I’m married to an optimist. She can see the bright side in any situation and is consistently hopeful and confident about the future. Moreover, I find her optimism is contagious; I’ve watched it spread through the family whenever she’s around. Personally, I’m a student of optimism. I have more ‘up’ than ‘down’ days – thanks to the presence of my spouse, but I’m aware of swings more than she appears to be.
When I started to think about my spiritual growth and development, I realized that it’s difficult to embrace those concepts if you’re in a ‘down’ mood. Even further, I realized that being optimistic brings you closer to source energy and the realization that you live, move, and have your being in a friendly, supportive, and abundant universe. Shifting your emotions from feeling pessimistic, gloomy, or detached to a more positive outlook helps you manifest the upbeat life you think about. Thus, being optimistic is a skill contributing to one’s spiritual growth and evolution.
I have a wonderful filter when I’m in a negative or down mood – I can see something negative in everything. Moreover, I can personalize it – making whatever the situation is especially relevant and unfavorable to me. Occasionally, I can ‘catastrophize’ the situation, specifically, making it much worse than it actually is; psychologist Albert Ellis calls this ‘awfulizing.’ Life also becomes polarized; there are no shades of gray; things are bad or good, and in this mood, probably bad.
Now, that’s not a pleasant way to be and when I get in a pessimistic mood, I’m probably not all that enjoyable to be around or live with, and I’m certainly not spiritual. Inevitably, someone close to me will hit me along the side of the head with a proverbial two-by-four and jar me back towards a positive mood. Thank you very much.
Given the wisdom that comes with living like this for a few decades, I resonate with what people have learned about Optimism and how to capture and hold that mood for long periods of time. So here are ten ideas to move you in a positive direction and sustain you there. I attest to the success of each of these techniques.
1. Bolster your own self-esteem. A positive viewpoint is hard to find or sustain if you’re feeling ‘down’ about yourself. Do something that increases your feeling of self worth. One certain area is to do something to help others – volunteer; be helpful. Take care of ‘#1’ – you! Wayne Dyer suggests looking at yourself in a mirror, and repeating ‘I love me.’ Don’t forget to maintain eye contact!
2. Act ‘As If.’ Smile. A friend tells the story of how she had the world’s worst and lowest paying waitress job, yet she knew she could get better tips if she were cheerful and pleasant. She taught herself how to act ‘as if’ this was the most important and best job in the world, and remarkably, pretty soon it was and she became a top earner with high customer praise (and tips). She speaks of how that job taught her to be so positive and upbeat; she’s now one of the most positive and enthusiastic people I’ve known. Further, smile a lot; you can actually fool yourself into a positive attitude.
3. Focus on the ‘Now.’ You can’t do much about the past, and the future is only an uncertain dream. Don’t carry luggage from the past or burden the future by ‘awfulizing’ about it. Live today and do your best. Carpe diem.
4. Nurture positive friends. The attitudes and viewpoints of the people you hang out with form your outlook on life. If they are ‘down,’ critical, and worried about life, it will affect your views and emotions. Lose the losers. Find upbeat people to befriend and socialize or work with, and your life attitude will change.
5. Tell yourself positive things. Shift your focus onto the things that make you smile and feel good. Barbara Ann Kipfer wrote a book over a decade ago entitled ’10,000 Things to Be Happy About’ – the new version is up to 14,000! Make your own list or read hers – many things on her list will remind you how great it is to be ‘here.’
In this action area I recommend you distance yourself from the negative things going on in this world: wars, violence, injustice, crime, drama, etc. I don’t mean to be ‘unaware’ of them, but rather to not allow such news to create negative emotions that affect you. I moderate my own intake of ‘down’ news, and I feel better for it. If a situation has made you feel low, verbalize the positive lessons you learned from what happened. Recall Edison’s reply when asked about his thousands of failures to make a working light bulb; he retorted that he now knew thousands of ways not to do it – a positive spin on all his failures.
6. Create positive affirmations. Read them a dozen times a day. My list is posted on the bulletin board by my desk. It reminds me about the universe I live in, the kind of person I am, how I behave, and my birthright. Reading it makes me feel good – positive and optimistic. If you’re not where you can read (for instance, at each red light), give yourself some positive ‘self talk’: how great the world is, how great you are, how wonderful today is; be specific – smile a lot. Use your positive affirmations as a mantra to refocus you on the spiritual side of life, reminding yourself that you are a spiritual being having a human experience.
7. Create joyful moments for yourself. Do special things for just you. Celebrate. Make something big happen for yourself – that stupendous vacation you’ve always wanted. Do something small that makes you smile – treat yourself to that special latte you love so much. If you run short on ideas, try reading the book by Cyndi Haynes entitled ‘2,002 Ways to Cheer Yourself Up.’ Another way to start this process is to create ‘positive’ visualizations for yourself – either physically or with your vivid imagination; have a great dream – then make it happen!
8. Meditate. There’s that word again! I know; you don’t do it well. That said, the silence and contemplation you experience in a meditative state will return you to a spiritual and positive perspective on your life and the events around you. The act will help you rise above negative things and experiences.
9. Pull someone else ‘up.’ Once you become aware of your own positive nature you’ll also become aware when someone around you needs a hand up. Provide the positive lift they need through direct interaction, or simply put yourself in the position of being a role model for them – despite your own feelings, perhaps to the contrary. Bring humor into the situation. Again, act ‘as if’ you were the most positive person in the world. Soon, you will be.
10. Follow a healthy lifestyle. One sure recipe for feeling positive is to remain fit. Take a fast walk, exercise, and get your heart rate up. We know one side benefit of exercise is the release of endorphins in your body; natural chemicals that resemble opiates and that produce a general feeling of well-being. Whatever the cause, you will feel more energy, less depression and anxiety, and enjoy a more positive attitude.
A final thought: I’ve noticed a relationship between finding my spiritual anchor and optimism. The two seem inextricably entwined: I need an optimistic attitude to connect to the spiritual world around me – to connect to source energy, and I need to be in touch with my spiritual nature to feel optimistic. I enjoy this pleasant duality, since either will pull me ‘up.’
Namasté and Stay Positive.
Dr. Bob Reck is a semi-retired international management consultant and executive coach. He has consulted to many of the largest firms helping them migrate through large-scale change, taught at several New England colleges, lived and worked in Europe, became a commercial pilot, and most recently a New Thought minister. He invites comments and commentary on his articles.