Welcome. This is the final article in a series on stress which aims to give you simple ideas for managing stress. Each article contains an idea to manage stress, a short explanation why it is helpful in managing stress and an exercise based on the idea. Then it is up to you to try it out over the week. To get the most out of this series, write down how each exercise is working for you in managing your stress.
This week’s idea is Be Optimistic
Research has associated optimism and positive thinking with many health benefits including:
• Increased life span
• Lower rates of depression
• Lower levels of distress
• Greater resistance to the common cold
• Better psychological and physical well-being
• Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
• Better coping skills during difficulties and times of stress
It is thought that an optimistic outlook helps us to cope better in stressful situations. This may reduce the negative health effects of stress on our body. We are also more likely to engage in healthier habits and have a healthy lifestyle if we are an optimist, which further helps us to manage stress.
In comparison, negative thinking is associated with an increase in stress and we are more likely to feel overwhelmed in stressful situations. Here in Britain it is common to have a negative outlook. We are constantly surrounded by people moaning about many things such as the weather, our work, the price of groceries, travel and interest rates. You just have to look at popular soaps and tv shows to see how negative and unhappy we are characterised as a nation. It is also part of our humour to have a good moan. Just consider the popular comedians of today. It is also part of our culture to admit our failings, overly apologising even when it’s not our fault. And when things go well many of us are careful not to overly celebrate our achievements but instead brush it off as no big deal.
For these reasons it is even more important that we try to have a more positive outlook, to try to find light in the darkness. Even if you consider yourself to be a negative thinker, it’s okay. The good news is optimism can be learned. You can build your positive thinking and develop an optimistic outlook through training your brain to think in a different way. I will now introduce you to an exercise in fostering an optimistic outlook. If this is something you would like to look into further, I would encourage you to look on Positive Psychology’s website and the Pursuit of Happiness Website. Both use evidenced-based psychological theory and practices.
Exercise in being Optimistic
Noticing your thinking is the first step in becoming more optimistic. Try it over the next hour, day, week. Notice if your thoughts are overly negative. Do you have negative self-talk? Do you harshly criticise yourself more so than you would someone else? This is common. You are not the only one. Noticing these thoughts are step one. The next step is spinning these thoughts into a more positive outlook. Can you find anything positive at all in your current thinking? Is there anyway to think differently about this negative thought? Even if you believe the negative thought to be justified, is there also a positive thought that can be included into your thinking? You may not become an optimist overnight however over time training your mind to think more positively will result in you being more optimistic and better able to manage stress.
Here is an example of noticing and changing negative thoughts to a more optimistic outlook:
Received an letter from the tax office saying I have underpaid tax this year and owe them money.
You can make your own table like this by writing down your negative thoughts and then coming up with your own more positive outlook. Be optimistic, it will help.
If you have enjoyed reading this article please like and share. This is the final article in this series. I will be introducing you to a new series next week. Until then have a good one.
Thank you to Luke Bennett for this week’s feature image of the moon shining in the darkness.