In what is arguably, the most optimistic look at running behind schedule that I’ve seen, a recent article puts it out there that maybe non-punctual people are just victims of being too positive. The chronically late are not just inconsiderate, or poor planners, no! They’re just a touch too hopeful. They think they can accomplish more in the time they have (laundry! Breakfast! A workout….in 45 minutes) than they actually can, which makes them regularly miss their timelines.
And if that’s not enough of a silver-lining for you, this attitude tends to make them live longer, have lower stress levels, and diminished risk of heart disease. Think of your type-b friend who strolls into work cool and collected (albeit 10 minutes late) when you are still drying the sweat from your brow after rushing in 5 minutes earlier.
People who are always late tend to look at the big picture, and figure, “It’s only 10 minutes!” Getting over the small stuff, and seeing time as more fluid can help you live in the moment and enjoy all the wonderful things while they’re happening, not only when they fit into a timeslot in your schedule.
So, the next time you’re stressing while you’re stuck in traffic, take a deep breath and adopt the positive point of view. You’ve got plenty of time! And when you make it to your destination relaxed and clear-headed, you’ll have the wherewithal to make the most of it.
Image by Sean MacEntee.
A couple weeks ago, I started noticing the #100HappyDays hashtag popping up here and there. I didn’t think too much of it, since some people can be real hashtag abusers. But after it kept coming up, associated with special moments, I was curious. It turns out it’s not just an inane hashtag misuse, but a challenge- one that I actually really like the idea of. The home website asks you to simply be happy 100 days in a row, anticipating that most people will instantly think they can’t, or don’t have time (I mean, that’s practically a third of a year!). Instead of giving up before you begin, it challenges you to stop bragging about your packed calendar, and take a few moments each day for yourself to notice a happy moment – something 71% of people couldn’t manage to fit in. Then, you simply have to take a photo of the thing, person, sunshine that gave you that warm fuzzy feeling.
In our photo-happy times, this seems pretty easy, right? Everyone is taking pictures of everything, and posting them instantly to facebook/twitter/Instagram for the world to see. While there’s lots of negative things that could be said about this, #100HappyDays notes that this is not a competition, or a way to show off – if that’s the spirit of your photos, then you’re missing the point of the challenge. No one will know if you’re trying to make people jealous or cheating but you, but you’re the one who won’t be happier for it. The goal is to draw attention to the little things (using the social media platform of your choice), and practice daily gratitude to be in a better mood, be aware of what makes you happy, realize how lucky you are to live the life you lead, or to become more optimistic. If you choose, you can register on the website, and receive a little 100 page book that has all of your happy moments after you complete the challenge. Then, when you need a reminder of what’s good in your life, you can simply flip through your moments of happiness.
When I set my alarm to get up early before work to go for a run, or to go to the gym, there are many times that I don’t feel like going. As I make the preparations the night before, laying out my outfit, packing my workout bag, I often think how much nicer it would be to sleep a little longer instead. When the alarm goes off, sometimes it’s a tough battle to get out from under the covers rather than rolling over. On one of these mornings, I walked into the gym feeling all sorts of cranky, and wishing I had decided not to come. I was tired and unmotivated, but I got on the elliptical anyhow because I was there. Then I looked to my left, and I saw an old woman, so white-haired and frail that she had parked her walker next the elliptical three down from me. She was going slow, but she was going. If that’s not inspiration to work out as an able bodied young woman, I don’t know what is. She needed assistance walking, but still put in the effort to get in her daily exercise. I can walk just fine, and I was grumbling about being there. It reminded me of a blog post I read a long time ago about being thankful for being tired and sore muscles because it meant you had an active body that had carried you around all day, and keep you mobile- something you might realize you had taken for granted if it’s capabilities are ever taken away from you.
Then I saw The Huffington Post’s article on Olga Kotelko, the 90 year old track star. After she retired from her teaching job, she started competing in track and field in her 70s, and now she has 26 world record in her 90-94 age group as of today- an impressive record at any age, and especially so at hers. Olga doled out a few tips on staying healthy and active that included eating fresh, natural, unprocessed, and unrefined foods, while getting lots of sleep. She also sites keeping a balanced fitness routine that challenges cardio, flexibility, and muscles while training your brain by learning new things. Then finally she plans for the future, is looking forward to joining the 95-99 age bracket next, and keeps an optimistic outlook, saying, “You’re never too old to chase your dream!” Take a page from her book next time you are dreading a workout, and remember – if Olga can do it, you probably can too.
Being optimistic is essentially maintaining a positive outlook for longer than a negative outlook. And the key to doing that is being resilient and persevering, according to an interview with Margaret Wheatley for The Intelligent Optimist magazine. Basically in order to be optimistic you need to understand that there will be bad days, experience them, and then bounce back. It’s looking at the annoying bad things that happen, accepting them, and moving along. The sustained frustration at negative things in life is at the basis of pessimism. Instead of getting mad that bad things happen, accept the setback and failure. They are an inescapable part of living. Understanding that bad days will pass and taking the lesson in them for what its worth rather than dwelling on the negative repercussions of the event is the difference between seeing things as glass half empty or glass half full.
We all have that friend who can make any situation into a Debbie Downer moment, regardless of what is going on. My Grandmother used to call it being contrary, when I used to disagree with everything my sister said just to be difficult as a child (luckily I grew out if it). Now researchers call this tendency to take an EVERYTHING IS AWFUL or EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL point of view “dispositional attitude.”
What it means is that how people feel in a particular situation isn’t 100% motivated by the circumstances surrounding them. Instead, it is a result of the properties in the mind of the person evaluating them. A person with a dispositional attitude will automatically be pre-disposed, or more inclined, to either love everything or hate everything regardless of whether the sky is full of rainbows and sunshine, or rain clouds and thunder. It is not the situation itself making them feel that way, but an internal tendency to view all circumstances in a particular light. I’ve been known to tell my friends, “Haters gonna hate,” when that kind of person gets them down. Now, at least we have an inkling as to why!
