Optimism: More Than A Nice Idea

I have always thought of myself as the kind of person who thinks of the positive side of life. However, a few years ago, I could see that was changing, especially when I was presented with a recommended change. Nope, I thought, here’s all the reasons why this won’t work. Come to find out, a few years later, that this actually had to do with being pessimistic.

Since then, I have worked to become more optimistic about life, in large part just because I want to feel more positive. Come to find out, there are a lot of reasons why this is actually important. I recently read an article on Organic Life about why being optimistic is helpful and how you can work to train your brain to be more optimistic.

Our Brains Are Like Record Players

The first thing to understand is that our brain works like a record player. First, we have to make a “groove”, or in the case a neural pathway, that records how we think about something. Then, our minds keep playing that same track over and over, until we make the effort to change the track.

Optimism Has Many Health Benefits

This really intrigued me being I am on an intentional journey to improve my own health and that of my family. Turns out optimism is linked to lowering depression, which is something I personally battle. That’s a HUGE win for me. However, ask anyone with depression to be optimistic, and they’re likely going to tell you it is not possible.

In addition to helping reduce depression, optimism has also been linked to reducing stress. That also means that it can have positive secondary impact on things like blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and more, being all of these are affected by stress.

Finally, optimistic people have also demonstrated a willingness to put forth more effort in achieving their goals. That means that if you are more pessimistic in life, you are less likely to achieve your dreams.

How To Increase Your Optimism

As much as any of us would like to just wave a magic wand and suddenly be more optimistic, it does take more effort than that. Personally, I think the first step to being more optimistic is to identify those situations in which you are not thinking positively. It is nearly impossible to change a problem if you cannot identify it.

Next, according to a 2007 study published in Nature, using positive imagery can be very helpful to rewiring your mind. Specifically, this means imagining positive future outcomes you are working toward.

Here’s how to get started doing this according to the Organic Life article:

Start by focusing on the “far future,” and think of the best possible outcomes for your social life, your life at home, and your career. Sit down and, for 20 minutes, write in detail about these happy outcomes—what your life would look like, what goals you would have met, how you’d feel about yourself, and so on.

After this initial exercise, spend just five minutes each day imagining that you’ve achieved everything you wrote down. Don’t read what you wrote. Just try to imagine what your life would look like if all those things came true. Do this, and your levels of optimism are bound to soar.

Dealing With The Negative Voices

I personally have found that one of the great challenges to increasing positive imagery are things we tell ourselves. Some refer to this as negative self talk, others as our “negative voices”, or even as the “negative records”. Whatever framing resounds with you, it all means the same thing: we have beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, about why we cannot achieve something.

I read a great book over the summer that I found to work exceptionally well for dealing with this. It is call The Aroma Freedom Technique by Dr. Benjamin Perkus, a clinical psychologist. This method is a very effective combination of neuro linguistic programming (NLP) and aromatherapy.

Make The Choice To Change

As with all changes in your life, it has to start with a choice to change. If you have found you aren’t happy with your life right now, it could be that you need to change your perspective, and consider becoming more optimistic. I hope this information helps you take a step or two along that journey.

Not sure if you are more pessimistic or optimistic? Try this short simple test and get a sense of where you land. At the time of publication, my personal rating was 67% optimistic, 33% pessimistic, which is in the “normal” range. I still have a little work to do to get to a balance I am comfortable with.

Want a short one-on-one conversation to discuss how to become more optimistic? Schedule a call with Josh through the form below.