New Year is traditionally a time for optimism. We start the year full of hope, determined to make it a better year than the last. But, as the months pass and life gets in the way, it is often hard to keep the high spirits going.
Chances are that by the end of the year you could again be feeling glad to see the back of the old year and hoping once more for a better new year.
So, how do we break this cycle and keep our happy outlook all the way through to December? We decided to take a look at optimism – why it is good for you, why some people have more of it than others, and how you can become more optimistic.
And, if you are struggling our psychotherapist can help – but more of that later.
Numerous studies have shown that optimism is good for your health. People who view the glass as half full are likely to live longer, sleep better, suffer less cardiovascular disease and have better immune systems. Plus, of course, they will generally just feel happier, which makes life a whole lot nicer.
So, if we all know optimism is good and we all want to be optimistic, why do some of us find it harder than others?
It seems some people are just lucky to have been born optimists; scientists believe around 25% of our pre-disposition to optimism is genetic.
Life experiences, environment and social factors also affect our ability to maintain a positive outlook. It stands to reason that if you have had a tougher life then you will find it more difficult to remain optimistic than someone who is blessed with constant good fortune.
But does that mean if we are not lucky enough to have been born optimists and have difficult lives then we have to give up on optimism. Not at all. There are exercises you can do to improve the way you respond to the world around you and to raise your optimism levels. Here are a couple –
Focus on your best self
In this exercise you spend time thinking about the best you can be and imagine yourself living your best possible life.
Studies have shown that doing this helps to rewire the brain a little, so that you end up with a more positive outlook.
A Netherlands-based study split 54 adults into two groups. Half were instructed to write down all the best possible scenarios they could imagine for their lives, while the other half wrote down things that had actually taken place over the past 24 hours.
Both groups then had to imagine these things and to replay them in their minds every day for five minutes over the course of two weeks.
Questionnaires completed before and after the study showed an increase in levels of optimism in the group that was imagining a best possible life.
Various studies have shown that if you write down all the things you are grateful for every day, over time you will experience a slight shift in thought patterns and experience increased levels of optimism.
Try spending a few minutes writing your gratitude list each night before bed. Read it in the morning to start the day on a positive note.
Listen to NHS audios to boost your mood
Listen to these audios from NHS Moodzone for tips on coping with low mood, depression and unhelpful thinking.
Sometimes you need more help
While exercises that get you to focus your thoughts on positive things have been shown to increase optimism, they are not always enough. If you are struggling with low mood or depression and finding it hard to be optimistic it may be a good idea to seek professional help.
Steve Ashley, our psychotherapist, is experienced and skilled in helping people to cope with all of life’s challenges. Call us on 966 860 258 to book a free initial consultation to find out how he can help you.