Are you a cup half full kind of person or a cup half empty? Do you tend towards optimism or think that if you expect the worse you’ll be better prepared when it does eventually happen? Well a new book entitled ‘Flourishing’ by Maureen Gaffney which is out on July 5 explains to us that taking a positive attitude is the secret to living a long and happy life. Major scientific research has shown that optimists tend to live longer, are more contented and healthier. And if you are thinking that you are either born an optimist or a pessimist, not so. You can change the way you think with a little daily tweaking. Just follow these few simple steps and see if it makes a difference to your life:
Don’t expect the worse
Some people think that by always expecting bad things to happen, when they do they won’t be disappointed or surprised. However, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you can begin to dread the future which then leads to depression. Far better to focus on what is going right at the present time and look forward to the future, rather than assume and anticipate negative outcomes. Get into the habit of counting your blessings and being grateful for small good fortunes.
Keeping it real
Being optimistic is not about ignoring serious matters and keeping your head in the sand whilst all around you are dealing with major issues, but it is about hope and realising that some things will turn out for the better and not to lose sight of that. Also not to get stuck into one way of thinking and to keep trying different strategies until you find something that does work. True optimists make and take advantage of opportunities with hope and confidence, undaunted by the knowledge that not every venture or undertaking will pay off.
Just do it
Young people when asked what they regret about life will say the things they have done, ask an older person and they will tell you the opposite, it’s the things they have not done that they regret. With hindsight we look back and realise that experience teaches us life lessons, however embarrassing or silly the mistakes were. When you do nothing you learn nothing from it so take courage to act – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What is around the corner?
Human beings are curious creatures and need stimulation of one kind or another. Neuroscience has shown that looking forward to pleasurable activities activates the same part of the brain as pleasure itself. So the mere anticipation of an event is enough to cause pleasure and make you feel happy. It makes sense then to fill your calender with things you like to do and take the time to look forward to doing them; optimists always look forward to life’s little pleasures. It’s what living is all about.
Fake it till you make it
As expecting the worse to happen all the time is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so is being optimistic. Believing that good things will happen leaves you open to great opportunities. In a study in a school in New York, teachers were falsely told that a small number of their new students were exceptionally gifted. The teachers then began to spend more time with these students, gave them more praise, encouragement and feedback and in the end the students, originally a random sample, really were streets ahead of their peer group. Positivity breeds positivity.
Adapted from Flourishing by Maureen Gaffney.