Want A Happier, Healthier, More Successful New Year? Become An Optimist
By Dr Noelle Nelson on December 28, 2012
The holidays are just about over, your decorations are slowly making their way back into storage boxes, the euphoria of gift-giving and receiving has given way to the mundane “Here we go, another year” where you still have to make a living or figure out how to make it through the next month, where family is still – well, family – and none of your obligations seem to have magically vanished along with the holiday music.
Yes, you’ve made your New Year’s resolutions, and off you go to that gym or diet or other goal, teeth gritted together, swearing to yourself that this year you WILL see that resolution through, no matter what it takes. And you’re pretty sure it will take lots of effort, not to mention struggle, as you tear yourself bleary-eyed from your warm comfy bed, stare out at the rain/snow/ice/cold and wonder what on earth possessed you to resolve to an early morning run every day?
Here’s a radical suggestion. Before you undertake any of your New Year’s resolutions, decide to become an optimist. Make that your first and most important new choice for 2013.
Why? Because an impressive body of scientific research proves that optimists live longer, happier, healthier, more successful lives. They experience significantly less stress, less depression, and heal faster than pessimists. Not only that, but my favorite – optimists outperform their own abilities! So you may be good at something, but if you’re an optimist, you’ll be terrific at it. No matter what you undertake, you’ll experience more success and joy by the simple decision to become an optimist.
How do you do that? Well, the old adage “See the glass half full” is accurate, but only addresses the essence of optimism, not the practicalities.
Here are three quick, easy tips to becoming an optimist:
1. Play the “what if” game positively.
We all play the “what if” game, but for the most part, we play it negatively. For example, take a common concern: “What if I get fired?” which usually leads to “What if I can’t get a new job? What if I go through our savings in a month? What if I don’t have enough to cover the rent/mortgage?” Panic sets in real quick, and with that your stress increases as your ability to think clearly and make good decisions goes directly downhill.
Instead, play the “what if” game in a hopeful direction: “Well, if I get fired, I have a pretty good skill set, I’ve learned a lot at this job, I’ve made new connections. I’m sure I can parlay some of that into a new situation. Meanwhile, I’ll put some extra effort into my current position so I’m not as easily dispensed with.”
2. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Giving the benefit of the doubt, in our above example, is where you look at the fact that you’ve still got a job, that the company isn’t likely to shut down completely so workers will still be needed, that you’ve had good reviews so far.
All this reassures you that the sky isn’t falling as of now, which helps you relax, again assuring that you are functioning at your least-stressed best. You can now be proactive and perform at your highest level, which will certainly make you harder to fire.
3. Reminisce constructively
Most of us, when faced with a situation we don’t like, reminisce destructively. We think of all the bad things that have happened to us, and how awful it felt, and how hard it was to get back on track.
Instead, reminisce constructively. Deliberately think about all the good things that have happened to you, how good those seeming “out of thin air” helpful coincidences felt, and how surprisingly easy it was to get back on track. Think of the people who helped you along the way, even if it was just a stranger who gave you a smile in passing when you most needed a little kindness.
Become an optimist. There are no downsides whatsoever, no nasty side effects, nothing that warrants disclaimers or fine print of any kind. Be an optimist and enjoy a simply fabulous 2013!
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