In the garden of life, even the most beautiful roses often have thorns.
Since life isn’t always as easy as we’d want it to be, when we choose to have an optimistic outlook, this positive perspective can help us overcome challenging moments. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that circumstances can change in an instant, nothing is truly predictable, and change is always imminent. That’s why it’s up to us to be mindful of our reactions, to choose to be optimistic, and to look for the silver linings.
3 Ways To Use Optimism To Overcome Challenges in Life
Being an optimist doesn’t mean that you ignore the reality of situations. In truth, it’s a mindset that can simply help you cope with the pressures and stress that come with challenges better than a pessimistic outlook can. As stated in an NBC News article, “Science shows that those with an optimistic outlook have better cardiovascular health and a stronger immune system, earn a higher income, and have more successful relationships.”
The article continues by sharing a quote from Leah Weiss, Ph.D., a Stanford professor specializing in mindfulness in the workplace. She says, “Some people are optimistic by nature, but many of us learn optimism as well. Anyone can learn to be optimistic — the trick is to find purpose in work and life. When we work with purpose or live with purpose, we feel more fulfilled and better equipped to see the glass ‘half full.’”
Below are 3 ways to use optimism to overcome life challenges with greater ease.
The best place to start to change is to evaluate where you already are. If your mind has been clouded with negativity, fear, worry, or cynicism, use that as your starting point. As the saying goes, “when you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up.” By recognizing your existing mental patterns, it can help you dissolve the power that these negative thoughts have over you, which can help you gain a more optimistic perspective.
As shared by Amy Przeworski, PhD., in an article on PsychologyToday.com, she says the following:
Notice your negativity.
- Listen to what you say and how negative it is. Track your thoughts on a daily basis and notice the negative assumptions and conclusions that you draw. Identification of your negativity is essential to change.
- When find yourself saying something negative, think of something positive to say even if it doesn’t “ring true” to you at the moment. If you are habitually negative, seeing the sunny side is going to feel false and Pollyannaish at first. That is okay. You can’t expect to change overnight.
- If you identify a negative thought, write it down. Next to it, draw a column for the evidence supporting that thought. Then draw a column for the evidence that argues against the thought. You will be great at identifying evidence supporting the negative thought and struggle with the evidence against the negative thought but with practice, this will come easier.
Ask Yourself “What If?” Questions from a Positive Point of View
More often than not, when we’re facing challenges, our fear-based thoughts lead us down a negative rabbit hole which results in our imagination going into over-drive. Instead of imagining a positive outcome (which is what we want), we tend to obsessively envision all the worst-case scenarios. Not only is this debilitating (as it paralyzes us with fear and worry), but it is completely unproductive, and if anything, can actually result in further problems.
Instead of using your imagination to conjure up scenarios that you don’t want, re-train your mind by asking yourself “what if?” questions from a positive point of view. Ask yourself questions like: “what could the best outcome look like?”, “what if this situation resolved itself?”, and “what if there is a better way to do this?”.
Since our minds like to problem-solve, by asking yourself these more positively-charged questions, you might actually surprise yourself by coming up with ideas, discovering creative solutions, and finding answers that were previously evading you. By essentially trying on a “positive lens”, you give your mind the chance to see situations from a different perspective, which can help you find solutions more easily.
Accept What You Can’t Control and Change What You Can
One of the most difficult aspects of facing any challenging situation is feeling powerless.
While we can’t control everything that happens in life, we can learn how to accept the things we can’t control, and empower ourselves to change the things we can. By recognizing where we have control, it enables us to find the strength and courage to overcome situations by taking action.
By learning how to non-attach to specific outcomes and accept that there are situations (and people) that we cannot control, we gain a greater sense of peace and freedom. Acceptance and non-attachment are two techniques that we can employ whenever we’re facing challenges that feel out of our control. It frees us up to focus on the actions we can take that will help us change a life situation that is not working.
Essentially, those are the moments to learn to “go with the flow” and embrace adaptability.
“While some people may be unable to deal with uncertainty, positive individuals are able to adapt and thrive. Accept what you can and cannot control in the situation,” says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. “For example, if you lose your job you cannot control the fact that you were fired or laid off. You can control whether you take steps to find a new job as well as whether you take care of yourself with proper nutrition and sleep.”
By learning how to combine an optimistic outlook with a proactive approach to focusing on solutions (rather than dwelling on problems), you’ll be able to handle life’s curveballs with grace and ease.
For more tips on using mindfulness to live a better life, check out the Personal Growth section on Inspirations & Celebrations.