Would you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? A new way of psychological study proves that being optimistic can actually increase your overall health and happiness. This concept is called positive psychology, and it’s the practice of combating negative thoughts with positive ideology through conscious and consistent actions such as meditation and mindfulness.
Along with being generally happier, optimistic people are proven to do better in sports, in school and in work. They are also said to be more likeable people.
However, this positive attitude does not come naturally to most people. American psychologist, Martin Seligman, says that “we are bad weather animals, ready to see the most catastrophic.” So, many of us, about 50 percent of Americans, are constantly prepared for the worst - we’re a bunch of angry little pessimists.
Positive psychology has given us a way to resist this negative instinct, because although the answer seems way too obvious to be effective, positive thinking, positive reinforcements and having a positive outlook on life really do make a person happier.
The focus of this perspective is not to fix what is wrong, like an anxiety disorder. Instead, the focus is on preventing what can go wrong before it ever happens by “silencing the voice in your head” that can promote undesirable thoughts and actions.
If this sounds confusing, here’s an example of this type of problem-preventing practice: meditation.
Eckhart Tolle, a German-born spiritual teacher and influencer, teaches that meditation is a scientifically proven method to silencing the voice in your head. He says that to meditate, you must first sit upright in a chair. Next, you feel your breath. You notice as you inhale and exhale in a steady rhythm. Finally, Tolle says to return to your breath, releasing your intrusive thoughts as you go.
You may feel weird just sitting alone listening to yourself breathe, but meditation actually does work to grow your self-awareness and shrink the amount of stress weighing you down, which should be a goal for anyone who is trying to be more optimistic.
It helps you to focus your mind on something other than the impending doom you may think is lurking around the corner. This voice in our heads is so busy obsessing about things that happened in the past, like that embarrassing moment when you tripped down the bleacher stairs at a crowded basketball game, or what might happen in the future, like what if you don’t apply for enough colleges in time, that we miss out on what’s happening in the present entirely.
Tolle advises to just “accept what is,” as this is how his life has become so simple.
We may not ever be able to be as happy and content as Tolle seems to be, but with just the right amount of optimism, we can improve our mental health and happiness immensely.