Being optimistic during challenging times
Dr Jozelle Miller
January 5, 2021
Being optimistic during challenging times

Some may say that making it through 2020 was nothing short of a miracle; but even as we enter 2021, the anxiety over what exist in the future is still quite daunting for many. The question is how can we remain optimistic in the face of health uncertainty, financial down turn and natural disasters? The answer depends on the mindset, you decide to employ.

Having a positive mindset is scientifically proven to boost happiness and motivate you to achieve your goals. If you’re actively working to recognize the positive aspects of your life, you’ll naturally start to see silver linings in challenging situations. Health benefits of positive thinking and optimism include reduced stress, better psychological and physical well-being, and better coping skills during stressful times.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Optimists see opportunities in every difficulty.” Even though roadblocks may be getting in your way, it’s important to remember that optimists are creative thinkers who can recover from setbacks. Channel your energy into positive thinking and let yourself continue to dream big.

The 4 Parts to Optimism

There are 4 parts to optimism. These are:

Thoughts – thinking that your future will be good and pleasant in some way

Imagination – imagining that your future will be better than the present

Energy – feeling hopeful and excited about your future

Action – acting as if you are getting a desirable outcome in the future

8 ways we can embrace an optimistic mindset:

1. Contain the Problem to a Small Area

Let’s say you’re about to go on holiday with your family. You arrive at the airport, and your flight is delayed by four hours.

How would an optimistic person deal with this? They might be a little disappointed or annoyed. But they would probably think or say something like:

-It’s only a flight.

-I’m still excited about going on holiday.

-I’m happy to be with my family.

-It’s just a bad start, but everything will be okay.

2. Forgive and Let Go

When something happens that makes you feel pessimistic or negative, know that you can look at the situation differently. You can change your perspective.

Also, let go of any negative emotions, such as anger, frustration, disappointment, or sadness. Forgive yourself for things you did or didn’t do in the past. And then learn to forgive others. Forgive others so you and your life can move forward. When you have a grudge against someone else, it negatively affects your life by thinking about it. So, it makes little sense to hold on to any resentment or grudge against another person. So learn to forgive others, so you can free yourself of these negative emotions.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Most persons after a bad night’s sleep, finds it much harder to be optimistic and positive; often reacting more emotionally without thinking. It’s because your brain goes back to a familiar set-point when you’re tired. You’ve been working on yourself for a while, and you’ve become more optimistic. After a bad night’s sleep, your brain may go back to what’s familiar – your old pessimistic self.

So how do you deal with this? Firstly, Acceptance! Just accept that you will not be as positive and optimistic as you usually are.

Secondly, take a power nap if you can. Close your eyes and have a little nap for up to 20 minutes. I’ve done this on many occasions, and it’s had a huge effect on my level of optimism and positivity.

4. Consult Your Inner Coach

Think about a setback, frustration, disappointment, or anything that makes you feel pessimistic. Then imagine your favorite self-help or personal development expert in the room with you. What would they say to help you? What questions might they ask you? What advice would they give you? What might they do in the same situation? Then imagine taking their advice and acting as if you are that person.

5. Perceive the Event as Temporary

When something frustrating happens, pessimistic people see it as long-term and permanent. Optimistic people see it as temporary. Let’s go back to that 4-hour flight delay example. Once on the plane, an optimistic person will forget about the delay and focus on enjoying the holiday. A pessimistic person will still think about it and how it will negatively affect the holiday.

Or, let’s say you lose your job. An optimistic person would say:

“These things happen.”

“I’m confident I’ll get a new job.”

“It’s good to make a change.”

A pessimistic person might say:

“I’m never going to find a new job.”

“Things will never be the same again.”

“My life is ruined.”

A pessimistic person sees this one event permanently affecting the rest of their life. They lack a positive and optimistic view of the future. This will influence the action they’ll take. A pessimistic person is more likely to give up and fall into some kind of depression. An optimistic person will probably look forward to applying for new jobs.

6. Identify Your Role

It’s crucial to identify your role in the situation correctly. Let’s go back to that 4-hour flight delay. An optimistic person would say:

“There is nothing I can do about it.”

“These things just happen.”

A pessimistic person would personalize it in some way. They would say:

“Why did I choose this airline?”

“Why am I always on flights that are delayed?”

In response to losing their job, an optimistic person might say:

“These things happen.”

“People lose jobs, especially when the economy changes.”

A pessimistic person might say things like:

“I’m not good enough.”

Let’s say that these two people get a new job. The optimistic person might think “Great! I worked hard, and I deserve this new job”.

A more pessimistic person might think “The Company needed someone. I just happened to be there. There was no one else available”.

There’s quite a difference here. An optimistic person believes that they took action to get that job. A pessimistic person thinks it just happened, with little action on their part. They didn’t take responsibility for their success.

That’s a key difference – an optimistic person takes responsibility and takes action.

7. Acknowledge What Went Well

I recommend doing this daily. Ask yourself 2 questions:

What did I do well today? List all the things you did well. These are situations where you took some positive action. You took responsibility for them turning out well. When you focus on this consistently, it will help increase your level of optimism. And this will grow your self-confidence because you’re focusing on the things that you can do rather than the things you can’t.

What went well? This question refers more to those things that are outside your control. Sometimes great things just happen. It’s good to appreciate and be grateful for these. You can take this further. Acknowledge what’s good about your life and list all the things that you usually take for granted. Create a gratitude journal. The more you focus on what works well in your life, the more you’ll feel optimistic.

8. Focus on Small Changes

What can you do today to improve your life? It doesn’t matter if it’s something small. The key is to take responsibility. Pessimists often believe that they are helpless. They blame others. However, you can do more than you think. We always have a choice of how to think and how to act. So, what can you do to make any situation better for yourself? By taking positive action, you will almost always feel better.