Capt Sir Tom Moore captured the hearts of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. He famously said, “For all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment; the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away”. Capt Sir Tom’s positivity was contagious, and he became a symbol of hope and optimism.
Living with COVID has certainly tested people’s resilience and optimism. But what do we mean when we refer to people being optimistic? It is far more reaching then simply being a “glass half full person”. Martin Seligman, a prominent psychologist suggests optimistic people believe they have the power to change a situation, can survive setbacks and see bad experiences as temporary.
Optimistic people will have had early life experiences where their primary caregivers or other significant adults will have modelled positive thinking and optimism. They would have gently challenged the child’s negative appraisal of situations, whilst celebrating strengths and achievements e.g. “You may feel you are not good at football, but you are incredibly good at running”. And most importantly, they will have taught the child to bounce back from disappointment and reframe their thoughts e.g. “That didn’t work out but you will know what to do next time”.
Psychologist Bill Chopik conducted a study examining optimistic people and how life events impacted their perception of the future. Primarily they found optimism was at its peak at 50 – 60 year olds. This was mainly because people become more accomplished at life e.g., relationships, work etc. Importantly however, people at this age realise life is short so they spend time focusing on doing the things which make them happy.
Chopik’s study also found optimism was resilient and events did not change how they saw the future. So, whilst COVID may have tested most people’s optimism and caused levels to waver, this should not have a lasting impact.
But what do you do if you do not identify as being an optimistic person? Maybe you feel you were not raised in an environment which fostered positivity? Perhaps you have experienced significant hardships during the coronavirus pandemic and find it hard to see how life will improve? Here are five ways to foster a more optimistic outlook:
- Create something to look forward to – This does not have to be anything too grand; it could be something as simple as planning a date night with your partner.
- End your day by writing down 3 positive things – Taking the time to reflect on 3 positive things from your day can alter your mindset. They can be basic things such as being thankful for good weather as well as celebrating specific achievements.
- It is never too late – Perhaps you have always wanted to learn a language or take up a particular hobby. You may find yourself caught in a thought process which says you have missed your chance. Put this negative thought to one side and have a go.
- Surround yourself with positive people – We all have people in our lives who are negative. Put some boundaries in place where you limit your interactions with them. Instead engage with others who are more positive.
- Use positive affirmations – Where negative thoughts have become the default, taking time to read a positive affirmation gives you the opportunity to adopt a different mindset. It is a case of re-training your mind. The more you do something, the more instinctual it becomes.
As Capt Tom reminds us, we are all capable of achieving great things, and tomorrow will be a good day.
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Photos by Stainless Images, Katrina Wright and Nick Fewings on Unsplash.