No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side of things.
I thought this image was cute, and the message was cute, too. In doing research for this entry, I was reminded once again that although there are some people who are born optimists, most people have to cultivate optimism. Optimism – tempered, of course, with a small-but-healthy dose of realism – has a lot of benefits, such as improved health, a longer and higher-quality of life, and friends who enjoy being around us.
How can we cultivate optimism? You probably know these already, but on the off chance that you may have forgotten one or two, here is a helpful list.
1) Try to ignore the naysayers. Their comments don’t have any power over you unless you allow it. Besides, I’d be willing to bet a serious amount of money that they don’t listen to your comments, either. Remember that there are many famous predictions by pessimists that are now completely laughable, such as the prediction that there was a world market for only about five computers, or that X-rays would turn out to be a hoax.
2) Trade your anger for sympathy. People are generally negative because they aren’t feeling good about themselves. See if you can figure out what they are really upset about. If you can’t, don’t fret. Just be as gentle with them as you can. Everyone is fighting their own battles.
3) Don’t buy into other people’s drama. Sometimes this means simply walking away or letting your association with the person die a natural death. If you can’t avoid them, let them know you will not be a player in their negative dramas. Be firm. They will eventually find someone else to play the part that you have declined.
4) Seek out and spend time with positive people who are interested and engaged in life. Identify people in your life who are willing to cheer you up when you lose your sense of optimism. And when these kind people do try to cheer you up, please stop saying, “Yes, but….”
5) Remember the line from the Desiderata: “…whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” In fact, the whole Desiderata is full of advice about how to remain positive, no matter what happens. (It was written in 1927, and not in 1692, as is mistakenly thought.)
6) Focus on what you need, not on what you want. Focusing on what you want creates a mentality of lack, which contributes to negative feelings about yourself. Getting what you need is generally more doable. When you have what you need, pat yourself on the back.
7) Don’t over-estimate obstacles. Look at them objectively and decide how to overcome them, but don’t allow them to bring your progress to a standstill. Think of obstacles as opportunities for growth, rather than as stumbling blocks. Remember that fear exists to be conquered.
8) Keeping your goals for the future in mind, do at least one small thing today that will eventually help you meet one or more of your goals.
9) Count your blessings! Get yourself a notebook, decorate it – gift wrap or wallpaper samples can make it look really nice – and start a Gratitude Journal. Try to write three positive things that occurred each day that you are grateful for. If you forget for a while, don’t let it get you down. Just resume your entries as if nothing happened.
10) Turn off the TV. Stop reading the news for at least three weeks, just to give yourself a break. Don’t look at the newspaper, either. If something catastrophic happens, you will hear about it, but that doesn’t mean you have to dwell on it. You will not be helping the situation by worrying or obsessing over it. Just because something terrible happened in Hoboken, that doesn’t mean the sky is falling, or that your world is going to hell in a hand basket.
I did not watch the 24-hours-a-day media coverage of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, nor did I watch coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the massive earthquake in Japan, the shootings in Sandy Hook Elementary, the Pegasus oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, or Superstorm Sandy. Did I stick my head in the sand altogether? No. I allowed myself to read print versions of the news in small doses. I was reasonably well-informed, but managed to stay focused and not let the situations Was I being cold-hearted? Not at all. I felt for those who suffered, but I didn’t allow their situation to affect my day-to-day disposition. 🙂