It can be tough.
It's easy, at times automatic, to look at the world with your glass half empty. Every day you're challenged with deadlines, criticism and a relentless desire to do it all. It's human nature to focus on what has gone wrong.
Perhaps this has led you to have a cloudy view of the present and what the future has in store for you.
Despite our mind's inclination toward the negative, we all know those people who take the tough stuff in stride. And if you're anything like me, you want to harness that power. You want to be one of those who looks at the world through rose colored glasses.
So, how do you start making lemonade out of the lemons that life is throwing at you?
It's easier than you may think.
1. Get your sleep
Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine found that people who don't get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep experience declining levels of optimism and sociability. On the other hand, when the amount of sleep increased, the same participants reported a dramatic improvement of symptoms when they returned to a normal sleep schedule.
The take away? Prioritize your zz's. Shawn Stevenson has a great book, Sleep Smarter, that has 21 steps for getting a good night's sleep. Check it out, it's definitely worth it.
2. Start a gratitude journal
Every day make it a priority to write down 3 things that you are grateful for. When you take time to mindfully recognize gifts, blessings, or things that have just gone well for you, your happiness set point can increase significantly. As your happiness set point increases, it will be easier and more automatic for you to extract the goodness out of each day and each situation that you are faced with.
3. Set an intention for each day
Take time to think of what your best future self looks like. Consider your goals, your dreams, and visualize everything working out for you. Set a small intention to work toward those goals every day. Hold the intention close to your heart as you move throughout your day, allowing it to ground you in times that you feel like your best self is getting away. This simple exercise can improve your mood and your outlook on what the future holds (Littman-Ovadia, 2014).
4. Become attuned to what your mind is telling you
Identify which thoughts are making you feel doom and gloom. Now, examine the thought; is it true? Really…get serious. Is it always true? If there is evidence (I bet there is!) that the thought isn't always true, poke some holes in the story. Counter the thought with positivity and get as realistic as you can. Think of times that the story that your mind is telling you has been disproved. Dr. Martin E P Seligman, a pioneer of positive psychology, talks about this in his book Learned Optimism.
5. Engage with people and hobbies that you enjoy
Simply engaging with others, and in hobbies that you enjoy, can lead to increased experiences of optimism. Why? Because when you're engaged, your mind doesn't have the opportunity to get stuck in that negative thought loop that you've been trying to get out of. When you're stuck in that loop, negative emotions are magnified, taking up your time and energy. Engage more with what is truly important to you in effort to push yourself away from your mind's negative self-talk.
6. Call out your strengths
That's right, you’re a badass! Affirm yourself. Everyday. Unapologetically.
The more you bring your strengths into conscious awareness the more your subconscious will carry out the function of them. Dr. Wayne Dyer stated “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
7. Surround yourself with optimistic people
You know that friend who is constantly talking about how life isn't fair? Who is caught up in criticizing, judging, expecting the worst out of people? It's time to create some distance.
People duplicate the behaviors that they see in their environments. The more you surround yourself with people who view their lives with positive regard, the more you will as well (Seligman, 2006).
The benefits of optimism have been proven in multiple studies over the years. The University of Pennsylvania has found that increased optimism leads to a decrease in anxiety and depression. They also found that the more optimistic people are, the more successful they are (recall #5…the negative thought loops are an energy suck. When you're caught up in those emotions, you don't have as much energy to make moves toward your personal version of success). Optimists also report lower stress levels, stronger immune systems, and an overall decrease in physical health complaints (Seligman, 2006).
So, what are you waiting for?
Grab those rosy colored shades and throw them on. As you can see, it's not as hard as you think.
Seligman, M. E. (2006). Learned Optimism . New York : Vintage Books.
Littman-Ovadia, H., & Nir, D. (2014). Looking forward to tomorrow: The buffering effect of a daily optimism intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9, 122-136.
Sarah is a blogger, therapist and coach. She provides online and in person counseling and coaching out of her office in Horsham, PA. Sarah specializes in working with 20 and 30-something men and women who want to rediscover who they are, tame their worry and start living the life they dream of. To learn more about working with Sarah visit her website at sarahherstichlcsw.com.