It’s been found that optimists tend to live longer, and be healthier overall than their often unhappy counterparts, the pessimists. However, in the past, many believed that the idealism employed by optimists could hamper their ability to function in the “real world” which may not turn out to work they way idealistic optimists wish to believe it should. Optimists were seen as a uniform group who may ignore actual conditions to look at only the positive. Now, thanks to researcher Sophia Chou, optimists can be sorted into two groups: realists and idealists.
While realism was previously associated with pessimism, and linked with poor well-being scores and often depression, when a realistic view of the world is paired with a tendency to look on the bright side, it leads to greater happiness and success. Realistic optimists tend to choose accuracy, while idealist optimists choose self-enhancement. They look at situations with a more global view, making plan B and plan C in case plan A is not successful, and feel in control of their life and relationships. By acknowledging potential challenges and planning for how to cope with them, realistic optimists can maintain their cheerfulness and look forward to good things in the future even when they experience difficult times in the present. They key is to focus on self-control and the efficacy to exert control over relationships and life choices.
You already know that looking on the bright side is way more fun than being a Debbie Downer all the time. But what if it’s just not a part of your nature, and instead of seeing the silver linings, you’re more prone to seeing the big gray cloud hanging over your head? Well, you’re in luck! Author David Mezzapelle shared 10 ways that even the worst pessimist can try to be a little more optimistic.
- Be Thankful: If you aren’t aware of the good stuff you have going on, it’s hard to be happy with your life. Take stock of what is going right in your life, and what is going wrong. This will make you value what you’ve already got, and help you figure out how to turn those not so great things around. Hopefully 6 months from now, those awful things will be lessons that taught you something great that you can appreciate after the hardship is over.
- Tell Others Your Stories: By telling other people about the times you really messed up and how you coped, you pay it forward, making it easier for someone else to avoid those pitfalls you found first (and just in case you didn’t know, paying it forward will make you feel pretty good too).
- Don’t Hold Grudges: When you carry around bad feelings towards someone else, the only person they will make feel bad is you. Forgive and move on because while you can learn from it, you can’t change what’s happened in the past.
- Really Listen: Don’t half-listen while you play a game on your iphone. When you’re distracted, you send others the message that you don’t care about what they’re saying, and block yourself off from learning new things.
- Use the Green Monster: When you’re jealous or envious of what someone else has, that probably means you want something they have. Instead of festering about it, pick their brain and figure out how you can get it too – take that negative energy and use it to get what you want.
- Smile More: When you smile (even if you’re faking it), your body releases serotonin that will boost your mood. Frowning just gives you wrinkles.
- Lead a Healthy Lifestyle: Try to be active, eat healthy nourishing food, and get a little sunlight most days. Park farther away from the store. Take the stairs. Grab a pack of almonds instead of a candy bar at the drug store, and use that lunch break to go get some fresh air. Your body will thank you with better focus, higher levels of vitamin D, and a boost of energy.
- Think Good Things About the Future: Try not to always jump for the worst case scenario. Picturing the opportunities that will open up ahead of you instead of doors slamming in your face will help you see your life in a more positive light. Reposition the situation to one that has (even if it’s really tiny) some sort of pleasant effect on your life at the end, even if it sucks going through the steps you need to get there.
- Take Charge: Don’t blame things that are going wrong in your life on other people, the economy or politicians. If you decide you’re in control of your own life instead of looking for a scapegoat, you’ll be more open to opportunities that might come your way to get you out of that scenario.
- Know that the Past does not Predict the Future: If you had a crappy childhood, that does not mean you’re doomed to a crappy adulthood. If you screwed up your last relationship, it doesn’t mean you’ll fail at the next. When you go through something difficult, you typically learn something. Instead, think of it as a hurdle you’ve already jumped. Now the path is clear to move forward unobstructed.
What do you do when you’re in a funk, and want to look on the bright side?
If you haven’t already noticed, looking on the bright side (or at least making crappy situations seem a little less crappy) is kind of my thing. So, imagine how happy I was when I read this article on the Huffington Post that was dedicated to describing how this state of mind – seeing the glass as half full— is good for your health. It discusses recent findings published in The Journal of Personality which indicate that most people tend to view their future through rose-colored glasses across national boundaries and high vs. low income nations. Read: the ability to take a positive stance isn’t limited to those who live in the lap of luxury. And it’s not limited by your age, education, gender or total income either. The results showed that hopefulness that tomorrow will be better than today extended through all of these groups as a universally attainable belief, which is great news because studies show that optimism is associated with overall well-being, good physical condition, and has 6 definite impacts on health. In general, optimists have:
- Healthier Hearts: Psychological well-being (or being happier as a person) decreases risk of cardiovascular problems
- Better Cholesterol: More good cholesterol, lower levels of bad cholesterol are found people who expect more good to come their way than bad
- Enhanced Stress Management: Looking for the silver lining in bad situations makes optimists overall more able to manage stressful situations, and recover physically more quickly
- Stronger Immunity: Staying positive during cold season may make it easier to fight off those germs
- Lower Stroke Risk: Possibly attributed to the idea that people who are positive in nature take more steps to maintain their physical health
- Superior Emotional Regulation: Optimists seem more able to bounce back more easily from emotional trauma, and take upsetting feelings in stride
While you can’t control what happens to you in life, you can control the attitude you adopt after that bad hair day, break up, or cavity at the dentist ruins your day. And now, it looks like you can affect how your whole body functions as a result, some pretty good motivation to try out some positive thinking now and again, no?