Did you see the movie The Martian? Its a story about an astronaut who is left behind on the planet Mars and how he copes…how he attempts to survive. I connected with the main character. He was brilliant and clever… but more important to me, he was confident and optimistic. And he didn’t give up hope.
My default setting is optimism – I believe that, no matter what else is going on around me, no matter how dire the circumstances, or grim the outlook…that everything will ultimately be okay.
Because I always expect a favorable outcome, some think I’m out of touch with reality. Others think I’m naive. For me, optimism has nothing to do with either reality or my lack of experience with a situation. It has much more to do with a gut feeling… intuition. Optimism is an internal, preset in my brain that always directs my thoughts toward confidence and faith in the good. And there are a few beliefs and habits I’ve developed to maintain a healthy sense of optimism.
- I believe that love always wins and good is stronger than evil. It may only occur on a micro level, but you can always find the essence of good, in any situation, if you are open to it.
- Along the same lines, even when bad things are happening, there is a simultaneous, counteractive force for the good. Think of a situation, like a house fire or car accident. First responders arrive to help. By standers reach out to assist. Let’s face it, bad stuff is going to happen. It’s part of life. Having people around you to mitigate the loss or help you through it in some way…that’s a very good thing. See the essence of good in everything.
- Stay mindful. Stay present. Stay aware. Don’t allow worry and fear to take hold in your brain. Realize that we only exist from one moment to the next… not in the past or the future. The only life we have is happening right now. Keep the anxiety and worry at bay by keeping your focus on the here and now.
- Cultivate a heart full of gratitude. For me, waking up each day, putting my feet on the floor and having coffee in the coffee pot are at the top my thankfulness list. I’m grateful for my husband, parents, children, food, colleagues, meaningful work, the ability to move, a warm bed, a car that starts when I turn the key…I am blessed and I know it. I will not lose sight of that.
- Take care of your self, mind, body, and soul. Eat whole foods, mostly plants, which are unprocessed and nutrient dense. Move your body; stretch, bend, lift heavy objects, run, swim, dance… whatever it is, keep at it. Pray, meditate or sit and be quiet every day. Make these part of your daily routine. You will feel better physically and your mind will respond with a better, more positive attitude.
- Be a giver. Think outside of yourself and reach out to someone who needs your help. Giving of yourself does as much to help mankind as it does to foster your own sense of humility and gratitude. Give freely without expecting anything in return.
- Smile. You’ve heard it before. Smiling rewires your brain to create positive thought patterns. Smile often and retrain your brain to be happy.
- Live a balanced life. Don’t give in to pressures or people (real or imagined) that throw your life out of balance. Stay healthy (see number 5) and happy to avoid burnout. This will help you maintain an optimistic vibe.
- When problems arise, look for solutions. Don’t consider a problem a roadblock. Rather, consider it a speed bump. Slow down, review your options, think creatively and figure out a new plan.
- Give yourself a pat on the back and rest in the knowledge of a job well done. When you’ve accomplished a task or met a goal, don’t rush right on to the next project. Take time to recognize that you’ve done a good job. You will find that your day is made up of many small successes.
These days optimism is a survival technique as much as is it a mindset. What do you think?