The dog is barking, everyone is sleeping in late, and now the family is having problems logging into their remote classes. Your husband is asking why there is no milk for his coffee and your hair is standing in a million different directions for the video conference call you have with a client in 20 minutes. With a morning like this, it is hard to think that this is going to be a good day. However yet, some people will look at this challenging day and try to get through it with a smile, maybe joking along the way about their hair looking straight out of the 1980s.
Optimism is something we envy right now, but we need it as we go into the winter pandemic months. When we see someone display optimism, we perceive it as a very admirable quality. There are some people who are over the top with their optimism and positivity; they display this through their over-the-top posts and their constant bragging. Optimism does not have to be Pollyanna-like or what they are terming #fakepositivity (that everything is perfect, sunny and great like T-shirts that scream “Positive Vibes Only”). We all need to achieve more realistic optimism by simply hoping for better things to come in the future. This is done by being more realistic with our optimism, and trying to alter our mindset to look at life with a more upbeat attitude. By maintaining a more positive outlook, we are lowering our cortisol levels and cultivating better mental and physical health. Additionally, being optimistic will help us in the long run by enabling us to live healthier and longer.
Collectively, I think we all need to take small steps to practice realistic optimism in our daily lives. We can also spread some of this optimism and positivity to our friends, family, and greater community. However, with negative messages around us and the stressors of this pandemic, this goal can be very challenging to accomplish. As 2020 fades into the distance, 2021 will be our year to adopt an optimistic attitude.
With that in mind, here are the top 10 ways to build a little optimism into your life:
1. Think of three things that you are grateful for every morning. If this is challenging, put a spin on it and think of three things that make you happy.
2. Start reframing your negative thoughts into positive ones. I know that this one is the hardest one to do, but start easy with thoughts on little things in your life, rather than the big issues. This one takes time and practice. Instead of commenting on how terrible the weather is, we can say that this is a good day to get cozy and stay inside.
3. Connect with friends and family and point out the positive things in their lives. It’s nice to help others and allow them to see the good in their situations. Plus, it’s great practice for your own optimism.
4. Find a “positive” role model and emulate them.
5. Visualize yourself as being more positive.
6. Have a positive affirmation or motto like “I know this will work out,” “This is heading in the right direction,” or “I’ve got this.”
7. Practice optimism with the things you can control in your life.
8. Give authentic compliments to others as a way to spread positivity.
9. Surround yourself with things that bring you comfort and joy in your home and office. Soft socks, freshly baked cookies, fresh flowers, or plants may make you feel more content and, in turn, more optimistic about that moment and day.
10. Listen to podcasts about optimism such as the “Road to Resilience” or “Looking Up with Dr. Deepika Chopra” that both share stories on the resilience of optimism.
Think of optimism as a muscle: by exercising it, you will build it. As we know with exercise itself, this process takes hard work and dedication, but the emotional and physical benefits of optimism are entirely worth it.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather Zuckerman, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Garrison, NY. She specializes in life transitions and the issues that accompany them. For more information go to www.heatherzuckerman.com., Instagram: @heathertherapy and Facebook: Heather Zuckerman Therapy.