On Optimism

Photo by  Artem Sapegin

Photo by Artem Sapegin

Finding ways, and reasons, to have more positivity in our vision.

Pessimism is defined as the tendency to see the worst aspects of things or to believe that the worst will happen, bringing about a general lack of hope and confidence in the future.

Sounds bleak…

Conversely, optimism appears a hell of a lot more appealing—it combats depression and anxiety, cultivates feel-good relationships with others, and improves our ability to cope with situations that we perceive as difficult.

Optimism is closely linked to resilience, and has been shown to work even with particularly traumatized individuals.

And though linked, optimism isn’t the same as happiness.

“Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you ignore life’s stressors. You just approach hardship in a more productive way…”

Kimberly Hershenson

This pragmatic insight helps in my endeavor to incorporate this practice into my life; I do my best to be fiercely optimistic every day (especially in the areas where, historically, I haven’t been).

Be optimistic about your vision for life

As the only conscious beings whose experience is colored by the concept of “time”, we humans spend an awful lot of time thinking about ourselves and our lives’ trajectory.

And for something that occupies so much of our headspace, it’s important to ask ourselves where there is room for optimism in our vision for our lives.

I, for example, spend a lot of time worrying about the future.

Many of these worries and personal quirks tend to be fear-based and predicated on the belief that everything won’t be “okay” in my life.

And while there is absolutely no way to predict how things will turn out, there are two things that optimism helps me to remember:

  1. I can control how I react to situations. Through personal practices like meditation, I’m reminded that there is room to be optimistic because no matter what happens “to” me, I can control how I react and respond. I can choose to see what I perceive to be challenges and hardships as opportunities for growth. We have the capacity to adopt objectivity and observation around what happens to us, no matter how difficult that may seem in the moment.

  2. There’s no reason not to be optimistic. There is absolutely no reason, no matter how rational our thoughts may at times seem, to assume that things won’t work out.

Try Being Optimistic About Something New

Every day, I try to be optimistic in a new way.

In the days where I didn’t like my job, for example, I found that waking up seemed like a chore because of the mindset that I was perpetuating.

So I got into the practice of considering that, just maybe, today would be the best day ever. Perhaps I would find meaning and inspiration in my work, as well as new ways to be content and present despite going about the same tasks.

And, because I was training my mind to look for the positives, I realized that I began to do just that.

I started to learn more and appreciated the skills I was developing that hadn’t been apparent (perseverance, discipline, connecting with people that were a lot different than me…).

I started cherishing the little things: I found joy in playing office ping pong, in eating the free snacks, and in being around driven people.

Simply put, life’s a lot better this way…

So How Can We Be More Optimistic?

Photo by  Pablo Heimplatz

Remember: Everything Changes

“The only thing that is constant is change.”

-Heraclitus

When in seemingly negative situations, remembering that everything changes can help us find acceptance for whatever sensations we’re experiencing. And with this realization of everything passing, we can be more optimistic about the moments to come.

Be Grateful

“The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”

-Zig Ziglar

Contextualizing the wonder of gratitude around being more optimistic, studies have shown that doing things like journaling about what we’re grateful for is linked to greater optimism.

Change How You Start the Day

The time right after we wake can make or break our momentum for optimism throughout the day.

When I visualize my goals, both long and short term, in the morning, I do my best to do so with the expectation that they will actually be achieved.

Regardless of if they are, I feel better.

…and How You End It

Our subconscious is heavily influenced by what we think about before going to sleep, which has significant impacts on our dreams as well as how we wake up.

Getting into an optimistic mindset at night can therefore have massively positive impacts on the next day. To this end, here are some questions that may be helpful to ponder before hunkering down for the night:

Why was today great?

What am I grateful for?

What are my goals, and do I believe I’m going to accomplish them?

Attract Optimism and Surround Yourself With it

“Instead of indulging in social comparisons, start comparing what you are today with what you were yesterday and the day before. This way, you’ll find positivity within and around you, which will inspire you to radiate it.” 
-
Prem Jagyasi

It’s no secret that the people we surround ourselves with significantly impact our lives. But it’s also important to hold ourselves accountable for our own experiences, ensuring that we’re not playing a part in creating co-dependent relationships.

Like attracts like… cultivating optimism within helps us to find it in others.

Thanks for reading!

~Varun