You guys often tell me how positive and optimistic I always seem. It’s a huge compliment for me, because I need to make a big effort to be that way. I am naturally a terrible pessimist with the ability to point out the worst in any situation within seconds. While some people view the world though rose-coloured glasses, I tend to wear black tinted shades.
The fact that I have a natural tendency to think like this, doesn’t mean I have to accept it and learn to live with it. For a few years now I’ve been determined to become an optimist and I think I’m doing pretty well.
Optimists have a smaller chance of developing depression or anxiety, they experience less stress and have a better mental health overall, which can result in better physical health and a longer lifespan.
Today I’m going to share my tips: take off those black shades and don your rose-colourd glasses! This is optimism for pessimists.
Step 1 – Recognition
The fact that you’re reading this, probably means you’ve already gone through this step. In order to be able to change anything, you first need to realise that you are in fact a pessimist, and that you don’t want to be one. I feel like pessimism is holding me back and isn’t any good for me or the people around me that may get affected by it. This is why I want to make a conscious effort and walk that extra mile to ditch pessimism and be a source of positivism not only for my own (mental) wellbeing, but for my loved ones as well.
Step 2 – Adaptation
Once you decide you want to quit your pessismistic behaviour, you need to start working on it. Always expecting the worst may seem like a great defense mechanism: the worst never happens so it’s bound to be better than you expected, right? No. Expecting the worst means you’ll approach the situation with fear and hesitation, which will not only affect your experience but also the outcome of the situation negatively. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Try this exercise: next time you have an appointment, instead of thinking of everything that could go wrong (they won’t like me, it’s going to be awkward, what if I’m late, I’m not suitable for having this discussion, I don’t have the skill/knowledge to do this, what if they only serve food I don’t like), think of all the things that could go well (they’re probably going to be nice people, we’ll have a fruitful meeting, there’s going to be nice food, this is the 100th time I’m succesfully doing this, I could make a new friend, the journey there will be great for sightseeing)! Doesn’t the second option look not only more optimistic, but actually more realistic as well?
In general, in everyday situations, people mean you no harm and have the same desire to have an enjoyable experience. There’s no point in expecting them to do the worst they could; why would they? Besides: people react to the energy you emit. If you come in all enthousiastic and happy, it will reflect on the other person (whether it’s relief that you’re not their worst case scenario, or that you’re going to be a pleasant person to spend the next hour with, or just a natural reaction to positivity with more positivity) and the whole atmosphere will be lighter and more pleasant for it. Just try it!
Try to be conscious of when you’re being pessimistic and changing that train of thought. Look for the good in situations and be rational about the possible bad: how likely is it, really?
Step 3 – Training
Pessimism is a state of mind, and you can’t expect to change a state of mind overnight. It’ll take continuous effort and you need to commit to this. There are things you can do to make this easier:
My pessimism comes back with a bang when I get really tired or stressed, to the point where people comment on it. Woops. Knowing this and knowing it’s hurting me and people around me, I try to maintain good health by nutrition, enough sleep and exercise. It’s what your brain needs.
Enjoy the moment
I know I talk about this all the time, but it’s so important! Learning to enjoy the little things in life, which are happening here and now, will really help you snap back into reality and see that it’s not all that bad. Don’t ponder your past too much. Cherish the good and learn from the bad, but don’t dwell on it. It’s gone. Don’t stress about the future. Plan and prepare but again, don’t dwell on it. What will come will come and you will deal with it when it does.
Learn from others
Talking to people is one of the greatest things you can do to put things into perspective. Someone else’s outlook can bring a fresh breeze into the matter and help you view things in a more positive way.
Try to surround yourself with positive people. I have a few very optimistic friends, and I love hanging around my boyfriend’s family to clear my head. They’re the most down-to-earth people I know- not necessarily very optimistic, but “it is what it is and life goes on as normal” is the most normal thing in the world to them and that’s a very refreshing outlook on life for someone that overthinks everything.
Also, when people point our you’re being unreasonably pessimistic, listen to them. Don’t get offended, they’re trying to help and they’re probably right. A few days ago I was guiding a kids’ camp at scouting. I was drained and completely stressed out and when we went to watch Frozen in the evening, I kept making snarky remarks about every single thing that bothered me about the movie. It was really unnecessary but I didn’t realise I was doing it until my boyfriend asked me to please stop being so negative about everything. Again: woops!
Surround yourself with positivity and read up on it. There’s plenty of inspirational reading out there that you may enjoy.
Keep practicing and don’t give up! You’ll feel so much better when you ditch your negative thought patterns. And remember: you’re never alone.