Though there are undoubtedly people who are born with “The Happy Gene” and are natural optimists, I’ve seen many people choose to be optimistic and not give in to their negative self-talk.
Before you poo-poo the idea, here’s something to consider. Our brains are familiarity machines, they like the same old routines and ways of thinking, and yet, our brains are also capable of changing. This is known as neuroplasticity, which means that our brains are able lay down new optimistic pathways in about 3 weeks.
It’s all about routines and helping our brains learn a new way of thinking.
Here are some tips that might work.
1. Practice Gratitude – When we start to focus on what we’re thankful for and make it a daily practice, our view of the world shifts. Imagine being thankful for hot water in your morning shower, or that you can breathe without difficulty. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am, until I remember that many people struggle and must make their way in the world with very little. I start each day with this: “Thank you for 2 eyes that can see, and 2 feet that can walk. Let me be of service today. “
I am grateful for hot water and when I forget and get frustrated by traffic or by a deluge of work, I am reminded of a friend who is struggling with ALS, who would give anything to just be able to speak and to swallow and would welcome my stress because it would mean that he could do the other things he enjoys.
2. Fake It ’Til You Make It – Optimism is all about confidence. Confidence that Life is Good, that you can handle whatever comes your way. But sometimes, people don’t really feel that way for a variety of reasons. Until you can feel that way, train yourself to act, speak and interact with others with an optimistic, open, hopeful heart, because inevitably you will find that people react more positively to you.
Once you get into the habit of smiling and being cheerful, you’ll set new pathways in your brain and you’ll actually start to feel happier. This really works!
3. Hit Eject on Grumpy, Negative People – You don’t have to be negative or judgmental to do this. Just decide who you want to spend time with and limit time with people who are “Energy Vampires.” You know who I’m talking about. Resist the impulse to try to make them happier or give them too much time and energy. Remember, some people like feeling miserable, but that doesn’t mean you have to join them. Practice gratitude that you’re not in their situation, be compassionate, but save your energy for people who are positive and for experiences that fulfill you.
I’d love to know what works for you when you want to feel sunnier and happy.