Good news: neuroscientists tell us that humans are hard-wired for optimism. Makes sense when you think about it — our ancestors went hunting and gathering and sailing and sewing and so on because they expected something good.
Optimism itself is good — good for our health. According to a recent New York Times article, more and more long-term studies show that optimism fosters “exceptional” longevity and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic ailments. Other studies have concluded optimists have better pain management, immune response and physical function. But with all that is going on in the world today, how can we be optimistic?
Optimism does not mean we do not feel. We can feel sad and be optimistic, or feel angry and be optimistic. Optimism means that we anticipate a generally positive outcome from the experiences and events in our life. It’s having what research psychologist Carol Dweck calls “a growth mindset,” meaning that we expect to learn and develop from life’s challenges.
Even so, our optimism can use a little care and feeding from time to time. How?
- Connect with your body. We don’t need faith or intention — if we have a body we have the basis for optimism. Start by closing your eyes. Experience your own tremendous vitality. “My body knows what it is doing. My breath is coming in and out of it. It wants to be here. It’s designed to heal itself. My heart is pumping. My senses work automatically and bring me some kind of gladness every day.” For extra endorphins, take a bath, a walk, or workout.
- Savor your gladness. Gladness is that joyous wordless whoosh we