Challenge Your Pessimism
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
Most people are aware of the profound influence our outlook has on our feelings of happiness. It seems to be common knowledge that we have good days or bad days and good experiences or bad experiences based almost entirely on our mood. What seems to be less common knowledge, however, is that learning to change our outlook, and thus change our mood, is a skill that we can develop through simple practices. Here’s a practice which can help us develop a more optimistic outlook. Optimism is one of the 12 happiness skills that can help us invite more peace, joy, and contentment into our lives. [i]
March Practice – Changing Your Story
Reflect and write about a time when something did not go your way, or when you felt frustrated, irritated, or upset. Then, explain the event like an optimist. Optimists view negative events as temporary, limited in scope, isolated to a point in time, manageable, and no one’s fault. The goal is to learn to challenge your pessimism by finding a way to interpret the event that leaves you thinking, “no big deal.” With this new story in mind, consider what you learned or could learn from the experience.
At its core, optimism is viewing setbacks and obstacles as challenges to overcome and opportunities to learn rather than as problems or threats to our wellbeing. Practically speaking, it is about how we explain the events in our lives. Research shows that it is not what happens to us that determines our attitude, but rather how we interpret what happens. We can develop optimism by learning to change the stories we tell ourselves. Optimism affects what we pay attention to; when we are feeling optimistic, we notice more of the positive aspects of our lives.
With practice, changing you story can become a habit that will help you approach setbacks as opportunities and view the difficult events of your life with more optimism and positivity. As your optimism and positivity increase, so will your happiness.
This post is part of our Year of Happiness & Compassion series. Read last month’s post, which explored the power of positive relationships.
Would you like to receive our 2017 calendar, Year of Happy? The calendar contains a year of mindfulness practices that will help you make 2017 a year of happiness and compassion. Click the image below to request your calendar.
“Well-being is a skill that can be cultivated. There are very simple ways of cultivating a positive outlook. When you do those simple kinds of practices, we’ve shown that both behavior and the brain changes. It doesn’t take much.” – Richard Davidson, renowned neuroscientist