If you’ve felt like it’s impossible to control whether or not you wake up on the “right” side of the bed, you wouldn’t be the first. Many of us struggle with negative thoughts taking precedence over positive thoughts and feelings about our current situation, the foreseeable future, and even the hypothetical.
The truth is, our ability to be optimistic about life has an enormous impact on how bright our reality is. Dr. Deepika Chopra, Optimism Doctor, visual imagery expert, and founder of Things Are Looking Up, gives us some valuable insight pulled from her deck of cards—literally. She has an Optimism Card Deck. And it’s a Swiss Army knife of happiness.
She shares with us that “optimism is learned.” Whew. So we aren’t all permanently doomed to be crabby cynics. This is great news. But it also means we have our work cut out for us. As an Optimism Doctor, Dr. Deepika Chopra explains that she specializes in “blending together holistic practices with evidence-based science to help clients come up with their own sense of self-mastery by teaching practical tools to shift mindset and to cultivate more joy, hope, and resiliency in their lives.” Got all that?
To blend the holistic and scientific, “from a psychological perspective, being optimistic is about finding silver linings as much as it is about exercising your resiliency muscle. An optimist is really someone who sees the roadblocks and the setbacks, but sees them as temporary and something they have the ability to overcome. The pursuit of happiness and joy is as much about the feeling as it is about working to get there.” On that note, here are some of the Optimism Doctor’s personal tools:
“Develop a visual imagery practice.
Visual imagery is a very effective way to increase optimism. If you can truly visualize something you want to achieve or overcome, using all of your senses, your brain is more likely to believe it is possible. And when your brain believes that something is possible, you are more likely to be able to fire up its executive functioning and problem-solving capacity.
Your brain is an anticipatory organ. It is constantly anticipating what is coming next, whether that is a few seconds from now or weeks from now. The more you expect something to happen, the more likely your brain will do everything in its power to make that very thing happen, whether it is good or bad. Try and see if every day you can focus on a few things that you anticipate to have a positive outcome.
Challenge yourself to find a point or growth (even if small) in less-than-ideal situations.
Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, try to see if you can come up with something you learned from it.
Create a positive morning ritual.
Even if it is short and small. Actually, the simpler the better—something you can potentially do from anywhere without any extra resources. I have said the same Sanskrit mantra while washing my face since I was 7. This is something that sets my day, and I can do from anywhere. Research shows that your morning mood has an impact on your mood for the rest of the day.
Remind yourself often that where you are right now in this exact moment is not where you always will be.
There is solace in knowing that this is temporary and it will pass. There is also sometimes sadness in this notion, like when I look at my toddler and I want a specific moment to last forever, but instead of dwelling on that, I work toward making the moment more meaningful by really experiencing it fully.”
You can start right now, with the resources you have on hand (your brain) and literally any upcoming scenario. Chip away at the work it takes to be a more optimistic person, and brighter outcomes will follow. It’s a matter of shifting your energy.
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