You’ve heard the expression a million times… ‘when life gives you lemons, learn to make lemonade”. This popular saying is well intended, as it is basically encouraging you to make the best of the negative situations in life. I can tell you from experience that this is not so easy to do.
However, it IS possible to learn how to adopt a more optimistic attitude in the face of adversity.
Speaking of which, I came across this cute joke today…
A mom and dad were worried about the extreme personalities of their six-year-old twin boys — one’s a total pessimist, the other a total optimist. So they take the kids to a psychiatrist.
First, the shrink leads the pessimist into a room piled high with toys and announces, “All of these are yours!”But instead of squealing with delight, the kid bursts into tears. “Why are your crying?” the doctor asks. “Don’t you want to play with any of your toys?” “Yes,” the boy says, “but I’m afraid I’ll break them!”
Then, the psychiatrist takes the optimistic child into a room filled only with horse manure. Rather than run out of the room in disgust, the boy begins jumping up and down with glee, screaming “Bring me a shovel, bring me a shovel!”
“What do you need a shovel for?” the shrink asks.
“Well, with all this manure,” the little boy says, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”
Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. The truth is that we do control our outlook on life, not the other way around. In fact, no matter how genuinely we believe that the deck is stacked against us — especially in these politically noisy and economically fraught times — doom and gloom do not control our lives — that is, unless WE allow them to.
Sometimes it’s hard to stay optimistic. It’s easy to lose hope when life throws challenging situations in front of you. However, a strong individual will remain optimistic no matter what the situation.
Having a positive outlook on life isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something that you learn over time.
Being optimistic doesn’t mean that you become delusional and start ignoring the facts. It simply means you choose to start seeing things from a more positive light. When you’re able to see your life and your challenges in a more positive way, you’re much more likely to overcome them. You’ll become proactive rather than reactive, motivated rather than discouraged, confident rather than anxious.
As I said before, this isn’t about ignoring the facts or passing on blame to someone else. It’s about having a more rational, moderated interpretation of the challenges you face.
And the (really!) good news is: experts insist that we can find our way to the sunnier side of the street, simply by adopting a few simple habits. Try incorporating the following habits into your everyday life in order to become more optimistic.
1.Override negative thought patterns. The very first step to turning lemons into lemonade is being aware of your negativity. If you are blind to your tendency to only see the bad side of things, you won’t be able to transform this habit. Track your thoughts on a daily basis, becoming attuned to the negative assumptions you make.
- When you notice a negative thought pattern, override this thought by coming up with something more positive to say. For example, you might ail a test in school and conclude “I’m not good at anything!” Transform this thought into something like “Math is hard, but I am really good in English and History.”
- If you are a lifelong pessimist, it will seem insincere to override your natural negative thinking. Fight against this fake feeling; it will get easier in time.
2. Ask Yourself The Right Questions
The most important habit that you need to develop in order to have an optimistic mindset is to ask yourself the right questions. When you face a certain situation, you should never observe it from a negative standpoint. For example, when you’re facing a challenging situation, you shouldn’t ask yourself a question like: “Why do bad things constantly keep happening to me.” That’s something a pessimist would ask.
Instead, you should ask yourself what you could learn from the situation that occurred. Ask yourself a question like: “What should I do in order to properly start solving this particular situation.” The sooner you realize that even bad situations are important and that they can teach you a lot about life, the quicker you’ll be able to start being a more optimistic person.
3. Imagine Your Future
As they grow older, most people let their dreams die. Working a job that you hate only because it will pay the bills will most likely make you a pessimistic person. Instead of worrying about how you’ll future will look if you decide to stay at the company you’re currently working at for the next 30 years, you need to pursue your passion and start imagining how you’d like your future to look.
This doesn’t mean that your future should consist of a mansion and a lot of money. A bright future simply means that you find a way to become a happy individual. Doing what makes you happy will help you enjoy life. So, by imagining yourself happy in the future, you’ll motivate yourself to do whatever it takes to make that dream become a reality.
4. Reach Out
Sometimes, people forget that they are not alone in this journey that we call life. Whenever you feel like can’t solve a particular problem or that you simply lost your hunger for life, you should call someone close to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a family member, your significant other, or a friend. Simply by talking to someone that you trust and that you can confide in will help you get rid of pessimistic thoughts.
It’s also a good idea to spend more time with people who are optimistic. The company that you keep around you will have a huge influence on you. So, by spending time with optimistic people, you too will become more optimistic.
5. Forget About Ideals
A common mistake most people make is thinking that everything has to be perfect or that they have to be perfect in order to be happy and optimistic. However, this is definitely not the case. Instead of trying to be perfect or to make every situation ideal, you need to start appreciating yourself in your current state. Looking at what you don’t have will never make you happy; however, being grateful for the things that you do have will.
6. Change your language
Words have power! Most people don’t think about what the words they say and the energetic effect is has on their human experience. Plainly put, your words have the power to ‘invite gray clouds’. Research shows that a single negative word generates stress-producing chemicals in the brain. Here are some words you can toss from your vocabulary to promote optimism.
- Drop “have to” for “get to” — “I get to work out in the gym today.”
- Swap “problems” for “situation” — “We have a situation that we need to discuss.”
- Trade in “mistakes” for “valuable lessons” — We all learned from your valuable lesson.
- Change “bad” to “unwise” — “The choice I made today was unwise.”
7. Develop healthy coping skills. You have probably heard that most times it’s not exactly the situation, but your reaction to it that counts. Being an optimist is just as much about your reactions as it is about your thinking patterns. Stocking a toolbox with healthy skills that you can apply during stressful or upsetting times is key to maintaining your optimism. Healthy coping skills may include:
- Cultivating positive friendships
- Staying physically active
- Using humor to lighten the mood
- Leaning on your spirituality
- Practicing meditation
- Escaping reality through reading
- Pursuing a range of interests and hobbies
- Spending time with a pet
8. Practice Gratitude
I can’t stress this one enough!!! One guaranteed way to feel more positive about your life, and turn the proverbial lemons into lemonade, is to develop a grateful spirit. Science tells us that consistently being grateful brings with it a multitude of benefits, include more happiness and job, less loneliness and isolation, stronger immune functioning, and a bountiful cycle of acting in a compassionate way towards others.
- Incorporate the practice of gratitude into your life by noticing the small wonderful things that occur everyday. These might be laughter of children, tucking under a blanket with a good book, relishing in a gourmet meal, or hugging a loved one.
- Make it your business to not only notice these small wonders, but you should also document them. Start a gratitude journal that feature little kindnesses shown to you throughout each day as well as going into depth about specific events or situations of which you are grateful.
9. Don’t expect to change overnight
You can’t expect a big change or improvement in your life to happen overnight. Expecting things to change quickly will leave you depressed and discouraged. In order to become more optimistic, you need to become more patient. By improving your patience, you won’t have to deal with negative thoughts very often.
And above all, make sure that you surround yourself with laughter. All of us can live up to Charlie Chaplin’s famous observation about happiness:
“You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”
I hope you try these tips on for size, and see which ones work for you.And whatever you do, keeping smiling.
And if after reading this, you still can’t seem to manage to make that lemonade sweet enough, reach out to me! I would love to support you and help you find the perfect recipe. 🙂