Being optimistic in the face of life’s struggles might feel impossible, but research suggests that it’s not only possible, it can also have a positive effect on your mental and physical health. A 2007 study from New York University researchers found that optimists are happier, more creative, faster at solving problems and have increased mental alertness compared to pessimists. Optimists also have less cortisol (the stress hormone) and more serotonin (the mood-boosting hormones) flowing through their systems.
Be Present Every Day
Being present is more than just a physical act. It also relates to your ability to be present mentally and emotionally. Psychologist, author, and breast cancer survivor Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., says that to be present, you need to make the difference of whether your thoughts are in the past, present or future and bring them back into the moment.
Engage in Quiet Self-Care
Part of being present involves practicing quiet self-care daily. To do this, Dr. Sherman recommends finding ways to relax your nervous systems, which regulates functions you do without consciously thinking about, such as breathing or regulating heart rate and blood pressure. This promotes wellness and peace. Some methods include practicing yoga, meditating, deep breathing or taking a bath.
Gratitude is good for you! When you give thanks, these thoughts help improve the immune system, reduce the risk for depression and anxiety and enhance motivation and overall happiness. Start by writing down at least three things you’re thankful for each day. Even in the face of life’s toughest circumstances, it’s always possible to recognize the little good things that surround you, if you make a point to do it.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
When you find yourself overwhelmed by scary thoughts about the future, Dr. Sherman says it’s a good practice to challenge them. So for example, you may think, ‘I have a disease, so I’m doomed.’ Dr. Sherman says you can challenge this by saying, ‘Many people with the disease live long, wonderful lives.’ Just a slight shift in words can change how you feel and the outlook you have about a situation.