Five Fabulous Ways to Stay Optimistic!
by Lois Barth, Human Development Expert, Speaker, Coach and Author of Courage to SPARKLE
A gazillion years ago when I first came to New York City, I was a coat check girl at many of the top discos. Very quickly I understood the true meaning of the expression “the bloom is off the rose.” The image of the glamorous star-studded iconic places at 4am, then called “lights up”, still stays with me. What was left was a static mirrored disco ball in desperate need of dusting, a hunched over janitor mopping the beer stains off the wooden floors, and a boat load of dirty glasses, rolled up napkins and god knows what.
After working with over 800 clients and speaking to thousands of people through the years, as well as witnessing my own journey, it’s clear; we’re a mixed bag of nature and nurture. When it comes to optimism, some of us just naturally have more than others, it’s just the case. The great news is it can be cultivated. And even better news, it can actually be a dynamic process. One that can be flexible, fun, simple, and customized just for YOU!
Intrigued? I certainly am! Here are five fabulous ways to do just that; cultivate optimism!
1. Create a morning ritual that energizes you
I’ll admit it, I’m a morning person. I love them. To me they are nature’s “fresh slate” and a chance to have a do over if it was a tough day, or “bring it on,” if you’re already on a roll. The mornings hold promise; but only if you leverage them accordingly. I’ve had different morning rituals for many years that range from working out, to journaling, to an accountability call, and everything in between. Right now, I’m really into The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, that has you do what’s called SAVERS (silence, affirmations, visualizations, exercise, reading and scribing/journaling) every morning on a daily basis. I love variety, so some mornings I do more journaling and reading and only one minute in each of the remaining ones; I mix it up. Bottom line, make it your own. If you’ve never done a morning ritual, make it simple and fun so you’ll look forward to doing it. In no time you’ll see the difference when you have a consistent morning ritual that is focused on cultivating optimism.
2. Take one action every day that activates your Vitamin “O”
I have to move every day or I feel stagnant and depressed. But I’m built for comfort not for speed, so you won’t see me jogging my first 5K or canyoning off the Himalayans. I take jazz/hip hop class, do my errands by foot as much as possible, hop on my elliptical bike it doesn’t matter. There are only a few guarantees in life, and one of mine is that when I move, I feel better; always. What’s your version of Vitamin “O”? Some of my clients love reading, gardening, playing music, walking in nature, sitting in a café — the list goes on. Make it bite size. Set yourself up to win. All or nothing thinking will get you bupkiss. Been there, done that, got the chocolate stains on the T-Shirt to prove it.
3. Express (at least) one act of kindness a day
I am deeply blessed. My folks mirrored to us on a daily basis the importance of being kind. I learned early on to be on the lookout for someone needing a bit of help, or how a kind word to another can make their day. Most acts of kindness are totally free, take less than five minutes, and make a huge difference for another human being; and the best side effect: you feel more optimistic. I’m always on the lookout to help someone holding an upside down subway map, open a door, or say hi to the teller, and it always saddens me how surprised they are that someone is paying attention. They are always delighted and I walk away more energetic in the process. Last night, I was exhausted and dealing with a cold and feeling a tad down in the dumps. During a run to the store, I noticed the woman who often stands outside my supermarket. Her face is always covered by her hoodie and she was holding a big sign about losing all her stuff in a fire. I was particularly aware of the cold and asked her if she wanted some soup. When I got it for her, we chatted for less than five minutes about her fire and what social services she’s pursuing to get support. She shared that she had no family or friends that could take her in the most matter-of-fact way. Clearly she was grateful that someone would listen, and I walked away with a greater sense of connection to the world around me, empathy for another human’s plight, and the simple gratitude for having a warm home to come back to. I’m consistently amazed at the connection between optimism and kindness. Commit to one act of kindness a day, and see how your mood shifts.
4. Surround yourself with optimistic people
Most all of us have heard the statistic that what you make salary/income wise is the average of the 5 people in your life that you spend the most time with. It’s the same with optimism. When you actively seek out optimistic people and engage in conversations with them, it rubs off. That doesn’t mean we all don’t go through rough times, cause we do, but I have found that people who value optimism will always look for the lesson, or for ways to shift out of their funk rather than relishing in them.
5. Celebrate your victories
There’s now hard neurological science showing that the reward center of your brain lights up when you celebrate what you’ve done well, big and small. Guess what? When your brain gets energized, you get a healthy dose of dopamine, endorphins, and all the “yay I’m feeling the love,” hormones of optimism kick in. This doesn’t mean ignoring the areas in your life that still need some tweaking or a complete overhaul, it’s more about where you’re putting your focus. One of my executive coaching clients struggles with relentless self-criticism. I gave her an assignment to share with me one thing she did well in a day. She couldn’t come up with one, so I told her to create a list of five victories each day. She looked at me cross-eyed. When I gave her some examples, like responding to a difficult email that ordinarily she put off but this time approached full on, or instead of inserting her opinion with a friend in need, opting to just listen, she was palpably relieved. She thought her victories had to be seismic. She did that for several weeks in a row and we’d start every session with her reading them out loud and we celebrated. She finally started to take in her accomplishments on a far deeper level; even after years of being promoted and having an impressive CV. Several months of doing this practice, she was taking more risks than she had in years. Why? Because she had, as you guessed, cultivated optimism, that she could do it!
Looking to learn how you can cultivate optimism for yourself or your team? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com) !
Lois Barthis a human development expert, motivational speaker, coach, and thrilled to have delivered her first ‘book child,’ “Courage to Sparkle.” She champions women to share their brilliance and to live an authentic life. She speaks at women’s conferences all over the country and has been quoted in The New York Times,The Wall Street Journal, Fitness, Weight Watchers, and MSNBC.com to name a few.