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  • Writer's pictureThrive Well

Encouraging Optimism

Optimism is a wonderful thing. A true optimist can have his arm chopped off and walk away smiling about the fact that nobody will ask him if he’s right-handed any more. Many people assume that this is an innate trait which certain people possess, a talent which is defined at birth. Certain babies must be born with smiles already spread wide across their lips, as opposed to with the usual screams, this theory dictates. It’s not quite as simple as that. In the same way that a trained photographer can see all the beauty in a landscape, a trained optimist can see all the joy in life. All it takes is the application of a few simple techniques, and you too can be one of those weirdos grinning widely as they walk down the street.

So why become an optimist? Everyone likes them to start. Everyone likes being happy after all, and emotions are well known to be contagious. It’s very difficult to continue frowning around someone who’s chirruping away contentedly. What’s more, being around people makes you more like them. This means that if you spend time around a happy optimist, you’re also more likely to become happy and optimistic. People like this.

Along with the social benefits which are provided, you can also expect to see an increase in productivity. Confident people achieve more, and happiness correlates with confidence. These two effects combine to make you into a much more effective socially integrated worker, who people want to work around, and who works well. Effectively, your job prospects go through the roof.

Let’s lay to rest some fallacious assumptions regarding optimists. Primary amongst these is the assumption that optimists are always happy. This is not the case. There is no such thing as a perpetually happy individual; it’s a biological impossibility. Instead, optimists are the kind of people who understand exactly how and when moments of despondency can strike, and are able to divert their mental course more quickly than others. More importantly, optimists do not dwell on their negative emotional responses, and are adept at recognizing them.

Once an optimist has recognized a negative emotional response, they undertake healthy strategies to mitigate the impact to themselves. These strategies vary according to the individual, however one ubiquitous manner of challenging negative emotions is exercise. The endorphin rush and feeling of success experienced at the end of exercise can easily knock people out of depressive slumps.

There are numerous strategies optimists employ to be able to interpret negative experiences into positive ones. The primary amongst these is to view setbacks as challenges. Why bother bemoaning an issue, when really all it’s doing is training you to be able to withstand more? This isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity for growth! These may seem to be hackneyed phrases, used by only the most gleefully sadistic of officeroom bosses, but in reality, each holds more than a grain of truth. By recognizing that life is full of hardship, and the more of this you encounter, the more you’ll be able to handle it, you begin to adapt yourself to an outlook which values hardship in the same way that a marathon runner values practice laps around a track.

Another very useful trick used by optimist, is the appreciation of small details. Isn’t the sky a lovely shade of blue today? The moment something small appears to be worthy of a smile, or even just a slight mental eyebrow raise, they’re in tune to these positive responses and focus on them so as to heighten their sensitivity to stimuli which are likely to make them happy.

The final defining feature of optimists is their refusal to view the world in black and white. Absolutist statements are the enemy of an optimistic mind, and will lead those who resort to such statements to believe that the state of things are often much worse than they actually are. If you’re willing to realize that just because it rains it doesn’t automatically make the day a bad one, then you’re in a much better place to recognize all the little things which made the day a good one.

It takes effort to escape from negative thoughts, and it can be difficult to relinquish negative emotions, as people are programmed to notice negative thoughts much more than they notice positive ones. Despite this, optimism is a powerful mindset which aids those who adopt it in not only increasing their productivity but also making happier as they do so.

Having trouble being optimistic? We can help.

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