I’ve been consciously trying to stay positive these last few weeks. News of the resurgence of the virus, depressing talk of more lockdown and the cancellation of our winter break have all put this to the test.
I found this article on the increasingly ‘go-to’ restless.co.uk website for the over 50s by Elise Christian really helpful and I wanted to share the best bits.
Life is full of ups and downs, and being able to remain optimistic can help you to move through even some of the darkest times. Optimism is not about seeing rainbows and butterflies around every corner, but allowing us to learn from situations, find small positives and see new opportunities – even when things get tough.
It’s often assumed that optimistic people were simply born or raised that way – but it’s a skill that people can learn and develop at any age.
Optimism describes a person’s ability to be able to have hope and confidence in the outcome of a situation, even in the face of adversity. Optimists can generally extract the positives from all kinds of situations, and tend to believe that a situation is more likely to have a good outcome, than a bad one. Research has shown that optimistic behaviour can lead to:
- Increased engagement in healthy behaviours, such as exercise and eating a balanced diet.
- A decrease in unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and excessive drinking.
- Better quality sleep.
- An increased ability to deal with stress and setbacks in life.
- A greater social network – as people tend to enjoy spending more time with optimists than pessimists.
1. Everyday, write down what you are grateful for
It’s not unusual for one negative thought to lead to another, and before we know it we are caught in a spiral of pessimistic thoughts and are struggling to see a way forward. One way to break this cycle and to inject a little positivity into your life, is to write down at least one thing that you’re grateful for each day. This could be anything; from the roof over your head, to your friend on the other end of the phone, through to the sunshine peeking through your blinds in the morning.
2. Try to see your outlook as a choice
It’s easy to become so used to thinking negative thoughts, that we forget that there is any other way of thinking; but there is. We have many choices in life and optimism is one of them. In the same way that you can choose whether to spend the evening chatting to a friend on the phone, or catching up on your favourite TV show with a glass of wine – we can also choose whether to have positive or negative thoughts. In difficult times, it can be hard to accept that we can change our thought patterns, even if we can’t change what’s happening to us – but once we do, it’s much easier to start practising optimism – in the same way that we would any other skill.
3. Acknowledge negative thoughts
If you want to steer away from any existing patterns of negative thoughts, then it can be helpful to acknowledge them as they enter your mind – this can help stop them circling around. The key here isn’t to banish any negative thoughts entirely, but to not let these negative thoughts impose too heavily on your general wellbeing and stop you from moving forward.
4. Imagine a positive future
Sometimes it can be scary to allow yourself to think too positively about the future because you’re worried about being disappointed, getting let down, or about things not working out that way. It’s common for us to think that setbacks may hit us less hard if we’ve mentally prepared ourselves for the worst-case scenario.
The reality is that nothing in life is certain and that if we always catastrophise situations and plan for the worst, we could actually help to create some of the outcomes we fear without meaning to. The mind is incredibly powerful, and in many cases, how we visualise our futures can actually contribute to the outcome itself.
5. Spread positivity
Making others feel positive, can in turn affect your own outlook This doesn’t mean that you should strive to constantly please others. But making an effort to give someone a compliment, or telling a loved one how much you appreciate them can make a big difference to how they feel.
And whilst it’s good to make others feel good, don’t forget to give yourself some praise too. At the end of every day, try to spend a few minutes reflecting on how the day went and give yourself some credit – even for the little things.
6. Spend time around positive people
Whether we realise it or not, the company we keep can have a significant impact on the way we view life. If we spend time around pessimistic people who frequently express negative thoughts, then it’s easy to adopt some of these thoughts as our own – or just end up feeling more negative about the world in general. Negativity is highly contagious, so consider spending less time with people that bring you down, and more time with people who are pragmatic, proactive and positive. You might be surprised at how much more energised you feel as a result!