In my last blog post, 7 Ways Optimism Is Good For Your Health, I gave seven reasons to be optimistic, even in difficult situations, based on the findings of various research studies.
It's true that there is a danger to being overly optimistic. It's unproductive to believe that challenges will magically disappear or goals will be manifested without taking any action in the real world. However, being a realistic optimist means that we're aware of the challenges, or we know that action needs to be taken in order to achieve what we want, and we focus on the best actions to take or work at accepting those things that cannot be changed. With an optimistic attitude, we can handle almost any situation if things don't work out the way that we wish. We embrace the idea that "this too shall pass."
Here are six ways to become a realistic optimist:
1. Combine a positive attitude with an honest evaluation of the challenges you may meet along your path. Along with imagining what it is you would like the outcome to be, imagine the steps you will take to overcome the challenges.
2. Expect the unexpected and know that you have the inner tools to deal with unexpected challenges.
3. Don't obsess about unpleasant events. Dr. Martin Seligman, in his book Learned Optimism, suggests doing something you enjoy to take your mind off of the situation and to get yourself back into a better feeling state. Then come back to the situation with a problem-solving attitude. With this approach, you'll be more likely to think of better, more creative solutions.
4. Contribute positively toward someone else's life. When you get yourself out of yourself enough to help someone else, it begins the flow of positive energy. Read my blog, Giving Without Expectation.
5. Humor is another way of completely changing a negative, pessimistic, view into a more positive view. Humor immediately changes your mood and produces feelings of joy, amusement, hope, and confidence. It helps to provide you with a new perspective about problems and stresses. Have you noticed that if you make light of a situation, that situation loses its power to make you feel threatened? My blog, The Power of Humor, addresses how to find humor while in a stressful situation.
6. Finally, following the basics of self-care have an influence on your attitude when faced with a stressful event. For example, exercise and meditation help to release endorphins, thereby creating a more positive attitude. Eating well and sleeping well are both important for positive mood and effective brain functioning to help you to be a better creative problem-solver rather than a pessimist. Check out my radio show interviews with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Scott Stoll, Chef Chad Sarno, Malissa Schwartz, Venus DeMarco, Jeremy Robinson, Quentin Vennie, and Dr. Bruce Meleski for more powerful information on these topics. Also, read more about Food and Mood, Getting to Sleep, and Getting Better Sleep in my blogs on these specific topics.
In the end, the choice of whether to be optimistic or pessimistic is in our own hands. But, the truth is that feeling good feels good! Just don't confuse planning for the worst with expecting the worst.