March is National Optimism Month! And while I've long considered myself a realist (never getting too overexcited), I have what I consider to be the gift of finding the silver lining in things, and the ability to not let petty shit bother me when there are so many other things in this life for which to be grateful. Below are a few tried and true steps to help you on your way this month. These are things that I find help differentiate me from my co-workers and a number of acquaintances:
• Act like an optimist. 'Fake it to make it'. Not in the sense of being "fake" per se, but try and trick yourself into being optimistic when you really feel like you are unable to. Use the word choices and body posture of optimistic people. Use "upbeat" words instead of "upset" words - Challenged vs. Overwhelmed. It's a lot like smiling when your unhappy. As soon as you force a smile, it's nearly impossible not to be overcome with good feelings, or to reflect back on a time when you laughed so hard it hurt. (Go ahead, I'll wait).
• Move quickly from problem-identification to problem-solving. We all get angry and upset, but the challenge is to move past these emotions and start looking for strategies and solutions that will help you to deal with that challenge. WAY too many dwell on shit that absolutely DOES. NOT. MATTER. Will that Facebook comment have any affect on you 10 years from now? How about 10 days from now? Didn't think so. By identifying if the situation you are dealing with can even be remotely considered a problem, you can easily lean to stop 'sweating the small stuff' and get back to living YOUR life.
• Avoid emotional leeches. BOOM. Easily one of the biggest pitfalls I see in my everyday life. Co-workers, friends, and strangers are constantly oozing negativity. Pessimists suck the life energy from those around them. These are the people who swarm to one another in the effort to commiserate how 'tough' everything is. They've never once come together to explore the opportunities available that will serve to help them move past the 'problem' they seem to be facing (see above). Minimize your contact with those who look on the down-side of everything; trust me, this is harder than you might think. Perhaps you are doing it yourself...?
Reflect back on the first bullet point and start each day fresh. Dragging yourself down because of things you have no control over, or things that can't be changed, will get you absolutely nowhere - fast. Optimism is not a disposition people are born with. It's a learned skill, and one that takes consistent practice. Give it a shot. You just might come out a little happier in the end.