Turbo Charged Optimism
Nearly everyone has had the experience of thinking “I use to be excited about the future, but now I just feel as though I am trudging through life one day at a time.” What happened? Did you lose the ability to dream, to challenge yourself, to believe in your abilities? Perhaps. It happens. Often.
What’s more, the obligations of work and family can be so overwhelming (even when they are performed willingly for those you most love) that one begins to feel drained if not exhausted. Channeling that inner mojo attitude of Little Orphan Annie can be tough.
Except, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s easier than you think – but no one has told you what you can do to recharge your optimism and a renewed zest for life. No, not a sports car (but that’s not a bad idea). Not a trip to the islands (that’s a better idea!).
Nope, none of those things. What I have in mind is less expensive than a sports car and takes less time than a vacation. But it packs a bigger punch than either of them, and will last longer as well.
Best Possible Self
Do you remember being a child, or a teen, and often thinking about what life would be like in the future? It turns out that this type of forward leaning thinking has the effect of increasing optimism and lifting one’s mood. Significantly.
Utpal Dholakia, a professor at Rice University, sums it up in the following way:
“Originally discovered by psychologist Laura King in 2001, a number of studies in the last 5-6 years show that doing a simple visualization exercise can boost anyone’s optimism. Psychologists call it the “best possible self” visualization. In simple terms, it involves generating vivid images of positive events occurring in the future with you in the center of them.”
Now before we move forward to go through the easy steps you can follow to increase your sense of optimism, I want to quickly note why you should even bother. Several reasons:
TWO: The more optimistic you are the less physical illness you are likely to experience
THREE: Optimism acts as a barrier to depression (and I suspect to anxiety as well). Not a perfect barrier, not a Star Wars shield that absolutely prevents depression, but certainly moves the needle in your favor
FOUR: Bonus points, optimism even causes people to experience pain less intensely
How Does It Work?
Carve out 15 to 20 minutes each day. Make this a time when you will not be interrupted. Put it on your calendar as an appointment with yourself. Really. It’s important, and by scheduling the time you are more likely to stick with the schedule.
Count on doing this everyday for a week, and then three or four times a week thereafter (that would be an hour a week once you get rolling… you owe yourself an hour a week for this, and your family and friends will benefit from the changes they experience in you).
Set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes. During that time, I want you to think about your best possible self and write down what that would look like. Imagine your most important dreams and aspirations.
Approach this with the mindset that you have worked very hard to achieve these goals and they have turned out just as you imagined (not in some unrealistic fantasy type of mold, but nevertheless that your dreams were thoroughly fulfilled).
Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, etc. No one is looking over your shoulder. No one is grading your writing. This is just for you.
Focus on your most important goals.
It will be helpful to divide these up into several categories. Some examples include:
For example, for relationships you might focus on how a friendship might deepen and become more supportive/trusting. What would that mean for your life? How would it make you feel? Would you end up travelling with this friend? Going on adventures together? Feeling a sense of deep sense of connection throughout the years?
For personal achievement you might write about getting back into exercising and how that would make you feel, the activities that would allow you to enjoy, or the difference that might make in how you spent each day.
You don’t need to cover every category each time you sit down to meditate and write. Mix them up some and see what happens when you focus on one type of ‘Best Possible Self’ versus another.
It’s that simple. Twenty minutes a day for a week, then keep going or reduce the frequency to every other day or so. For some of you, after you have completed the first month of this exercise, it may be enough to continue with only once or twice a week.
The main thing is to jump in and give it a try. Then let me know how well it has worked for you.
If you are interested in other simple ways to boost your happiness look at links/books under “Positive Lifestyle” on the resources page of forresttalley.com.