Is life a piece of cake or ...

Optimist or not? Which group do you fall into: life is a piece of cake vs life is a sh*t sandwich? Are you one of those people who always look on the bright side or do you hate those who do? Maybe you fall somewhere along the spectrum.

What is optimism and why should you care?

  • It can be defined as being hopeful and confident about the future or emphasizing the good parts of a situation. It can also be considered as being open to see possibilities. It's a willingness to take risks and to look for solutions. It's not donning rose-tinted specs or wishing for things to change
  • Has been linked with better health although of course it's not going to totally prevent adverse health events. Optimistic people manage their health better. Being optimistic may lead to healthier relationships and coping better with stress.
  • Allows you to be creative, it opens you up to new ideas. It allows you to look for the best of all possible worlds. Optimism can help with leadership and optimists are not paralysed by seeking perfection or overanalysing situations.
  • Optimism and resilience are interlinked. Resilience (the ability to bounce back)  allows you to have a more optimistic perspective. On the other hand, having a healthy self-esteem and being optimistic helps with resilience.

What if you weren't born an optimist?

Some people are more naturally optimistic. However it is something that can be learned and put into practice. A psychologist, Seligman, turned around how you can go from feeling helpless to being optimistic. One way of doing this is looking at how you manage adversity. As children we are likely to copy the behaviour and attitudes of our parents. If parents or significant others cope poorly e.g are gloomy and anticipate worst case scenarios this is going to affect us.

Seligman describes a detailed process but in a nutshell:

  • It is about understanding your beliefs and reactions when something untoward occurs.
  • You could pay attention to how you react - one way of doing this might be to keep a journal for a period of time.
  • Review what you thought and did. It would be useful to develop alternative thoughts and beliefs e.g if you think "I always expect the worst" or "things never work out" change this to something more balanced.

Try looking for positive aspects in the present and considering what positive outcomes there may be. Be creative, look for partial solutions, come up with new ideas. Notice what language and behaviour optimistic people use and notice yours. Being happier and healthier is something we all aspire to. So, it can't hurt to be more optimistic.

If you want to discover more about living an optimistic life, email me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Elastic bands snap if stretched too far

There's so much going on in the world today let alone what's going on in your life. It's tempting to think that maybe it was different, easier for previous generations. Who knows? We live in the world as it is now. It is a complex, uncertain, even unpredictable world. A lot has been written about resilience, the need to respond healthily to adversity, to adapt and find a better way to cope.

There are some things you can do to develop yur resilience but it is also necessary to consider your environment. It's no good being flexible in a toxic situation whether it's work, physical environment or relationships. I like to think of resilience as a muscle - you can build it up gradually so that it is strong and flexible but ... if an excessive load is applied then that muscle gets injured. So there is a lot we can do to build up our muscle of resilience but there is a responsibility for employers to have an environment that is healthy not just in a physical sense but also in a psychological sense.

Some people may have a genetic predisposition to be more resilient. However that doesn't exclude those of us who don't have this genetic advantage. Resilience can be learned and we can develop coping styles. Physical and emotional nurturing in our childhood set us up to be more resilient.

Good habits to build up resilience are:

  • having an attitude of kindness to yourself
  • having an adequate and healthy diet
  • getting enough sleep
  • being physically active
  • having healthy relationships with family/friends/partner
  • being compassionate to self and others
  • developing a more positive frame of mind or being optimistic

My view is that resilience and optimism are interdependent. Although nature predisposes some people to be more optimistic than others, optimism can be practiced and developed. Optimism is not wearing rose-tinted specs or blindly believing it will all work out. It is a belief that problems can be solved, that there are options and there is a way forward.

Optimism and resilience - a willingness to move forward, to find a better way.. So do what you can to build up your muscle.