Week five: Optimism
According to a Britain Thinks optimism survey out this week Britain has never felt more fearful or sad. It seems we are gripped by pessimism and despair. As the coronavirus pandemic shows little sign of slowing down and the impact on the economy accelerates, we are all struggling to stay positive.
It may seem like a crazy idea to even think about being optimistic right now. We are in the middle of a second wave of COVID-19, entering the colder months and it feels like gloom and doom is all around us. We’re surrounded by uncertainty everywhere we turn. None of us may feel especially equipped to handle all this well and for students, the daily uncertainty can cause significant levels of frustration and anxiety. So how do we go about supporting others when we can find ourselves overcome sometimes by the same feelings of despair and pessimism?
By nurturing optimism. Optimism is not about putting a shiny gloss on everything and feeling happy and positive, no matter what. It is much more pragmatic than that and is a skill you can definitely build every single day.
In a world where we are experiencing constant change and challenges with extreme uncertainty it may seem impossible to embrace optimism at all. Yet it is essential to do so. Taking charge of our mental health right now is one of the most important things we can do as without this we can’t navigate our way through uncertainty and move forwards. To build optimism we actually need to actively acknowledge the negative emotions and the negativity in our lives first before we can nurture strategies that will help us.
So how do you do it?
A crucial first step is to know that when things are not going well and when we are surrounded by uncertainty, our brain is programmed to look for the negative. Our brains are wired to protect us. That is why it easier for our minds to pick negative stimuli. We are automatically drawn to it and right now we are surrounded by it.
Second step is to know too, that when things are difficult, we tend to place our energy into the very things we cannot control. And it is energy – because the more energy we place into those things, the more miserable we feel. If we can get into the habit of focusing on the only thing we CAN control: our behaviour, closely followed by our thoughts and feelings, we can experience far more happiness. By doing this we actually often end up influencing our situation for the better. We can do this every single day. Here are some simple everyday things that have an immediate impact: