Optimism can be defined as having the skill and ability to make good things happen. In particular, Dispositional Optimism focuses on hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something, recognising challenges but ultimately believing things will be figured out.

Your mindset goes a long way beyond the mind. It can be said that mindset is everything, your beliefs, attitude, passion, and habits, affect every area of your life; business, relationships and mostly with yourself.

Your thoughts are powerful. You wake up unmotivated – that sets the tone for the rest of your day, when you’re not willing to do anything to challenge that belief.

When you make a conscious choice that you’re going to feel driven and look forward for the day then that’s how you’ll feel. Your frame of mind can be an asset or detractor, what you tell yourself impacts how you make sense of the world and yourself.

 What’s your word for 2024?

Setting new year resolutions has been a tradition for thousands of years. Another practice can be selecting a word for the year that works alongside your goals. Even if your goals shift or alter throughout the year, you can be sure you’re staying true to your vision by focusing on your word of the year. (1)

My word for 2024 is OPTIMISM. As I reflect over 2023, I feel that limiting beliefs have kept me minimised, playing small in a lot of areas of my life. I have many things I wish to pursue and learn, yet self doubt creeps in. Voices of the past playing on my mind on loop; that I’m not good enough, smart enough or confident enough, that things can work out for others, but not me; constantly stalls my ability to take action.

In 2023, one thing that went well is I have been consistent with meditating for at least 10 mins a day as soon as I wake up, whether I feel like it or not. One of the meditations was around the subject of staying positive and optimistic, which lead to the inspiration for writing this post. Listen to it here.

Key points on optimism to note:

➼ Optimism is the fuel for our dreams and wings for our aspirations
➼ We overlook small moments that sprinkle joy in our day – a smile from a friend, a few words of affirmation, a refreshing drink on a hot day – we have to savour these fleeting moments which hold the power to brighten your world and everyone else’s
➼ It’s an honour to have the opportunity to live in our own unique way
➼ Optimism is not about being naive to the things going wrong in the world, it is a conscious choice to see possibilities that exist beyond challenges, turning setbacks into stepping stones
➼ The optimist seeks solutions rather than dwells on problems
➼ Optimism fills us with enthusiasm, purpose and ignites the spark of hope
➼ We acknowledge our ability to overcome challenges and become more resilient, creative problem solvers
➼ Optimists are the designers of the positive change we see in the world, where hope blooms and dreams flourish

The neurological impact of optimism

There is evidence that optimistic people present a higher quality of life compared to those with pessimism. Optimism may significantly influence mental and physical well-being by managing a healthy lifestyle as well as by behaviours and responses associated with greater flexibility, problem-solving capacity and a more efficient processing of negative information.

An optimistic disposition is considered a trait of a balanced personality, that influences the way individuals cope with various situations and time – past, present and future. Positive correlations have been found when optimistic individuals are positive about daily life, linked to physical and mental wellbeing, a tendency toward more resilience to stress, protective attitudes and inclination toward more suitable coping strategies. 

Research shows that through using active coping tactics and by adaptive management of personal goals and development, optimists are significantly more successful than those with lower optimism in challenging situations and when important life-goals don’t meet expectations. (2)

Viewing life through an optimistic lens has neurological benefits- we get a dopamine hit from being kind, and lower cortisol associated with stress reduction. (1)

When it comes to physical health (though not always the case as a protective factor), particularly with illnesses exacerbated by stress, optimism may determine a decrease cortisol and adrenaline which typically present with stress. (2)

 How to cultivate optimism 

Optimists are characterised by a tendency to expect good things in the future, to believe negative events are unlikely to repeat and that positive events are more stable and constant. That negative events are external and specific (I am not responsible for that event, it’s self-contained and will not influence other activities of my life).

Another way in which optimism may significantly influence physical well-being is through promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

Several studies analysed the correlations between optimism and healthy behaviours. One such study by Steptoe et al. sampled males and females aged between 65–80 years. Optimism was found to correlate with healthy behaviours. These included withdrawing from smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, regular brisk walking and physical activity. This was regardless of demographical factors, current psycho-physical conditions and body mass. (2)

 In conclusion 

It takes ongoing work to stop telling oneself that things are hard and life is about survival, struggle and to live in the present moment. This work to keep an optimistic mindset is not one that will ever be ‘finished’.

We must remind ourselves and others that worrying about a future that hasn’t happened yet only creates anxiety, and worrying about the past is a not a wise use of effort. (3)

There may be no guarantee that it will all work out, but my hope for you is that you learn to take action and press forward. Even if the year ahead doesn’t go as planned—hold fast the belief that despite life being messy and beautiful at the same time, it will be even better. (4)

I hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to share your Word of the Year and reflections in the comments.

References:

  1. Word of the Year for 2023 See Jane Write: https://seejanewritebham.com/2023/01/word-for-the-year-2023/#:~:text=For%20example%2C%20if%202022%20was,speaks%20to%20you%20the%20most.
  2. Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894461/
  3. How To Choose A Word Of The Year, Elizabeth Rider: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894461/#R48
  4. Define Your Brand by Showing your Face, Elizabeth Rider: https://www.forbes.com/sites/goldiechan/2023/05/05/define-your-brand-by-showing-your-face/

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