How to Be Happier and Optimistic
Today I’m kicking off my ten-part series about how to be happier. When we increase positive emotions in our lives, we become happier. Today I will show you strategies that will help you live with hope. Finding hope in hard times isn’t easy.
It can be challenging to have hope when everything feels wrong, but it’s not impossible.
Now, more than ever, we need to practice a positive mindset, lest we are pulled under by the vicious cycle of negative emotions and unhappiness. We can still learn how to be happier.
The Bad News: We are Prone to Experiencing Negativity
It is common humanity that we experience more negative emotions than positive ones. We are hard-wired for survival to look out for the negative.
Studies show that people tend to focus more on the negative things that happen to them and brush off the positive things without savouring them.
Being attuned to the negative is our built-in protection mechanism. It is how we survived when we were living in caves. We needed to be alert to every single potential threat in our environment.
Luckily, we no longer need to worry about being eaten by dinosaurs. The bad luck is our brains are still inherently wired toward this negative bias.
It is interesting to note that some people are also more prone to negative emotions than others, You may be one of the lucky ones, but some have to work harder to cultivate a positive mindset than others. Jamie Gruman, PhD., author of the book Boost: The Science of Recharging Yourself in an Age of Unrelenting Demands says:
“Some people are born with rose-coloured glasses and a neural architecture that predisposes them to enjoy positive emotions and the best in the world. Other people come into the world with grey-coloured glasses instead of the rose-coloured variety—it’s a genetic lottery,”
If you’re of the latter disposition, don’t worry. Fortunately, there is a lot that we can do to change this negative outlook we’ve inherited. There has been a lot of research into techniques for increasing feelings of hope in our lives.
Once we learn the tools we need, we can practice them repeatedly to increase feelings of hope; the payback is beyond worth the effort.
Please don’t underestimate how important it is that we don’t repress our negative feelings. We can feel them, process them and let them go a lot faster to make way for positive emotions if we have the right tools.
I hope this series will help you create more positive emotional experiences in your life and less negative ones. We all deserve to live with hope because doing so makes us happier.
Who doesn’t want that? Many of life’s circumstances are beyond our control, and we must accept this and stop trying to control the uncontrollable. We do have control over our attitude and our effort; that’s pretty much it. The sooner we can accept this, the better.
Having a positive mindset and living with hope is so critical for optimum mental health and well-Being. However, if you’re feeling negative, that’s ok!
We must feel our negative emotions, even sit with them for a time to process them. Then, we need to let them go. When we can process and then successfully let go of negative emotions, we create the space for positive feelings to exist in our lives.
When we can do this, we know how to be happier.
The Good News: We can Improve our Mindset and be Happier
It is possible, though not always easy, to change and improve your mindset to allow more positive emotions in your life, but how?
We aren’t taught this at school, and many people struggle with negative emotions taking over their lives, hurling them into depressive episodes and causing them to live in an unhappy state, which, by implementing the right mindset, can be avoided.
On top of that, achieving a positive mindset and living with hope isn’t inherently easy. Research has found that people are far more likely to ruminate over and remember the negative things they experience than to remember and savour the positive.
We must make a conscious effort to turn our hard wiring around. We need to aim for a place where we can let the negative bounce off as though we are made of Teflon while allowing the positive emotions to surface and stick to us like we are velcro for them.
It involves learning skills and then utilising them regularly, moment to moment, every day. We can equip ourselves to do this by using science-backed mindset techniques that allow us to rewire our brains to live in a positive place.
The first positive emotion I would like to examine is the positive emotion of hope. We probably all can remember a time when we felt hopeless in the face of unfavourable circumstances, and we all know that feeling hopeless is not nice.
When everything feels wrong, when we are hurting, we can make ourselves feel better by cultivating the hope that things will get better.
How to Be Happier Despite Difficult Circumstances
We create hope and thus more happiness, moment to moment, through our deliberate choices about how we frame things. It happens when we use our thoughts and feelings to temper our loss aversion and actively pursue what is possible.
When we choose hope, we define what matters to us most.”
-Shane Lopez, “Making Hope Happen.”
Hope is a belief and feeling that things will turn out for the best, even in the face of setbacks, problems and difficult life changes. It is cultivated by clarifying our goals for a better future and working our way toward them. It is also having faith that things will improve even in the direst of outward circumstances.
When we live with hope, we know that you can achieve the goals we are passionate about, and, crucially, you have the perseverance to keep trying.
We feel at our most hopeless when we do not have clearly defined goals. That is why it is crucial to clarify what you want to do with your one wild life! Get clear on your dreams for the future, buckle up for the ride, and get to work on them!
Four Proven Strategies for Increasing Happiness
- In the face of difficulties, believe that things will get better. Remind yourself that your problems aren’t permanent. Bear in mind that the best is yet to come. Have the view that you can, over time, create the future that you want.
- Clearly define your goals. What are they, and what do they look like to you? Get as detailed on this as possible. You can’t be hopeful for a better future when you don’t know what that is for you. So take some time to figure it out. Get clear on what you want, decide to take the plunge and 100 percent commitment to doing what it takes to make it happen.
- Get your self-efficacy on. In other words, start believing that you can achieve the outcome you desire, one way or another. Self-efficacy is a precursor to feeling confident. Confidence is another positive effect you’ll gain through acting with self-efficacy. Please remember that an ideal outcome looks different for everyone, so “to thine own heart be true!” You can make it happen if you commit, but only if you believe you can. Goals must be achievable, aim high but ground it in reality. This way, you will know that you can do what you need to get where you want to be.
- Expect obstacles, setbacks, lost work and having to change roads or strategy, but don’t ever give up! There is no one path to making the future better. Sometimes we even find ourselves going in the wrong direction. However, we must work with determination to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep on trying. Be prepared to walk down many pathways before you arrive where you want to be. We can persevere down these different pathways with determination. We can decide not to give up, even when things feel hopeless.
I do hope this article has better equipped you to create more feelings of hope in your life. Getting into the habit of living with hope is one of the best things we can do to be happier. Another way to be happier is to improve our feelings of gratitude. I have written about how to do that here — >How to Practice Gratitude to Be Happier.
Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified about the latest blog posts about increasing happiness as I continue my series on how to be happy by increasing your positive emotions.
If you are interested in reading more about Robert Emmons’ work, please check out his book here.
I will sign off with this quote from Thoreau, who was a fan of going forward with hope:
“I learned this at least by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live that life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”-Henry Thoreau, Walden