Many people seem to think that optimists are people who just ignore bad things in life and avoid problems altogether. That’s not the case at all. In fact, in actuality, it’s the complete opposite.
People who have an optimistic way of looking at their world actually run toward the challenges in their lives because they know there’s a solution to every problem.
With the rise of terms like “positive thinking,” on the surface, it can almost seem like unrealistic optimism. But with a deeper look into newer research stemming from positive psychology, it’s a mindset that scientists acknowledge can maximize your potential in every aspect.
For example, studies have shown that optimists take fewer sick days, get more job offers, are better at bouncing back from failure, and are healthier. Being equipped with this mindset allows you to create sustainable success for the long haul.
In Martin Seligman’s book Learned Optimism, a British study looked at sixty-nine women with breast cancer for five years. It concluded that the women who did not suffer a recurrence tended to be those who responded to cancer with a “fighting spirit.”
Specifically, this research highlights a newer science called Psychoneuroimmunology, which studies how your nervous system influences your immune system. To put this simply, how your thoughts affect the human body.
In other words, your thoughts can physically make you sick. Or your thoughts can physically make you healthy.
How you think determines just about every aspect of your life. Martin Seligman, who’s been called the father of positive psychology, says that learning to be optimistic is a vital way to help maximize your mental health and live a better life.
It all begins with the story that you tell yourself in day-to-day life. You can look at a life situation as if the cup is half full or half empty.
This is a choice we have; however, since most of us have been conditioned into what scientists call “negativity bias,” our brains tend to focus on what’s going wrong in our lives instead of what’s going right.
As Seligman says,
“Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.”
Weathering the storm to advance toward your goals despite the continuous setbacks is the one essential skill that can determine your success in your professional goals, relationships, and health.
The great thing about becoming optimistic, it’s a skill that can be learned. Just like riding a bike or driving a stick shift, once you learn it, it becomes easier the next time you practice it.
When deliberately practiced long enough, you build a habit, and the behavior can become unconscious. This means it doesn’t require the same amount of mental energy as it did the first time you started. You’ve gotten so good that it requires little to no conscious thought.
Science is now telling us that by consciously altering your thinking, you can literally rewire the structure of your brain.
Changing the story you tell yourself each day and seeing the glass half full rather than half empty is just like a muscle that can be reinforced for your desired result in the future.
As Winston Churchill says, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
If you’re looking to gain your edge and build an indestructible optimistic mindset to improve the results in your life, here are a couple of things you can try:
Recognize the good that’s happening in your life
Began to notice good things that happen in life and relish them. Good things happen to us all the time, but we unconsciously look past them. Once you notice these seemingly small victories in your life, you will train your brain to recognize more of them.
When something goes wrong in your life, remember it’s not permanent.
Things always come up. It’s inevitable. The best thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge the discomfort you are feeling but don’t ruminate on it. Situations in life are never permanent unless you give up. People who are optimists believe that the causes of bad events are temporary. Always remember that someone has found a solution for what you are going through.
Don’t wallow when bad events arise. Do something.
When disappointments, stagnation, or negative emotions arise, it can be easy to curl up in a ball and do nothing. The best thing you can do for your brain and body is to exercise, meditate, or talk to someone. Exercising can transform your entire psychological state in less than a few minutes. Meditation can alleviate stress and talking to a friend can pull you out of a mental rut and provide a healthy third-party perspective of your situation.