I posted a quote on my Facebook page this morning which I thought was not only beautifully simple, but highly relevant to the situation we are currently in.
“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” – The Dalai Lama
Yes, I know it’s hard to be optimistic at the moment when the world is in the grip of a terrible health crisis, and bad news upon bad news is fired at us every day, but believe me when I say that things will improve, life will get better and you will experience ‘happy’ again. How can I know this? Because it’s the circle of life and our lives are a series of ups and downs. Yes, this is a pretty BIG down, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to come out of it happier, wiser and more grateful.
So just what is there to be optimistic about, I can hear you saying? Well, first of all let’s remember that optimism is not the same as happiness.
Being optimistic doesn’t mean that you won’t go through difficult times, stress and hardship, but it does mean that you may be able to react to it in a different way. Being optimistic allows you to handle difficult situations in a more productive way, which reduces the harmful effects of stress and worry on both your physical and mental health.
One of my favourite quotes is:
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
So, if you are wondering how you can be more optimistic, but think it’s impossible in the current situation, I want you to consider the following thoughts. I promise you, your level of optimism can be changed if you (quite literally!) put your mind to it.
Firstly, I want you to think about the best possible outcomes for the situation we are in, and yes, perhaps surprisingly, there actually are some: The world ‘resetting’ itself, human beings being more grateful and kind towards each other, a new attitude to cleanliness, and the positive impact on the planet. Skies are bluer, fewer cars are crashing, crime is falling, and some other infectious diseases are fading from hospital emergency departments. There are significant reductions in air pollution, up to 20-30% in major cities around the world. And no one can deny that community spirit is probably the highest it’s been for decades. And it’s OK to concentrate on these positives. None of these thoughts are disrespectful to the pain and devastation that the disease has caused.
Believe that there may be another way of looking at things, in other words try and reframe your thinking. Instead of thinking about the difficult day you have had, make an effort to look for any positives. For example, being “stuck at home with nothing to do” can be reformed as being “safe at home with an opportunity to connect with my family/ read a book/ spend time in the garden/ listen to music/ spend time in a hobby.”
Turn OFF the news.
Stop waiting to live. We are in difficult times, but staying in bed all day, not getting dressed and moping around the house will not help. Keep to pre lockdown routines, get up, get dressed and make a plan for the day. You will feel much better if you go to bed thinking you have achieved something during the day.
Pre Covid, did you sometimes feel your life was rushing about in a whirr of work and travel commitments? I know I did. Now I have to time to breathe, to think and to reflect. This ‘slowed down’ way of life has allowed me to reevaluate my priorities and think about what I want from my life going forward.
Remember that you are not alone. We’re all in this together.
Remembering challenges you have overcome in the past can help inspire you to face current and future difficulties … and don’t forget, we learn so much more when we struggle, than from when we are coasting along in life.
Start or end your day with gratitude, if possible listing what you have to be grateful for. A “Gratitude Attitude’ will train your brain to always see the positives.
Try not to worry too much the future. It’s easy to get caught in a spiral of anxious thoughts about the future. We all want to know when this will end but there are some things beyond our control. Acknowledging this can actually take away some of the worry.
Connecting with positive people will help. If you are meeting with friends online or on the phone, try and limit your connections to people who have some positivity about them, and particularly those who have energy and purpose. Chatting with those who prefer to dwell on the doom and gloom can drain your energy and momentum.
Be kind. Order some flowers for someone who is alone or send them a little gift through the post. A random act of kindness will not only help the recipient, it will boost your level of happiness and optimism hugely. Try it!
Set an example and be a role model. Optimism can be learned and is a teachable skill. If your family, or the people you are living with veers towards the pessimistic, do what you can to be the optimistic one. It may be tough at first, but if you can get one or two people thinking like you, it will soon snowball.
Sounds simple, but actually make the choice to be more optimistic each day ….and then enjoy the rewards of your improved outlook.
Keep things in perspective. Yes, depending upon age and underlying health situations, we are all at risk, but if we willingly comply with health advice, stay at home, practice social distancing and wash our hands, we can dramatically cut our risk of contracting this virus. It’s common sense…. if you are willing to comply, you can make your self safer and potentially save the lives of others.
Finally, let me leave you with this thought. The word “virus” and the terror of the speed of how easily it spreads, is at the centre of all our current fears, but there are some positive things that I would like you to catch: Optimism, gentleness, goodness, kindness, sympathy, tenderness and tolerance can also be highly contagious. I sincerely hope that you catch these, and then pass them on to everyone to meet.
I will end with another favourite quote from Christine Caine:
“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.”