To pessimists, the “movie of life” is a documentary that has an unchangeable script. Optimists, on the other hand, grab the storyline and become directors. They edit, refocus and add color to concoct a brighter, happier picture. This hopeful, in-control attitude shields them from outside influences and inner emotional turmoil. The good news for pessimists is that they can train themselves to think optimistically.
Steps to Happiness
- Fake it—even if you don’t feel like it.
Acting happy—even when you are not— makes you feel happier.
Try smiling to improve your mood. Sitting up straight will make you more aware of your surroundings and feel more alert.Consciously relaxing your muscles helps alleviate anxiety. Suppressing a frown or grimace can make an unpleasant emotion—or experience—less painful.
- Adjust your explanatory style. With a half-empty viewpoint, as an individual, you can feel to assume the blame for all of your failures. Every mistake provokes anxiety. Any success seems like a fluke.According to Susan C. Vaughan, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and psychoanalysis at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City. From the half-full perspective, difficulties are ascribed not to personal shortcomings but too transient conditions—a computer glitch: a boss in a bad mood, and having an off day. Accomplishments are the well-deserved rewards for talent and hard work.Optimist’s advantage: Externalizing causes of temporary setbacks protects you from feelings of defeat. You know there will be bad days—but they’re not the story of your life. Having that conviction helps you make the best of stressful situations without “catastrophizing.”
- Practice downward comparison. Comparing ourselves with others who have more may trigger a sense of deprivation. But a contrast with those who are less well off makes us feel fortunate.
- Avoid negative influences. Willing or not, we pick up other people’s vibes. Beyond dodging pessimists and the evening news, you may want to avoid unnecessary and mood-deflating confrontations.Be wary of emotional signals from your environment as well. Experimental subjects forced to listen to grunge rock showed significant increases in negative emotions and reductions in positive ones, a recent study found.
- Take a time-out. Particularly when details threaten to overwhelm you, distract yourself. Try a quick walk—or do some stretches. Or lock your office door and dance—music adds enjoyment to movement. Savor life’s small pleasures—from a few minutes with your eyes closed, to a cup of espresso.If real-world mood lifters are unavailable, mine your memory. Mentally relishing a delicious meal or inspiring view—the more vividly, the better—nudges you toward a rosier outlook.
Caution: Gloomy images produce a downward mood shift, so resist ruminating on negative experiences.
- Rewrite the script. When life provides a less-than-happy ending, do a mental rewrite —where you make the brilliant remark or win the contract.Like the positive explanatory style, this strategy keeps you from getting trapped by feelings of defeat. And visualizing yourself succeeding encourages you to duplicate your performance in reality.
- Learn your own triggers. By observing the flow of thoughts and sensations that accompany emotional shifts, you’ll eventually be able to pinpoint when an unpleasant thought threatens your mood or an agreeable one improves it. Then you can actively block the negative while encouraging the positive.