Everyone experiences challenges and difficulties in life which result to anger, frustration, disappointments, and the like. Sometimes we can’t avoid negative experiences. But despite hardships, happy individuals seem to get through them easily and bounce back to their happy and healthy life. Whilst it is not possible to avoid pessimism completely, here’s why we should all strive hard to inject optimism in our everyday life.
The Hidden Wonders of Optimism
Optimism has long been linked to low stress levels, whereas pessimism is known to boost the levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream, resulting to poorer immunity and increased risk of health problems. But in what other ways does optimism promote good health?
Mounting evidence suggests that keeping a positive view of life could help people recover faster from surgery and effectively cope with serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, and AIDS.
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published a study showing law students who were optimistic at the beginning of the school year had better functioning immune cells than their worried peers by the middle of the first semester.
Optimism also appears to play a crucial role in helping people cope with the challenges and frustrations, even failures that they experience in life.
The surprising thing is, these difficulties are also necessary for one to cultivate positivity. According to research, kids who are protected from failure and adversity are less likely to develop optimism. It’s because when these children make mistakes and learn from them, they develop the resilience needed to overcome the challenges that likely lie ahead.
How to Become More Optimistic
Being optimistic doesn’t mean we should all interpret each and every calamity as a blessing. It simply means that when calamity does strike, we don’t easily give in; rather, we try to learn from it.
And don’t worry if you find it hard to see the glass half full. There are several ways to cultivate the ‘positive thinker’ in you.
One way is to recognise that your grief and pain, no matter how real and deep they are, are only part of the bigger picture. And that picture also has positive aspects – success, happiness, pleasure, etc. Many people who have developed serious illnesses are still able to find goodness in the painful experiences they have gone through.
For instance, some people who have suffered from life-threatening or incapacitating disease are able to value each day, appreciate the moment, spend more time doing things they are passionate about, inspire others, and get their priorities straight.
Another great strategy to develop optimism is to practice gratefulness. By recognising your strengths, as well as the positive experiences you had, no matter how small they are, you can teach yourself to become optimistic. Let go of the assumption that the world is against you, or you are born ‘loser’.
This assumption has no logical or scientific basis anyway. Furthermore, understand that the past does not equal the future. You may have gone through difficult experiences in the past. But that doesn’t mean that the same events will happen now.
You can also practise positive affirmations. For example, write down at least three statements about what you want to change in your perspectives (e.g. “Anything is possible”, “I can live my life the way I choose to”, “Never say die!”). Put them in places where you can see them every day, such as your computer monitor (you can probably make a desktop background containing these affirmations), on your bathroom mirror, on your door, etc.
You may not be able to change the circumstances in your life today, but you can change your attitude towards them. If you need help, talk to a health professional to know what methods can help you. Hypnotherapy has been shown to rapidly help people develop a more positive outlook in life.
As always I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Clinical Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapist
Part of the Core Health Centre