1. Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist?
Psychologists determine optimistic
and pessimistic character based on a person’s explanatory style when
describing an unfortunate event. The explanatory style has three parts:
“Studies show that optimists enjoy better general health than pessimists.”
• The internal/external
explanation. Optimists tend to believe that external factors cause
misfortune, while pessimists tend to blame themselves (the internal
• The stable/unstable explanation.
Optimists tend to see misfortune as unstable or temporary, while
pessimists tend to see misfortune as stable or permanent.
• The global/specific explanation.
Optimists tend to see problems as specific to a situation, while
pessimists tend to see problems as global—that is, unavoidable and
How does an optimist body
differ from a pessimist body? Profoundly. Studies show that optimists
enjoy better general health, a stronger immune system, faster surgical
recovery, and longer life than pessimists.
2. Try Optimism Therapy
Optimism therapy is like an attitude
adjustment but focused on reframing responses as an optimist. Optimism
may have a reputation as a deluded view of the world through
rose-colored glasses, but, actually, optimists are happier and healthier
because they tend to assume they have control over their lives, while
pessimists tend to feel that life controls them. Optimists are more
likely to engage in positive behaviors such as exercising and eating
well. Pessimists may adopt a fatalistic attitude that what they eat or
how much they exercise doesn’t matter anyway, so they might as well do
what is easiest.
3. See the Glass as Half Full
But what if you are a pessimist? Can
you change? Yes. You just need to engage in a little optimism therapy!
Studies show that smiling, even when you aren’t happy, can make you feel
happy. Pretending to be an optimist can actually make you feel like one
and can help your body learn to respond like an optimist, too.
If your pessimism is temporary or
recent, you can probably help yourself through your own personal
optimism therapy sessions. At the beginning of each day, before you get
out of bed, say one of these affirmations out loud several times:
• “No matter what happens today, I won’t judge myself.”
• “Today I will enjoy myself in healthy ways.”
• “No matter what happens around me, this will be a good day.”
Then, choose one single
area or part of your day and vow to be an optimist in that area only.
Maybe you’ll choose lunchtime, or the staff meeting, or the time with
your kids before dinner. During that period, every time you begin to
think or say something pessimistically, immediately replace the words or
thought with something optimistic.
4. Are You in a Negative-Thinking Rut?
Negativity is a huge drain on your
energy and exacerbates any stress in your life, magnifying it until it
seems huge and uncontrollable. Many people are in the negativity habit.
It may be a habit brought on by lots of past suffering, and that’s
perfectly understandable. But it can stop right now. Even in suffering,
you don’t have to be negative. Some people remain positive through
tragedy; others despair. What’s the difference? Attitude.
5. Identify Negativity Triggers
Once you know what kinds of
things trigger your negativity, you can begin to catch yourself in the
act. When something unexpected happens, do the first words out of your
mouth tend to be a frantic “Oh NO!”? If so, stop yourself after that
first “Oh.” Notice what you are doing. Tell yourself, “I don’t have to
respond this way. I should wait and see if a full-blown, all-out ‘Oh NO’
is really warranted.” This stopping of your thought process and your
negative reaction can help you be more objective and, eventually, more
positive about any situation. Even if, after stopping, you realize that
an “Oh NO” really is warranted, you won’t be crying wolf at every little mishap.
6. Kick the Negativity Habit
Just like any habit, the more you get
used to halting your negative reactions and replacing them with neutral
or positive reactions, the less you’ll find yourself reacting
negatively. Instead of “Oh NO,” react with silence, taking a
wait-and-see attitude. Or, react with an affirmation: “Oh . . . I can
learn something positive from this!”
You might encounter obstacles along
the way, and that’s to be expected. But even if a negative attitude is
comforting in some ways, is it worth the drain on your energy and
happiness? Keep working through it, and you’ll get there.
7. Consider Autogenic Training
Autogenic training, or autogenics,
was designed to reap the benefits of hypnosis without the need for a
hypnotist or the time typically involved in a hypnosis session.
Autogenics uses a relaxed position and the verbal suggestion of warmth
and heaviness in the limbs to induce a state of deep relaxation and
Autogenics have been used to treat
muscle tension, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, irregular heartbeat,
high blood pressure, headaches, thyroid problems, anxiety,
irritability, and fatigue. It can also increase your stress resistance.