Why optimism is your superpower

The buzzword in the world of well-being over the last few years must be ‘resilience’.

While resilience is crucial during periods of ongoing challenge, human beings need something more to keep us going; the hope and expectation that obstacles will eventually be overcome and life will go back to normal.

This is why optimism is your superpower.

Optimism is the belief that things will go well in the future. Numerous studies have linked optimism with better physical health and well-being, less stress, higher coping skills, and success at work (Carver et al., 2010). An optimistic outlook will help you change the narrative of the last few years from simply coping to moving onwards and upwards.

There is more to optimism than simply looking on the bright side. Optimists tend to view obstacles as temporary and an opportunity to learn. They are more likely to take risks and are persistent in pursuing their goals; Berengüí et al. (2013) discovered that optimistic athletes are less likely to suffer from burn-out and exhaustion and more likely to have a greater perception of their success. Yousef and Luthans (2007) discovered that optimistic employees have increased job satisfaction, performance, and work happiness.

Optimism isn’t a golden ticket to happiness and well-being. Although most psychologists agree that an optimistic bias serves us better than a pessimistic one, excessive optimism can lead to toxic positivity, overconfidence, reckless risk-taking, and unrealistic expectations (Daniel Kahneman, 2011). The key to limiting negative excess optimism is positive realism; acknowledge obstacles and work towards solutions in the expectation that you will succeed.

While social networks are flush with positive thinking memes, David Robson (2022) suggests that a positive outlook is not enough and our optimism should be allocated to a particular challenge or goal. Robson calls this the ‘Expectation Effect’ and describes how an optimistic expectation primes us for success.

Are you a natural optimist? Try this fun test to find out.

Do not despair if your glass is half empty. The founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, believes that we can learn to be more optimistic. Very simply, ‘learned optimism’ is reframing your mindset and adapting your narrative to change your perception of the world around you.

Here are some ideas to help you tap into your inner optimist:

1. Set realistic goals

Setting reachable goals with realistic time frames will spur you on to the next step. You are more likely to stay motivated and committed.

2. Reframe your narrative

If you find yourself languishing in negative self-talk, reframe your narrative. “I’m too mentally slow for this task” becomes ”this is a new area for me and I will do more research”. Change your mindset and you may be surprised at what you achieve.

3. Switch off social media

While social media can be inspiring, comparing ourselves to unrealistic images and stories can negatively shape our assumptions. So switch off your screens and create your own motivational plan with realistic reference points.

4. Celebrate your wins

It is important to recognise our efforts regularly not just when we hit the jackpot. Ask yourself “what went well today and what did I do to make that happen?”. Celebrate your small wins every day.

5. Practice gratitude

A daily gratitude practice will help you focus on the abundance, love, and beauty all around you. It helps you stay grounded in the present and increase feelings of well-being.

6. Joyful movement

Watch a small child dance and you can’t help but smile. Channel your inner child, put on your favourite tune, and dance with freedom and abandon. Raising the energy in your body encourages positive emotions so you feel more joyful.

Practising optimism will help support you in challenging times. Shifting your mindset may even help you step outside your comfort zone and exceed your expectations.

 

Sara Smyth is a yoga teacher, bodyworker, wellbeing retreat host and psychology student at Westminster University. She offers bespoke wellbeing days for private groups and organisations along with her Mama Lab partners, Amanda and Rachel.

 

References

Berengui, R., Garcés de los Fayos Ruiz, E. J., Ortín Montero, F. J., de la Vega Marcos, R.,
& López Gullón, J. M. (2013). Optimism and Burnout in Competitive Sport. Scientific
Research Publishing, Vol.4 No.9A, September.
https://doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.49A2003

Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2010). Optimism. Clinical Psychology
Review, 30(7), 879–889. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.01.006

Robson, D. (2022). New Year’s expectations. The Psychologist, January, 37–39.
Youssef, C. M., & Luthans, F. (2007). Positive organizational behavior in the workplace:The impact of hope, optimism, and resilience. Journal

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