Optimism and Wellbeing

Optimism is about having a positive outlook for the future. Optimism is having the belief that this future will be positive.

Optimism reflects hope and faith which in turn promotes a perception that world is and can be a better place to live in. If we focus on what is good about a situation and how to do things better, having this optimism releases stress from within our body. The release of stresses associated with negativity, enables us to live a more manageable existence, confident that the future will be positively good.

Are people naturally optimistic or pessimistic and can we change? When a child is born, they immediately learn how to survive through interactions with theircaregiver. The infant then learns more by imitation, while listening and observing these behaviours. Their immediate upbringing affects how the child will view their world as they develop, and increasingly as they mature through their teens into adulthood, it is only then that independent choice comes into focus. They will already have experienced life challenges and will perceive their world as either negative or positive in this respect. Therefore this time period of life will shape whether they have a predominantly pessimistic or optimistic worldview.

Can people change? Yes! Even if a person was brought up to think more pessimistically about life, certain situations can alter their perceptions and encourage a viewpoint of looking at the positive areas of living.

We see and read about life-changing events that change people’s perceptions every other day, sometimes called ‘miracles’. There are ways that you can help yourself, by trying to see the good in everything around us. An optimist focuses on the positive aspects of a situation; for example –

If you struggle physically to walk outside your home, the optimist would say that you are able to walk, and even a little distance is better than none at all. The optimist will praise you for having the ability to walk, and encourage you to try a little more each day.

You are stuck in a traffic jam and getting stressed out you will be late to work. An optimist would think that the traffic will eventually sort itself out, and there was no point worrying about being late, as they would call their work to explain the situation and suggest ways to make up the lost time.

An optimist is naturally confident and often takes the lead by in social interactions. A rainy day does not deter an optimist who may say it is a good day for the ducks, or for the flowers who need watering. And so on. Are you this person, or do you know someone who is an optimist?

What steps can you take to increase your optimism?

You could surround yourself with positive people; ones that try to see the world in a positive light and do not dwell on negative experiences.

Try to use positive language, so instead of saying you cannot do something, say that you will try to do it or look for ways to get help to achieve a task.

Instead of accepting that you have been dealt a bad hand in life, look for ways to improve your situation; this may involving others to help you find positive ways to discover solutions.

There is no magic wand available to suddenly alter your life and make everything positive with no illness or stress, however through determination and practice, you can gradually change your way of thinking, while looking for the good, instead of dwelling on the negative of your life.

Optimism increases your chances of living a healthier life and living longer. There are numerous studies on the association of being optimistic and improving your wellbeing. One study that I found very informative in this respect can be read here National Library of Medicine . The article should take around 10 minutes to read. Try reading the Abstract then the Conclusions for a quicker read, as this gets to the point I am talking about anyway!

When you are feeling stressed and get stuck in a negative cycle of energy sapping behaviours, your body is affected by the psychological impact, and illness within often follows.

When you are happier and more optimistic about life, your brain releases chemical hormones like Dopamine and Serotonin. These are very useful in having a healthy lifestyle, therefore being optimistic and happy will provide you with more positive benefits as shown below.

SerotoninDopamine
An inhibitory neurotransmitterAn excitatory neurotransmitter
Regulate MoodRegulate Motivation
Associated with feelings of happiness, focus and calmAssociated with feelings of rewards, motivation, and being productive
Contributes to sleep and digestionImportant for normal movement and balance

Positive Psychology and the study of your strengths, assets and positive attributes all combine to make for a healthier lifestyle and you will become more optimistic as a person. This is a strategy that is being accepted as a valuable tool to replace some drugs, however as I am not a medical professional, this is a subject best left to your GP. I often integrate Positive Psychology into my approaches and the outcomes I have witnessed to date have been very successful for clients. You can read more on my page, Positive Psychology here (link is part of this website).

One last piece if advice if you want to put this optimistic attitude to the test. Will you smile? Try it now….Yes a big smile, as wide as you can, showing your teeth, and holding this smile for 20 seconds, even opening your eyes as wide as they can go. Imagine a photograph for a wedding or a prize giving….and now that is 20 seconds gone. Why you ask?

A simple smile releases the chemical hormones mentioned above, Dopamine and Seratonin, into your body, giving you an instant release of ‘happiness’, of Wellbeing, reducing stress levels and increasing your life expectancy. I will expand on this in the near future, so look out for the post.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share a smile today!

Steve

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