Let’s face it, in the current climate of our society, it is extremely difficult to be optimistic.
Spend any time whatsoever online and you will be bombarded by negativity. News of awful, infuriating, upsetting, sad, sorry, and distressing matters are everywhere. In the face of all of that, how can anyone be optimistic about anything?
Like most things in life, this is a choice. You can choose a way to be optimistic while maintaining realism. Optimism isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky, rose-colored glasses notion. Optimism is seeing potential, possibility, and proactive ways to effect change.
How can you remain optimistic while still being realistic? Mindfulness.
Be mindful of what you are thinking
The first step is to be mindful of what you are thinking about. Not just considering and moving to, yeah, yeah, I know what’s going on — but really seeing what is inside your own head.
You might notice that you are not entirely conscious of what you are thinking about. Yes, everyone is thinking all the time, but a great deal of that is on a subconscious level. Because you have things to do, places to go, and people to see, you might shunt consciously thinking about things to the background.
When you do this, however, you can easily lose sight of what, exactly, you are thinking about. You do the things you do, sometimes by rote routine, and what you are actually thinking about occurs subconsciously. Thus, you may be surprised to learn that your thoughts are negative, unpleasant, unhelpful, and even pessimistic.
When you become aware of what your thoughts are, you gain the ability to influence and control them. If you are being negative and pessimistic, you can take action to change to a more positive and optimistic outlook.
What about reality? Reality is entirely real based solely on how YOU perceive it. Do you see the world as lacking and coming apart and collapsing, or see the world as abundant and full of growth and potential? There is nothing unrealistic about the latter.
When you become aware of your thoughts, you can alter them to be more optimistic.
Be mindful of what you are feeling
Whether you are a thinker or a feeler, as you go about your day to day routines, you might easily shunt what you are feeling aside.
What you are feeling is a question of the name you put to the emotion of the time. Are you feeling content, annoyed, anxious, excited, confrontational, exceptional, or some combination of feelings? Naming your feeling will identify what the feeling you are having is, and allow you to work with it, or change it.
Though you might know the name, nature, and characteristics of what you are feeling, that doesn’t necessarily explain how you are feeling it.
Be mindful of how you are feeling
The difference between what you are feeling and how you are feeling is experiential. What does that mean? The manner in which you experience your feelings is unique to you, and you alone.
There is nobody inside your head but you. Ergo, nobody but you has and experiences or the thoughts and feelings that you do. How you feel something is probably not the same as how someone else feels that same “what” of a feeling.
For example — anger. Anger is going to take on a different feeling for everyone. For some, it might be an actual sensation of getting hot in the head or chest; for others, it might feel like your head is flying off into hyperspace; perhaps for you, it feels like your chest is all tight, and words are going to burst out violently if allowed to do so. How you feel anger is totally unique to you.
This, of course, applies to every other imaginable emotion. Yet because people tend to get closed off and internalize things, they fail to see how the feeling of an emotion can be so drastically different. Doesn’t everyone feel this feeling in the same way?
Becoming mindful of your thoughts and emotions allows you to influence and change them. You may even gain control over them. This is how you can be more optimistic, without being unrealistic. Shift your approach and your attitude.
Which leads to this:
Be mindful of the intent of your actions
Everyone takes actions all day long. Some are very simple and routine. Getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, driving to work, reading emails, choosing meals, and so on. Many of these are done with no specific intent behind them.
Unfortunately, sometimes actions that need to have more intent behind them get neglected. Did you proofread that email before you sent it? Were you thinking about just what tone the message you shared to Facebook takes? Have you considered how what you said to person ‘x’ made them feel?
Intentional action is recognition and mindfulness of what actions you take. Big or small, routine or special, intent matters in whether you are being optimistic, pessimistic, caring, uncaring, or what-have-you.
When you are mindful of the intent behind your actions, you can take better, more proactive actions. This can help you to realistically direct how things are going in your day, and whether you are doing things that are positive or negative.
When you get stuck in traffic on your way to work, do you get angry, frazzled, and start to wonder why cars do not come with a car-to-car missile option? If you start to subconsciously feel angry, pound the steering wheel, or shout at traffic, these are unintentional actions that may have repercussions. Road rage can lead to bad places; or once you reach your destination you find your mood negative and unproductive.
Being mindful of the intent behind your actions can help you influence and control how your day goes, and whether you are approaching it from positivity or negativity.
Can optimism be realistic?
Yes. Despite all the craziness happening in the world today, your small, individual, unique corner of reality is entirely yours to experience. As such, you get to choose if your approach is optimistic or pessimistic, or simply indifferent.
It is not unrealistic to be optimistic because it is part of an overall positive, proactive approach to life. If you want more than just to live day to day and be surviving at the barest minimum, practicing optimism is part of positivity and creating an exceptional, awesome life.
You might face an uphill battle in working to be more optimistic, and you might encounter skeptical people looking upon you askance. But that doesn’t make it any less important or necessary for your wellbeing. It is not unrealistic to take an optimistic approach to life. This is because it feels better to be positive and optimistic than to be negative and pessimistic.
The choice is yours.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done, optimism is realistic, and positivity matters.