5 Tips Towards Optimism (No Fluff)

Dr Ivan Joseph
November 30, 2020

When I was a kid, I loved reading the Winnie-the-Pooh series by A. A Milne. The adventures happening in the Hundred Acre Woods were always enough to hold me and make time fly.  And while most folks loved Winnie or Christopher Robin, I was always a fan of Tigger, followed closely by Eeyore.

 

Tigger was filled with great energy and optimism and was always ready for a new adventure. Eeyore, well…not so much.  He was a pessimistic, gloomy, old grey donkey who seemed to always be focused on the half empty bit of life.

 

I have often found myself thinking of these two characters these past few months and reflecting on which one do I most resemble. There is a lot happening in our world as we are in the midst of a global pandemic and just finishing off an intense political season. I find myself sometimes being overly pessimistic and have to work hard to turn my focus away from what is wrong in our world during these challenging times.

Optimists are hopeful. They are not easily deterred. I believe that Optimism, like Self-Confidence, is a skill that can be learned and mastered. I work diligently on being an optimist and trying to cultivate happiness as much as I can. Now don’t get me wrong, just because you heard my definition of optimism and think you’re hopeful and confident about the future, doesn’t mean successful things are going happen just because you put them out into the universe. You can’t just sit there on your chair and wish for things to change. Optimists plan a course of action, seek advice from others, focus on solutions, and cultivate their own happiness.
Here are five simple steps inspired by renowned Psychologist Martin Seligman to help you grow your happiness which in turn helps build your Optimism.

1)   Pursue Pleasure.

Pleasure is about joy, contentment, gratitude. Pleasure creates positive emotions. Pleasure increases the numbers of thoughts available to each individual and the number of actions they are willing to engage in at any given moment.

Think about what that means; right now, people who seek and pursue pleasure, have more ideas, more thoughts and are more willing to act. All of a sudden that means you have faster learning and greater intellectual and social resources at your disposal to accomplish the task at hand.

Take a moment to reflect on things that you look forward to doing each day, week or month. Stop and take the moment to prioritize these events into your calendar as must do events.

2) Find your Flow.

Have you ever been somewhere where you just say: “Wow, time flies!” Or have you ever felt the inverse where you are immersed in a task and time has just moved glacially slow? When you are participating in something that is engaging and rewarding for you, time often feels like it goes by in a blink of an eye. The inverse is also true for tasks that are not rewarding or add no value to you.

 

You know you’re in flow when you love something so much that it’s over before you know it and you cannot wait to get back to it again. Recognize that flow usually comes from finding opportunities that emphasize your strengths and your interests. Tasks don’t have to be easy to put you in a state of flow, but they should be fun and challenging (but not so tough that you can see progress and get discouraged).

 

Think about the last time you could not wait to get out the door to your activity. Create space in your life for a hobby or activity that gives you joy. Strive to find things that help you get to a state of Flow.

3)   Find your Squad

People are often happy to contribute to positivity in organizations when they have a sense of belonging. It’s rare that anyone does anything truly successful alone. We all need to find something to belong to.  A tennis league, artists guild, your local church group, or a book club are all examples of groups that can help people feel a sense of belonging. Where two or more are gathered, community happens.  

 

Research has told us that when people feel like they matter, they are able to be more resilient and persist when things are tough. It’s easy to stay inside and isolated during these Covid times. Gatherings have stopped and you don’t know where to go to sign up for new clubs. I have recently started ‘Zoom Sundays’ where I reach out to players that I used to coach. The very act of catching up and reminiscing builds happiness and joy for all of us.

4)   Gratitude Letter

Write a 300-word letter to someone who means a lot to you. Visit that person or contact them on the phone and read it out loud to them. Researchers have found that there is an immediate boost in your happiness that lasts for weeks or even months. Gratitude is powerful.

5)   Gratitude Reflection

Similar to the Gratitude Letter, take a moment to reflect and recall things that you are grateful for in your week. Try to recall three positive things that happen during the week—big or small—it doesn’t matter. Now describe why these positive events happened. For example, My boss gave me the assignment I wanted because I let her know I was interested in it.

 

When individuals start the process of a Gratitude Journaling researchers found that happiness lingers. This isn’t something you have to do every day to reap the benefits. Just try to be consistent and diligent in your reflections.

 

Let’s all work on being optimists and unleash our inner Tigger.

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