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Optimism: embracing the power of positive thinking

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Optimism: embracing the power of positive thinking

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BY ALPHIOUS MUGARI

Optimism involves a positive attitude, and mentality that is characterised by hope and confidence in success, and a positive future. Common rituals, such as New Year’s resolutions, always remind us on the value of optimism. A positive mentality helps improve confidence, resilience, happiness, success, as well as mental and physical health. It is also strongly linked to reduced stress levels, better coping skills and improved interpersonal relationships. Building optimism is a journey that requires self-awareness, determination, and constant practice. Every human being must strive to have optimism to live a better live, and to create a better world. 

Benefits of Optimism 

In a world with constant challenges, and uncertainties that include poverty, hunger, crime, violence, inequalities, diseases and natural disasters, optimism emerges as a necessary transformative force. Optimistic mentality empowers individuals to face adversity, seize opportunities, and live a fulfilling life. Optimists strongly believe that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, so they are always persistent and hopeful.  During the Covid 19 pandemic, some people became hopeless, whilst optimists saw an opportunity to invest in some businesses and personal growth. Most inventors and great leaders are optimists who sought solutions to problems despite several failures and criticism. 

Research has consistently linked optimism to overall health, wellbeing, and longevity. People with optimism have better coping mechanisms in response to life stressors. They experience lower depression, stress and anxiety compared to pessimists. Positive thinkers tend to live longer, healthier lives since they normally have lower blood pressure, improved immune function, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. They also have greater survival rates when fighting chronic illnesses such as cancer. People Living with HIV, who are optimistic, are more likely to plan their recoveries, seek further information, engage in daily activities, and remain hopeful.

Optimism is also strongly linked to greater chances of success, and resilience in life. Positive psychology has shown that optimistic individuals and teams are more resilient and persistent than their pessimistic counterparts. Several studies have shown that optimistic individuals tend to be more proactive, creative, and adaptable, making them more successful in life. People who are optimistic are more likely to persist until their goals are achieved, and find it easier to shake off a bad outcome so that it doesn’t affect them in their next attempt. 

Optimism is one of the most powerful inner tools for motivation, both at individual level, and in groups. Expressing Optimism is very crucial when we work with others. If there is a very stressful incident or period, a leaders’ expression of optimism creates an environment that fosters productivity, engagement and innovation. Optimism also helps to improve people’s resilience to tragedy and trauma. It helps to propels people towards greater success, instilling the motivation to pursue dreams with unwavering determination.

 People with a positive mentality also experience a higher level of self-esteem because of their confidence levels which are high. They also exhibit great leadership skills, and have a remarkable ability to inspire others. Optimism expands possibilities through enabling individuals to see opportunities where others are seeing challenges. Optimism is contagious, and it can create a ripple effect that can transform teams, organizations and even nations. Optimism is also greatly linked to a growth mindset, which is the belief that our abilities and intelligence can be improved through dedication and hard work. It strongly enhances interpersonal relationships, hence optimistic individuals tend to be more positive and supportive in their interactions with others resulting in stronger social support networks, and successful interpersonal relationships. 

Improving Optimism 

Practicing gratitude plays a significant role in improving optimism. Optimists are always thankful for what they have, and they share with others. By regularly acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of life, individuals can shift focus from what is lacking, fostering a sense of abundance and contentment.   A gratitude journal can be used to write a list of all the gifts and blessings that an individual is thankful about. These may include current health, friends, or a kind gesture received.  

Focusing on personal strengths, like creativity, perseverance, kindness or curiosity also helps to build a positive mentality. Before going to sleep each day, consider your personal accomplishments, both minor and major, as well as parts of the day you enjoyed. Ending your day with positive emotions and thoughts help individuals sleep better and wake up in a happier mood.

Associating with optimistic and supportive people, improves a positive mentality among individuals. Social connections have a profound impact on one’s emotions, thoughts and perspectives.  It is therefore helpful to seek out and spend more time with people who radiate positivity. Building and maintaining positive and supportive relationships provide a sense of belonging, encouragement, and inspiration. Individuals must find an optimistic mentor or network whose behaviours they observe and emulate. 

Self-care is a very important component of improving one’s positive mentality. Even in the busiest schedules or in stressful situations, always make time to care for your personal needs. Having a positive outlook becomes easier when you are feeling healthy, rested and nourished; hence individuals must get adequate sleep, meditate, maintain a balanced diet, and engage in regular physical activity. On the other hand, serving others through acts of kindness has also proved to increase positivity. Service to others helps people forget their own problems or at least put them into perspective. 

Visualising a positive future and having set goals help to improve optimism. Optimists anticipate positive results in various aspects of their life, such as personal relationships, health, work, school, and overall well-being. Through imagining positive outcomes, individuals can stimulate feelings of hope, inspiration and motivation.  Larger ambitions can be broken into smaller tasks so that one can notice and celebrate each milestone. For example, if you want to learn a new language, set smaller objectives related to that bigger goal, such as learning to say numbers. Visualization techniques are commonly used by athletes, entrepreneurs, great leaders, and high achievers to boost motivation, confidence and focus. 

Spending time on hobbies or activities that boost one’s mood is a significant way of improving optimism. Some of the hobbies and activities may include travelling, reading, praying, charity work, or engaging in sporting activities. Such activities help to reduce stress levels and increase positive energy. It is also important to incorporate positive feedback for yourself and celebrate your achievements, whether big or small. 

Learning to accept compliments helps to increase a positive mentality. Individuals must normalise feeling good about the compliments they receive. Some people find it difficult to accept compliments; however learning to receive compliments can help cultivate more positive emotions. On the other hand, individuals must develop positive mantras, or affirmations to improve their optimism, and create more positive energy. They can write down positive mantras, meditate on them, and engage in positive self-talk, to become more optimistic.

Trying new things, and exploring unfamiliar concepts, skills or experience boosts positivity. Getting out of the comfort zone help individuals feel more excited about distinct possibilities in life. Even after failures, optimists always look on the positive side. If one misses a deadline for a project at work, they can focus on what they learned from that experience. Focus is therefore given to the process rather than the results. 

Optimism can also be improved significantly through reframing negative thoughts. Through cognitive restructuring, individuals can become more optimistic by consciously challenging negative, self-limiting thoughts, and finding positive interpretations of situations.  Over time, this will train one’s mind to naturally provide more positive attitudes and beliefs. One can seek professional help from psychologists to challenge their pessimistic attitudes and cultivate a more optimistic mindset. 

Conclusion 

The power of optimism is undeniable, and it can be developed and strengthened through evidence based strategies. Positive mentality is a catalyst for personal growth, resilience, success and overall wellbeing. By adopting optimism, individuals can build stronger relationships, overcome adversities as well as embrace a brighter future. Everyone must ride the train of optimism and enjoy its numerous benefits. 

Alphious is a registered Intern Community Psychologist – AHPCZ  (A/PSY0796)

[email protected] 

0773 227 688

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