Why is Optimism important?
Gary Veynerchuk sums up the power of positive thinking really well.
Most people think that optimism is delusion. Optimism is a strategy. Its not delusion. Its a mindset of looking for a reason to win. Its a mindset of finding the solution. Its a mindset of OK this is what i have been presented with, now I’ve got to figure it out. And so, cynicism and pessimism is a losing format. So what’s the alternative?
Do you have a problem with negative recurring thoughts? Adopting a more positive mindset could be the way to go.
Past research has linked positive thinking and optimism to higher success in better health outcomes, such as success fighting depression, less probability of mortality including cardiovascular, stronger immune system, and even better cancer outcomes.
Recent research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour has found that when a person who meets criteria for a mental health problem, rates their current mental health as ‘positive’, it can predict good mental health in the future, even without treatment. Learning how to be more optimistic in life is a skill well worth pursuing as it maximizes your chances of success.
Why do Optimists succeed in better health outcomes?
The benefits of positive thinking cannot be under-estimated. Some benefits include:
Optimists are more action-focused
A Study shows that they are more inclined to take action and to use more appropriate coping strategies.
They are more resilient
According to a study published in Clinical Psychology Review, optimism is closely linked to resilience. Optimistic people have a tendancy to “shrug off” stress, indicates a 2015 study published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
They are more likely to have a healthy lifestyle
Optimism in a study was correlated with healthy behaviours such as abstaining from smoking, drinking alcohol moderately, walking briskly and exercising regularly, regardless of demographical factors, current psycho-physical conditions and body mass.
How to become optimistic – 5 Steps
1. Regularly check in with your thinking
Become aware of your thoughts. Stand back from them and understand what your brain is thinking.
2. Understand that your unconscious thinking has been designed by your past experiences
Your brain wants to protect you when it triggers or re-triggers negative thoughts. Recognise that by over-protecting you your brain is not designed to optimize your thinking for achieving your best possible outcome.
3. Take control and re-create your thoughts.
Take control on a conscious level. For the greatest outcome, the mind must be disciplined.
4. Choose to give more importance to the thoughts that you want to.
Put more focus on them and repeat them in your head. Visualise how it could be better – sense it feel it, try and engulf yourself in the experience and emotion of what that would feel like or what are the next steps that I should take.
5. Expect the process to be tough.
After discipling yourself time after time, eventually these will become automatic. Remember you are trying to re-program a mind that has been conditioned to think the same thought for the past number of years. Force it to change time after time and you will get there.
How to be more optimistic – 3 additional habits that help
1. Visualization – to keep you excited about the future & to shape the future you
Visualize the “best possible you” for a couple of minutes every morning. To be most effective, you need to be very specific in your visualization, with details about the exact personality traits that you will have, where you are, who you are with & what you are doing in this successful future.
In a past study, one group of people who engaged in the five minute thought exercise of positively thinking about their future selves were compared to a group who just imagined their typical daily activities. Participants in the first group significantly increased their optimism both after the first day, and after two full weeks.
2. Gratitude – to keep you excited about the present
Each night (or morning) take a couple of minutes to write about the things that you are grateful for. Also, express gratitude about the things that you have done well today.
One study focused on asking groups to write a few sentences on their week each week. After 10 weeks, the group that wrote with gratitude were more optimistic and felt much better. Their health reflected this – they exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on things that aggravated them.
Acknowledging your progress with your daily goals will help you to develop self-confidence and self-belief, which will serve to re-inforce your optimism.
3. For best results, combine Optimism with Realism
Finally, when facing a difficult situation, do your best to cultivate the positive filter. But do balance that out with a realitic outlook by maintaining “a clear-eyed view of reality” – this means emphasizing what you can control in the situation.
People who have the positive attitude of optimists paired with the rational outlook of realists tend to be happier and more successful in facing the challenge, according to research done by psychologist Sophia Chou at Taiwan National University.
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