Starting the New Year with Optimism
While many people feel the need to establish New Year’s resolutions, time and time again, it seems as if we struggle to stick to them and that they have the potential to make us feel worse instead of better. This year, I have vowed to reject the traditional idea of resolutions and instead encourage individuals to pause and reflect on how they can move into the New Year with a growth mindset that involves learning from past year’s experiences in a positive way. In particular, I propose using a mixture of mindfulness and positive psychology to engender optimism for 2022.
What is Optimism?
- Seeing present moments and future experiences in a positive light
- Having hope and confidence in our future
- Believing that future life stressors, challenges, and obstacles can be overcome
- Developing a realistic understanding of life’s difficulties, rather than being overly pessimistic and consumed with worry
Benefits of Cultivating Optimism
- Increases resiliency
- Contributes to life satisfaction
- Improves overall well-being by lowering rates of depression and anxiety
- Improves physical health
- Boosts one’s immune system
- Contributes to better sleep
- Fosters more satisfying romantic relationships
How to Practice Optimism
1) Take Time to Pause
- Reflect on meaningful goals that would bring increased positivity and value to our life
- Break goals down into smaller chunks (using the “SMART Goals”-Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely)
2) Overcome Negative Thoughts
- First notice negative and pessimistic thoughts and feelings
- Replace negative thoughts with a more realistic understanding of the experienced difficulty or a more helpful way of thinking
- If experiencing some trouble with finding alternative thoughts, ask yourself…What would a loved one say to me right now? Is there another way to look at this situation? Is this a thought or a fact? Could there be something I am missing when considering the steps required to accomplish my goals? Do I need to reframe my expectations?
3) Reflect on Success
- It can be helpful to find motivation for future goals by acknowledging past difficulties or challenges we have faced
- You can ask yourself…What character strengths allowed me to overcome a problem in the past? What helped me to keep going when I wanted to give up? Who did I receive support from? What can I learn from my past struggle that I can apply to my current goals?
For more information on optimism, I suggest checking out The Happiness Toolbox: 56 Practices to Find Happiness, Purpose & Productivity in Love, Work and Life by Jonah Paquette, PsyD (2018).
Ashley Hallheimer, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist