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Home I just see a lot of obstacles to my happiness. How can I cultivate more optimism in my life?

I just see a lot of obstacles to my happiness. How can I cultivate more optimism in my life?


Have you been asked the question, “What is your superpower?” or “If you were a superhero, what superpower would you like to possess?” If a friend jokingly asks you this or maybe a job interviewer does, what would be your answer? 

In today’s increasingly bleak world, I would say optimism has become one superpower. When we see bad news all around us, and crises happening to everyone everywhere, it is hard to keep our thoughts from being consumed with worry, hopelessness, criticism and despair. 

The optimism and mental wellbeing connection

Many studies have been conducted to find the connection between optimism  (as a disposition, a mental trait, a perception, or a way of thinking) to mental and physical health, our ability to cope with stress and to adapt, our quality of life, our lifestyle and the way we assess risks.

Studies have found that there is a strong connection between our ability to expect either the positive or the negative about our future to our risk for developing mental disorders. 

Meanwhile, studies have also found that some people are born to be more optimistic than others. It is amazing to find out that optimism is 25% inheritable! However, optimism can be learnt as well.

Is being Pollyannaish toxic? 

In 1913, novelist Eleanor H. Porter released a book with the main character, a girl named Pollyanna. People who have read the book now remember her as someone who overcomes life adversities by her philosophy called the “The Glad Game.” After her father taught her to respond to disappointments by finding things to still be glad about, Pollyanna went through difficult circumstances and taught herself and others to see the silver lining in every situation. It made her character grow in resilience when faced with obstacles. 

However, modern English has assigned the expression “to be a Pollyana or be Pollyannaish” a negative connotation. When someone tells you you are being Pollyannaish, you might take it to mean being naive, simple, stupid and purposely ignoring the realities of life. People take it to mean being blindly optimistic. 

But when we see Pollyanna’s approach to life, she is not blind to adversities. In fact, she experienced a lot of traumatic events, and cried and felt disappointed about them. It was her response to these adversities that made her life inspiring to others. Through these challenges, she developed a determined and creative character. It took her practice to develop her skill of optimism. 

How do I practice optimism? 

  • Develop a mindset that looks for possibilities. 

When we look at a situation, we see the facts, and we see the possibilities too. But we have a tendency to focus on the negative side of the story. Training our mind to look at the other side, the positive side, takes practice. 

  • What are the facts? 
  • What are the obstacles? 
  • What are possible solutions to every obstacle I see? 
  • How can I place myself in a calming situation so I can think clearly? 

  1. Gratitude practice. 

History of past success, our strengths, our connections and support system can be sources of motivation. Find ways and things to be grateful about in order to boost our motivation. When we have a mindset that can easily see things to be thankful about, the more of them we are able to see. 

It sparks hope in us, and it also has a ripple effect on people around us. 

  • Focus on empowerment. 

A challenge is called that because it requires solutions. What may have worked for us before may not work again, so adopting a mindset of empowerment helps us to grow, change and adapt to situations. When we are cynical, we tend to stop our mind from growing, since we assume that all is lost and there is nothing we can do. 

Instead of looking at optimism as something naive, let’s practice putting more faith in our capacity to grow, change and overcome personal life obstacles. So take action, develop your perseverance, and create hope in your heart and in others! 

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I just see a lot of obstacles to my happiness. How can I cultivate more optimism in my life?
Brandon Resasco