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Smart Thinking

October is Positive Attitude Month. You’ve been waiting for it all year, right? I know I have. As this year winds down, the days get cooler, the leaves start to change and we are coming into the twilight of 2022, I reflect on my attitude this year. Was it more or less positive?

It has been a topsy-turvy year, with many highs and lows. And I can’t say that my attitude was always positive. In fact, sometimes I felt like I just wanted to give up and crawl back under the covers for a few days.

Which got me thinking about optimism. What is it to be optimistic? Are we born optimistic or is it learned behavior? How does an optimistic outlook manifest itself? And more importantly, how do we maintain our positive outlook, amid challenges?

My husband always says one of the (many, LOL) things he likes about me, is that I am so optimistic. And honestly there are days when I have difficulty staying positive. I think it has to do with having a “fixer” mentality, always looking for problems to solve. And when I can't fix something, I get frustrated and sad. Most of the time I recognize that we can't "change the past, nor can we predict the future", try as we might. Meditation often brings me to a place of understanding.

Luckily, I also read the book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Change Your Life by Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, many years ago and knew the answers to the questions I posed above. Dr. Seligman’s theories resonated with me and I began to apply what I learned, realizing that my expectation and my self-talk impacted my outcomes. And I wanted to have more positive results and less negativity in my life. I highly recommend you read this if you haven’t already. Here are a few more books on happiness and positivity that I can recommend too:

  1. The Art of Happiness - the Dalai Lama

  2. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fullfillment - Martin Seligman

  3. Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert

  4. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun – Gretchen Rubin

  5. The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain – Tali Sharot

  6. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story – Dan Harris

And many of these folks have podcasts you can tune into too.

Optimism is not about head- in- the- sand denial or being a PollyAnna. It is more about rational assessment of a given situation, knowing our capability, and acting upon it in a way that precludes a more positive outcome. It does not guarantee it, but it gives us more a sense of control and promotes wellbeing, more so than expecting the worst.

Not convinced you should cultivate a more positive outlook? Let me give you five reasons you may want to reconsider giving this a try.

  • We live longer. That’s right, having an optimistic outlook means lower blood pressure, heart disease and maybe even cancer. This may be because optimists take better care of their health overall, exercising, not smoking and getting enough sleep.

  • We have better relationships with our significant other. Mainly because we see our partner in a more positive light and work on the relationship because of it. Even if one partner is optimistic it affects the bond; the positive influence can help the less optimistic partner become more so.

  • Optimists are less likely to get sick. If anyone has read The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale you understand the power of positivity in maintaining and recovering your health.

  • Did I say optimistic people are more successful? Yes, they are both at home and at work, or @WFH. They are able to shrug off adversity, feel more satisfied in their job and this may actually help them maintain their position or advance. People just want to be around and work for and with upbeat people.

  • And of course, optimism helps you bounce back when the going gets tough and curbs burnout when you are stressed. This resilience also fuels increases in performance too.

Optimism is a learned skill that can be developed. If you have been feeling down lately, I understand. However, if you want to make a change that will impact your wellbeing and future outcomes, do you need any more reasons to practice learned optimism? And remember, October is Positive Attitude Month - fake it 'til you make it! You might find you just feel good in spite of yourself.

If you enjoyed this post, please like and share. And I always welcome comments.


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