Is your glass half empty or half full? Both perspectives are true; it just depends on how you choose to look at it. Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist depends on your thought patterns and has a huge impact on your outlook and success in life. An optimist has hopefulness and confidence about the future and a belief in a successful outcome. Their conversations focus on gratitude, positive plans and how things can only get better. Pessimists are more likely to become depressed when bad events occur; they generally do worse at school, sports, and most jobs; they have poorer physical health and rockier relationships. The pessimist perceives life negatively and worries about all the things that might go wrong or what might be taken away from them by some cruel twist of fate.
A major influence on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist is your “explanatory” style in life; the way you interpret or explain events in your life as either positive or negative. Psychologists have identified three factors in explanatory style:
Personal – This involves how you explain the cause of an event. Pessimists tend to blame themselves for negative events and believe that such events will continue indefinitely and affect many aspects of their lives. Example: “I always forget to make that turn” (internal) as opposed to “That turn can sure sneak up on you” (external).
Permanent -This involves how you explain the extent of the cause. Pessimist view a situation as unchangeable, rather than simply a setback or a onetime occurrence e.g., “I always lose my keys”.
Pervasive – This involves how you explain the extent of the effects. Pessimist see a situation as affecting all aspects of life, e.g., “I can’t do anything right” or “Everything I touch seems to turn to gold”. In this case, the impact of the event increases over time and the person will obsess about the event and increase a negative outlook.
Learn to become an Optimist! If you are a pessimist, first recognize it and admit it is ineffective behavior. You want to eliminate rumination, those recurring, brooding thoughts that stay stuck in your mind. To become more optimistic, you will want to compartmentalize the problem by giving it a specific amount of time and energy and then re-focus your thoughts. An easy way to become an optimist is to take conscious steps to eliminate your negativity by replacing it with the positive strategies below:
1. Stop your Thoughts. When you find yourself ruminating, envision a red STOP sign and simply say the word “STOP”. Take 3 slow deep breaths and re-focus your attention back to the present moment. You could focus on a bird singing, the dinner that you are making, or the license plate on the car in front of you. Your mind can only center on one thing at a time. When you consciously focus on the present moment, you are able to banish the negative thought.
2. Tap your strengths. Make a list of activities, behavior and tactics that you already use that keep you positive. When you find yourself moving toward pessimism, take out your list and do one of your activities. Is there is a hobby that relaxes you? Is there a person who brings you joy? If so, try to get to it as soon as possible. When I wake up in a funk, I deliberately wear a fun outfit because it makes me happy and shifts my mood.
3. Move. Your body’s movement is its natural way of transferring energy. Although it is the last thing you may feel like doing, even the slightest movement will help shift your mood. Start by making small, simple movements such as swinging your arms or moving your torso. The difference can be felt immediately. You can also get outside and breathe, go for a walk, or do some vigorous exercise.
4. Develop an “Oasis”. Create a “space”, whether it is physical or in your imagination, where you can go and relax. I have a “prayer” corner in my kitchen. In has a rocking chair surrounded by windows that look out into my backyard. It is my positive place where I sit and rejuvenate. I sit in this spot most mornings and eat breakfast and try to go there whenever I am stressed.
Is your glass half empty or half full? The choice is up to you. Make the decision to take control of the way you look at life! A first step is simply to notice your negative feelings or thoughts without judgment then focus your attention on something equally true and positive. Learn to dwell on the pleasant regularly and use your imagination to rehearse success. Add positive, productive actions to your optimism and see the affirmative response from the Universe. Expect the best out of life and I am positive you too can become an Optimist.
1. Where can you create an “oasis”?
2. Name 3 activities that make you happy.
Author’s note: As is my practice, I will be taking the summer off to STOP my hectic lifestyle, TAP INTO MY STRENGTHS and MOVE in order to be renewed and refreshed for you in September. Have a great summer!