Humans are hardwired to be optimistic. It is the life force that keeps us moving forward and picks us up when we are down. “Optimism allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel, if we hold on to it during the bad times, and the good, life will always seem that little bit brighter. We will always have something to hope for, to strive for and be excited about.” – Amanda Gordon.
Recently I took a holiday to Fiji. That magical place where time slows down and welcoming smiles abound. While feeling relaxed and unwinding, I couldn’t help but notice the joy, delight and positive outlook on life the Fijians tend to show, despite their varied circumstances. Now I know I am generalising, but it is hard not to notice their sense of happiness and the way they try to bestow some of this joyful spirit onto their visitors.
It made me remember how important having a positive and optimistic outlook can be in helping us throughout our lives. Being optimistic doesn’t mean that you are happy and positive all day, everyday. That would be a false and impossible way to live. It is a more general outlook on life, where you will have ups and downs like anyone, however being optimistic provides a strength that you can call upon to help deal with life’s challenges.
Optimism transforms setbacks into learning experiences, and allows us to realise that our worst days will pass, that bad times are always temporary, and tomorrow is a new, and may be a better day.
Being optimistic has numerous benefits for our physical and mental health. Those who are positive have been proven to live longer, can manage pain better, have improved immune and cardiovascular function, and, in general, exhibit greater physical functioning. What’s more, it can lessen the symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve problem-solving capacity and help protect against burnouts.
Tips to becoming more optimistic:
- Mindfulness practice, such as meditation, help focus us on the present, taking us away from the regrets of the past and anxieties about the future. The closer we are to the present, the more appreciative we can be of our lives and the world around us.
- Set aside a few minutes each day to jot down some of the things you are grateful for. Gratitude journals are proven to not only increase our appreciation of life, but make us more optimistic and resilient.
- Writing down your positive thoughts can help decrease mental distress and improve mental well-being.
Although, it is easy to think that optimism is all about the individual – how can I improve? What can I achieve? It is even more powerful if we can channel that energy into our relationships with others, as author John Kessel says, “shared victory is a double victory. Shared defeat is half a defeat.”
Succeeding as part of a team extends beyond the ‘feel good’ factor of teamwork, and makes the achievement more empowering, more memorable, more fun, and more of a victory than if we were to win alone.
Just like I felt in Fiji with a sense of shared joy, basking in the glory of the day with those around me, a positive outlook can do much more than you think. Optimism makes life better for you, and for everyone around you as well.
Want help cultivating a greater sense of optimism in your life? Reach out to Armchair Psychology today for a free 10 minute chat.
About Amanda Gordon
Over her more than 30 years in practice, Amanda has assisted literally thousands of people to understand and manage their feelings and to make positive life choices.
Amanda has an innate ability to translate psychological wisdom into practical life skills. Highly relatable, Amanda is experienced in helping people deal with the full range of life crises, including managing relationships, coping with grief and loss, dealing with stress and managing change. She works with individuals, couples and families, helping them enrich their lifestyle and their effectiveness in the world.