Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Think Like an Optimist

"I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else." Winston Churchill

One thing I’ve really come to understand over the past few years is how very important it is to have an optimistic attitude no matter the situation. Everyone is fighting their own battles and I’ve had my fair share of them in recent history. While everyone needs to fall apart sometimes and cry, looking at everything with an optimistic attitude makes such a difference. It’s the difference between saying “Poor me” and “Well, that is unfortunate.” It’s the difference between waiting for the next thing to go wrong and knowing everything will be okay. It's the difference between being Debbie Downer and Positive Paula.

Is it always easy to be optimistic? No. I think for a lot of people, it’s easier to assume the worst, to complain, to have a negative outlook. It may take some self motivation, but we all have the ability to snap out of a pessimistic attitude and think like an optimist. I’ve found a few simple strategies for helping me maintain a positive outlook. They work for me, so they may work for you, too.

Here they are:

Listen to Colbie Caillat
I call this my happy music. Her music sends a positive message and has a way of giving you a sunny, upbeat, positive attitude. I recommend, "Think Good Thoughts," “Dream Life, Life,” and “Bubbly.” If those don’t put you in a happy mood, you are a lost cause.

"Count your rainbows, not your thunderstorms."
This is one of my very favorite quotes, but it's something I really do when it seems like everything is going wrong. Once you start naming the wonderful things in your life, you’re problems won’t seem so big anymore.

Surround yourself with positive people
My father always used to tell us, “You are the company you keep.” While he was usually saying that so we didn’t hang with the wrong crowd in high school, it rings true here. Nothing brings you down more than having negative people around you. Try to surround yourself with friends and family who lift you up, not bring you down.

Get some distance
They say you shouldn’t run away from your problems, but I really think taking a step back from whatever issues you are dealing with helps. Every problem seems a lot worse when it feels like you are facing it day in and day out. Taking some time away, physically or mentally can help you regroup and get a new perspective. You’ll probably even realize things aren’t as bad as you thought they were once you take a step back.

You are probably wondering why dancing is my solution to everything, but just listen for a minute, okay? When you let loose and dance, you can’t help but feel free and happy…even if you aren’t good at it. And if you can feel that happy and free by simply cutting a rug, you can definitely change your attitude and find happiness in any challenging situation.

Take it one day at a time
When you are feeling sad or stressed out, it can feel as though you’ll never be okay again. It’s hard to imagine days, weeks, months down the road where everything is better. Try thinking on a smaller scale. Focus on getting through and making the best of each individual day, rather than how you are going to feel a month from now. Without realizing it, you’ll start to feel more optimistic and in control.

Get it out of your system
Sometimes it takes a particular activity to shake off the negativity. Whether it is exercise, writing, screaming, meditating or less healthy options such as drinking or breaking things, something is bound to help you release that negative energy. Find what works for you and do that when you feel like negativity is taking over.

Enjoy the simple things
There are a million little things in each day that we often completely overlook because we are so wrapped up in the big things. It is these things that if you slow down and appreciate, your whole attitude will improve. Personally, I absolutely love how I feel after a really good workout, when I’m driving by myself and burst out laughing at something that happened yesterday, talking to my older sister on the phone and hearing my niece and nephew playing in the background and the moment my puppy finally cuddles up in my lap and falls asleep after acting like a maniac for three hours. When the big things don’t seem to be going your way, slow down and soak up the simple pleasures that make up your day.

There you have it. It isn’t what happens to you that defines you, it’s how you deal with it. Everyone falls apart sometimes, but being able to pull yourself back together and move forward with an optimistic attitude can only get you back on the right track faster.

Do you have any tips you would add?