlook, possibilities do stay infinite. Having an optimistic mindset can make a huge difference to how we deal with our own personal challenges during COVID-19. The amazing thing is that researchers have shown that humans can cultivate (in other words: learn) a positive outlook, or optimism.
High levels of optimism have been linked to:
Reduced depression, anxiety, and stress
Physical and emotional health
Increased levels of resilience and coping strategies
Higher levels of self-love and positive regard of others
Ability to hope for a better future and instil that hope in others.
Martin Seligman, an American Psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that optimism is the cognitive ability to understand the current situation as it is, and work for changing things in favour of ourselves.
So let’s have a look at how we can nurture optimism within ourselves, and others.
Nurture optimism in children
Let’s start with our children, is it possible to encourage optimism in children?
Here are some simple strategies that you can start using today to encourage your children to be more optimistic:
Talk about your day and your work, and invite your children to share about their day. Nurture their positive thinking by exchanging simple thoughts about what they liked, what made them feel bad, and maybe discuss how they plan to make the most of the next day.
Model empathetic behaviour by acknowledging your child’s feelings: "I can understand how you feel" or "I would have felt the same if I were you".
Focus on effort
Show appreciation for your children’s efforts, help them believe in themselves and never stop trying.
Reminisce about happier times
Negative thoughts and expressing those thoughts may cause a child to believe that bad times never end. Recalling past experiences, which made the child sad initially, but they overcame eventually and had a good outcome can help them be motivated to positive and hopeful thinking, hallmarks of an optimistic person.
Nurture your own optimism
Do you already have a positive and hopeful attitude, or could nurturing your optimism help you feel more positive and hopeful about the future? First step, take the optimism test to find out!
The Optimism Test is a short online self-assessment that gives an accurate score of your Optimism Quotient: Take the optimism test
If it turns out that you are not yet a confirmed optimist, here are some really simple tips by the Optimistic Movement organisation to steer your mind and thoughts towards more positivity.
If you’d like to go a little bit deeper than that, have a go at Martin Seligman’s Worksheet on Learned Optimism. This worksheet follows the classical A-B-C-D-E model of creating a positive mindset. The A-B-C-D-E is an acronym for:
A – Adversity or paying attention to any adverse incidents, thoughts, and feelings. B – Beliefs and how they get impacted by pessimistic thoughts. C – Consequences of negative thoughts and feelings. D – Dispute or confronting the negative thoughts and attempting to change them. E – Energizing the self to be more optimistic in the future
Seligman’s worksheet contains several situational examples and scenario tests, all of which follow the A-B-C-D-E model. Going through the worksheet can help you challenge your pessimistic self and become a more positive thinker. Try learning optimism now!
In addition to the above, let's not forget about Yoga and optimism! There is a growing body of evidence showing that Yoga can indeed increase the measures of optimism in us and is a great way to improve how we feel about our current situation, looking at it more positively and hopeful.
Optimism can help us build much needed resilience, it teaches us radical acceptance, and motivates us in the form of hope to keep going. Starting with knowing why we feel negative and trying some exercises to get us thinking more positively can plant the seed of optimism within us when there is none, or nurture the already existing but possibly dormant optimism within us.
For even more information on Learned Optimism, read Martin Seligman’s book about “Learned Optimism. How to change your mind and your life.”.
Source for optimism tools here.
(Unwind Yoga Studio is located in Cookham, Maidenhead, in Berkshire)