Nicola Maxwell
Posted by Nicola Maxwell

Research psychologists have demonstrated that 90% of our happiness is about how we see our world and only 10% is to do with our life circumstances.

Happy people are not happy because they face less adversity than unhappy people. It is a fact that happy people have as many challenges as everyone else, they just handle their difficulties differently.

One of the key differentiating factors in happy people is their higher level of optimism and hope. Their glass really is half full as opposed to half empty – but there is more to it than that.

Optimists have a general sense of confidence about the future, expecting that things will somehow work out well for them. Pessimists on the other hand have a greater sense of doubt and are more likely to expect a negative outcome.

The implications are huge. Optimists have significantly higher happiness levels and therefore enjoy a whole host of important benefits such as:

  • Adapting better to negative events and bouncing back
  • Solving problems quicker and more easily
  • Being more resilient and not giving up
  • Being more productive and energetic

And the good news is that optimism can be learnt. It’s all about training your brain to try out some new perspectives and explanations.

Stop catastrophising: When something doesn’t go to plan or when we don’t succeed at something, we often imagine the worst possible outcome and that there is more bad to come.

Try instead to: Think of one or two more positive outcomes and focus your mind on the possibility of these happening.

Or think about the implications of this adversity and ask yourself: ‘Is it really as catastrophic as I imagine or will it eventually pass and become much less significant?’

Remember: Most things we worry about never happen and even when they sometimes do, we tend to recover more quickly than we imagine.

Stop berating yourself: It’s good to take responsibility and it’s important to learn from our mistakes. However it is not at all good to berate ourselves and tell ourselves that we are rubbish or that the world is conspiring against us.

Try instead to: See a failure or difficulty as a ‘one-off’ that has a specific explanation and can almost certainly be prevented from happening again.

Identify what you can do differently in the future and how that will make you more likely to achieve a positive outcome next time.

Remember: Optimists see negative events as temporary and external as opposed to permanent and personal. Optimists also see positive events as a sign of more good to come.

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