What does optimism do for us? In a study conducted by Ciro Conversano and colleagues at the University of Siena in Italy evidence was presented that of a strong relation between optimism wellbeing. Through the use of specific coping strategies, optimism influences both mental and physical well-being by the promotion of a healthy lifestyle as well as by adaptive behaviors and cognitive responses, is associated with greater flexibility, as well as problem-solving capacities.
So how do we cultivate optimism? Carmen Drahl at National Public Radio asked that very question to her readers and listeners. Below are some tips from everyday people on how they stay optimistic in trying times:
- Humor continues to be one of the things that gives me hope. No matter how hard life can get, there are always people who find a way to make things feel lighter. It could be as simple as silly viral animal videos or the more complex comedy that contextualizes our lives in the broader arc of history. Either way, we as humans tend to know when we need to break the tension and give ourselves a mental reset. –Eric Conrad, Washington, D.C. | 101 Good Clean Jokes
- I try to keep in mind how little control or influence I have to change the state of the country (and world) and let go of the feeling of responsibility. I do what I can and understand that change is slow. One of the greatest gifts of getting old is knowing how little power you have in the grand scheme of things. It relieves you of the feeling that you have to DO something and the frustration and anger that goes with it. –Mary Theresa McCarty, Halfmoon, N.Y.
- To remain optimistic I have to deliberately and regularly make room for my grief. If I acknowledge this weight I carry it can be a tool. It will still cripple me occasionally because burying a trans child is just that hard, but I can also fight for change if I bring my grief with me. – Carrie Black, Salt Lake City, Utah
- I am Buddhist and there is a meditation that helps me: You elect to feel hopelessness or lovelessness as a way of empathizing with others who feel these things. So when I feel hopeless or sad or overwhelmed, I can think, “I am going to fully let myself feel this because this is what hopelessness feels like, what millions of others have felt, going back millennia.” Ironically, framing it this way actually feels more connected, more human, more manageable. –Kristin Harriman, Sacramento, Calif.
- One of my favorite books is Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. I remind myself, as the book states, “The car goes where your eyes go.” It’s so important, especially as the news cycle is full of cruelty and suffering, for us to carefully choose what we read, listen to, pay attention to. The car, my brain, goes where my eyes go — so I need to keep looking at hopeful art and look for joy in the children I love and remind myself to keep watching for good things. I see more of them this way! -Naomi Krokowski, Berthoud, Colo.
- Doing something for someone else is my all time high — it always lifts me. –Dianne Oelberger, St George, Maine
- I read a single poem every morning. There is hope in the verse or between the lines, something else to drift on, beyond the headlines. –Mark Karason, Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Music in particular kickstarts me and really helps me articulate my feelings in both subconscious and conscious ways. I like to have active listening sessions throughout the day. But what helps me the most is listening to music in bed in the early morning before doing anything else. It puts my mind in a place of zen and allows me to be the best version of myself that day to radiate positive energy not only within, but to the surrounding world as well. –Sean Nguyen, Seattle, Wash.
- My favorite technique for getting happy is definitely playing loud techno music (or other very rhythmic dance songs), and freestyle dancing in my living room. –Robin McMillan, North Port, Fla.
- When I’m feeling stressed, I take a walk outside in the sun or in a green space like a park or a forest. Despite the noise in my head, the sounds of nature, including those of birds, wind and rain, comfort me. –Whayoung Cha, Seoul, South Korea
- Early spring walk under blooming cherry trees with daughter Analesa, beloved pup Rosko and warmth of the sun on my face. –Cassandra Zimmerman, Portland, Ore.
- The way I stay optimistic is waking up early to watch the sunrise and meditate on where I find light in the darkness. There are great things of beauty and peace in this world. –Michelle Middleton, Reno, Nev.
- For 30 years, I have volunteered with a nonprofit whose mission is to teach gardening to home gardeners throughout our community. I feel constantly renewed by the generosity and energy of the people I volunteer with. While I often feel overwhelmed by the magnitude and variety of troubles in our world, I am also mindful of the abundant blessings that fill my life. I cannot stop war or famine on a global scale, but I can teach a family how to grow food — and flowers. –Robbie Cranch, Fresno, Calif.
- I find my source of joy in nature. I salute the sun every morning and affirm the blessings of the five elements: the earth, space, sun, air and water. When I recognize that my body was born from these five elements, I feel a deep kinship with nature, our womb. I talk to the trees, recognizing their generosity and strength. –Pankaja Cauligi, Mysore, India