Imagine you’re in a dark room. It’s pitch black. But it’s OK; you’ve got a flashlight. And in the darkness that flashlight projects a beam of light illuminating everything in its path. Unfortunately you know that there’s lot of things you can’t see in that darkened room – not without moving that beam of light from one place to another.
I love using the darkened room analogy to explain how some people can be optimistic and filled with gratitude and others are pessimists and always on the look out for the next impending disaster. I’m fascinated by the difference between those two types of people – not because I’m a natural optimist, but because I’m not.
You can become more optimistic!
Science has estimated that around 40-50% of our personality traits, such as introversion/extroversion, optimism/pessimism and so on, are fixed which leaves the rest open to our experiences and our choices.
So yes, some people are born with more of a tendency towards optimism BUT for the rest of us there’s a lot we can do to increase our happiness quota. Which brings me back to that darkened room…
Our thoughts are a bit like that torch beam and what we choose for focus on is like the beam of light. Optimists, whether born that way or through training, focus their flashlight on the good things in their lives. They’re more likely to focus on what they already have and appreciate those things, big and small.
Pessimists on the other hand are more likely to notice the negative things in their lives along with what they feel is missing. The really good news is that us glass half empty folks can train our minds to be more like our glass half full friends!
Here’s a simple way to train your mind
Get a notepad and write down 5 things you have in your life that you’re grateful for. You could include anything you like – big and small. That’s it! Then tomorrow, do it again, then the next day, and the next. In fact, do this every day for 2 weeks.
Here’s my list for today:
1. I’ve got a warm house; I don’t have to beg for change on the street.
2. I’ve got 2 great kids; even though they might drive me mad, cost me a fortune and have robbed me of my sleep I love ’em!
3. Today was one of those bright, sunny yet cold autumn days. The colours on the trees outside my window are fantastic.
4. I made a kick ass turkey and sage soup for dinner; it’s on the stove right now and smells fantastic!
5. I could afford to buy the ingredients for the soup; no one in my house has to go hungry unlike the 852 million on the planet who do. (How’s that for a statistic to make you appreciate what you have?)
Researchers found that when they got people to do this for 2 weeks it increased the happiness of participants and reduced their stress levels. What’s really cool though is that when the researchers followed up with those people 6 months later their levels of happiness were still high.
So what are you waiting for? Make your own list and start shifting your focus to the glass is half full way of viewing the world!
This is a Guest Post from Jo Casey
Jo Casey’s motto is ‘Work Happy’. She helps people beat stress so that they can LOVE their work. Whether you’re a freelancer, business owner or work the ’9-5′ your work should be a source of joy and enrichment but so many people are stressed out, overworked and feeling unhappy. Jo teaches practical ways to increase resilience, reconnect with your purpose and rediscover the joy in your working life.
You can connect with Jo at www.jocasey.com