Train Your Brain to Optimistic

Amidst the Covid pandemic, my sister and I advised my mom against traveling— advice which she completely ignored and brushed off. Yesterday she returned from her trip sick and today she tested negative for COVID. Thank goodness for the latter, however, the situation is still pretty miserable. Maybe she has a cold, or maybe her test was a false negative. Me from 4 years ago would have been convinced of the latter. The me of today is slightly more optimistic. The psychological research on optimism suggests we are born with a genetic pre-disposition to be either optimistic or pessimistic. In my case, my mother has always been more on the pessimistic side while my father was an eternal optimist. Unfortunately, it appears I take after my mother. The good news is, we can train our brains to think more optimistically, and honestly, it’s great because the research also shows that optimists often do better in life than their pessimistic counterparts. As an optimist in training, I’ve found a few techniques that helped me see the bright side in most, if not all situations. Check these out below.

Meditation

Mediation is so hard to get into for most people, but once you are in, you are IN! It has a serene, calming effect that can help any frown turn upside down. It also helps to detach you from the “imminent troubles” you cannot shake by detaching yourself from the thoughts that trouble you.

Reframing

The main idea e find reframing is that every situation has an upside. When I say “every situation” I mean EVERY SITUATION. Even death has an upside— Well, at least they aren’t suffering anymore; Well, he gets to meet his maker now; Well, he’s finally out of debt (okay, that’s not funny, but you see where I’m going with this). Reframing has 2 steps, in step 1 you notice your negative thoughts. This is arguably the hardest part because thoughts are constantly flowing through our minds and it’s hard trying to keep up. If we can’t catch them though, we can’t move on to step 2. Step 2 is where the reframing happens. Try prompts like “on the bright sight…” or “The good news is…” Hold on to the thought until you can come up with a reframe to flick up.

Vent & Release

Sometimes all we need is a good cry (or if you are like me, a good vent). I use this method all the time, especially when a situation feels like it could have been preventable, as in the above case with my mother. The real gem here is the vent AND release combo. If you are just venting on and on and can never let it go, it will not have the desired effect. In order for this technique to work, you have to let out all the frustration, worry, anger, anxiety, fear, into the venting and then put it behind you. For the situation with my mother, I vented to my sister and I called my mom and let her know she put this upon herself (as nicely as my temper allowed) and then I wasn’t really feeling satisfied so I told my friend about it. That’s when I was done venting and now I am moving past it. This two part technique allows you to sulk in your pessimism for a little while and then let it go, in hopes for better times ahead.

You should know….

None of these are quick fixes and you definitely won’t change overnight. It takes a good amount of time to get the hang of it but don’t give up! Like I said in the beginning, it pays to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Optimistic people tend to give up less and try for longer because they truly believe it will all work out. And if for nothing else, it will save us from living life with our glass half empty.

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