Thursday, March 6, 2014
13 Tips for Being Optimistic
Despair is a waste of time. It does nothing for your heart besides threaten its health. If you can fool yourself into thinking the world is something miserable to be a part of, then you certainly can fool yourself into thinking it's a privilege to be here. It's a matter of perspective. You get to prescribe your own glasses, so wouldn't you rather pick the lenses that enhance the good things?
Maybe it's not as easy as it sounds. Your surroundings keep focusing on the bad things--they're in the news, they're in people's stories, coming in from every angle trying to swallow you up. If it's optimism you want, it's a battle you'll have to fight--but let me tell you in advance: there are shields for defending yourself if you know where to look.
1. Talk with positive thoughts and vocabulary.
Negative talk is an insult to your brain. Replace things like "don't forget" with "remember". Talk to other people this way, too. It's an encouragement instead of a foreboding.
2. Actively recognize good things.
People can get so upset over bad parking jobs, but they almost never realize the rest of the cars in the parking lot who parked quite neatly. It's easier to spot a bad thing in an ocean of good things, but remind yourself of the ratio.
3. Write down things that made you happy.
Whether it's in a journal or on a new piece of paper everyday, or even something like gratitude garland, documenting reasons you once were happy will help you remember what there is to look forward to when there's a reason to be sad.
4. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.
If it seems your plans and way of being don't match up to the crowd around you, you might end up feeling wrong, but there are several billion people on this planet, and there has to be at least a few who lead the kind of life you'd like to be a part of. All you are is misplaced. In that case, you might need to do a little scan of the puzzle to find where your edges belong, but once you do, you and everything else will fall right into place. Don't try to sand your edges to fit in. There is somewhere you'll fit snug between other pieces who will give you all the confidence and comfort you need.
5. Before you get mad, laugh.
When you drop something several times in a row or trip on something, laugh about it. It's funny. And if you stub your toe, laughing is only going to make it feel better. Add phrases like "flibberty giblet" to your vocabulary to say at times like these (perhaps in place of curses) so you can get a giggle going. Getting angry is only going to make you upset and other people uncomfortable.
6. Be curious, not judgmental.
Please please please, when you notice a person wearing a wild feathery purple hat at the grocery store--please, oh, please--smile about it and wonder. Immediately think only good thoughts, the kind you wouldn't be embarrassed to say out loud. Don't scowl, don't mutter rude things under your breath. That person is bravely making the world a much more interesting place, after all. She's a mystery you'll probably never get to solve, but you can write rosy stories about her in your head, and your head likes those stories better than cruel ones.
7. Look silly.
Whenever you have the opportunity, dress up a little funky. Put ribbons and barrettes in your hair or wear clashing patterns, or for those who have one, twirl your mustache at the ends! It's such a stomach-butterflies-inducing feeling to know you look quirky, whether you're by yourself or on display for other people to gaze at. If you are brave enough to put yourself on display and go on your errands whilst looking silly, embrace the fact that you are now an exhibit for people to stare and tilt their heads at. Walk with pride and soak up the attention.
8. Let jealousy be a motivator.
Jelly green is only an ugly color on people who whine and pity themselves while they sit by and watch other people get what they wish they had. If you wish you had that person's job or that person's talent, turn that daydream into a goal. Work hard to get what you want instead of envying who already has it. They're not rubbing it in your face; they're giving you an insider's sneak peek of what it could be like for you.
9. Be active--and have fun doing so.
I think a lot of people are turned off by the word "exercise" because they immediately think "running and weight-lifting and work-outs, oh my!" but you know, it doesn't have to be that intense (or boring, to some people). Going for a walk counts, too, as does hula-hooping, playing with a Skip-It, and even sliding around on a garbage can dolly. Misery is not a necessity in exercise, nor should it play any part in it.
10. Have an internal locus of control.
An internal locus of control means thinking you have control over your life, rather than fate or other people and things controlling it for you. Know you have the power to make your own decisions and shape your own life. Tell yourself there's a future when the present isn't going so well. Always remember your hands are on the steering wheel and nobody else is allowed to touch it.
11. Have an idol.
Pick somebody you think is the ideal optimist and strive to be like them (I mean, be yourself, but model the morals and virtues you want to have after your idol's). Stargirl is my idol, and I am a better me because of it. Several times a day, I ask myself, "What would Stargirl do?" and then my answer is my action. In times where I feel myself slipping off the track and I don't know how to fit my wheels back on, it's helpful to have somewhat of an instruction manual via Stargirl's persona.
12. Don't worry.
Be happy! What a waste of time worrying is. You don't know what's really going to happen until it happens, so why stress yourself out beforehand? All that time can be spent calming yourself down in preparation instead of stirring up your anxiety and making it worse.
13. Keep telling yourself how healthy optimism is.
Despair thinks your body is a punching bag, and it fools you into thinking so, too, but you're not--you are not a punching bag, so don't go volunteering to be one. If you want your body to be strong and happy, you have to feed your mind good thoughts.
(I want to make sure I stress that being optimistic doesn't mean you're not allowed to be anything but content with your surroundings; it means you know there's always something worth living for, even despite upsetting circumstances. You can go through a whole box of tissues crying about something disheartening in the news, but hope never hijacks your tears to leave you, because it's locked up in that treasure box, remember?)
Silkworm and I want to know: what fed the hope in your treasure chest today? How do you stay optimistic?
(We're linking up with Mary at Uncustomary with this post! Check out the rest of the link-up on her website!)