A Glass of your Best
Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Are you an optimist or the other one? As they say "Glass half full, or half empty?".
I am firmly on the dark side when it comes to thinking positive but perhaps not for much longer. As part of a project I am working on my optimism by practising it daily in a systematic way and seeing if over time this can increase my happiness levels.
Being optimistic generally has been shown to lead to a better sense of well-being amongst many other health benefits and I am hoping to imminently see some changes…although studies are telling me that this isn’t true for everyone and I need to keep at for a few weeks at least to see if this can work for me.
As I’m sure many of you with multiple commitments like family, jobs and running a household do, I normally plan my day ahead of time. For me, without a typical 9 to 5, this means that every day is different. Although I don’t have to rush off to work for the foreseeable and ‘only’ have one child and a crazy puppy to look after, each day is different and presents its own challenges especially when working around my variable mental health. So I find myself planning where I am and what I am doing by the hour like I used to in the old days when I had client meetings and conference calls galore to fit in.
Each morning I plan the day and then journal for about 2-3 minutes about how well things are going to go (positive outcomes), what I am looking forward to and the positive emotions I will feel that day. It felt pretty silly the first few times, especially as it seemed futile to expect that wishful thinking would improve things like my dog’s behaviour, difficult conversations with people or things I was not looking forward to at all.
I am glad I practised a bit, just scribbling my thoughts down on scraps of paper to help me get used to it. I found I had to really push myself to think of positive outcomes and I often mentioned more the way I would feel instead e.g.” I will feel a real sense of accomplishment in my writing today and produce the material I need to” as opposed to the inflexible “I will complete 4 blog posts to an amazing standard”.
I am now two weeks in and so far I am finding it easy to incorporate a little bit of optimism into my day. Interestingly, on bad days my optimism has been reduced to a couple of sentences about “managing well” and things “going better than I thought they would” and having some “much needed time to rest”. I seem to be adapting the project as I go, rather than expecting amazing outcomes I am anticipating better than neutral experiences.
IMHO for myself and anyone who has every suffered with depression this is our optimism. Also as not expecting the worst totally disrupts automatic anxious predictions about everything and anything, inherent in Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which I have suffered from ever since I can remember this is a massive step in the right direction. (Coming soon - a post on this innocuous sounding mental health condition).
So far I have found some interesting things happening. Cultivating optimism daily like this is making me much more focused on the present, and perhaps by default less on the past and the future. I have caught myself having that feeling of looking forward to something a few times over the last fortnight – that Christmas morning feeling almost – just about the simplest of things that normally I would take for granted. And during tasks that I have not looked forward to but am obliged to do, I have noticed when they have gone well in line with my predictions and also what ‘good enough’ means.
That I don’t have to expect ecstatic lottery winner happiness each day or gleeful-I-have-discovered-calorie-free-chocolate pleasure for my mindset to shift slightly it seems which amazes me.
I will be working on this for the next month or so, sign up if you want to keep updated!
I have called my projects the “Best Days” intervention which is adapted from ideas on Cultivating Optimism taken from The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky.