Research from Harvard University released yesterday revealed that higher levels of optimism are linked to longevity and a greater chance of living past 90. Prior studies have shown that optimism not only add years to your life, it’s also the single biggest predictor of success. The great news is that you don’t need to be a natural born optimist – it’s a skill that can be developed over time. As the Dalai Lama wisely said, “Choose to be optimistic – it makes you feel better.” With increasingly negative news about the cost-of-living crisis, it’s clear that we could all benefit from a healthy dose of optimism. Below are three steps you can take to train your brain to be more optimistic:
Flip negatives into positives
As humans we’re hardwired to be more negative than positive – there is an evolutionary basis for this; it helps us survive threats and manage risk. However, it also means that when circumstances don’t turn out like we’d hoped, it’s easy to fall into a downward spiral of negative thoughts. In extreme cases, people can start catastrophising by imagining worst-case scenarios. Optimistic people on the other hand, have the ability to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. By avoiding black and white thinking and finding shades of grey instead, you are more likely to find the benefit in a situation.
Change the way you think about failure
Optimists see things as changeable, cursory and circumstantial and believe they can make a difference. Pessimists, on the other hand, view things as personal, permanent and pervasive. When things go wrong, think like an optimist by taking the learnings and moving on. Don’t be tempted to blame yourself or take things personally. Keep a sense of perspective, pick yourself up and dust yourself down. When you’re faced with a setback don’t sit in the doldrums, think creatively and be solution-orientated instead. Focus on the end game and seek opportunities to find a new way forward.
Visualise positive outcomes
Athletes use visualisation techniques to help them achieve their peak performance and this can be equally powerful in the world of business. Instead of using your imagination to think up worst-case scenarios, picture what success looks like to you – this could be making a great impression at the next team meeting or signing the contract for your new job. Visualising the best outcomes in this way will help rewire your brain and boost your positive thinking.
Finally, remember optimism is contagious. Whenever possible surround yourself with people who have a can-do attitude and banish any naysayers for as Albert Einstein advised, “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”