3 Habits of Extremely Optimistic People

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-happiness-image14500858I am a recovering pessimist.

For over thirty years, I have been practicing the skills of optimism.  It began with a traumatic divorce, which was wearing me to the ground.  In addition, I was very concerned about my ten-year son, who was depressed by the multiple tensions floating in the house.  Emotions were at an all time high—with anger and grief topping the list. 

What could I do?

I knew that my son deserved a mother who exhibited joy and happiness.  I was aware that there is research about happy teachers having happy students.  Therefore, there must be similar research about mothers. 

I would practice being happy.  

I had mentioned to a friend that in my emotional life, it was raining all the time.  She gave me a small plaque she had painted that I hung in the kitchen.  It said,  “I believe in the sun even when it is raining.”  This became my mantra.  The sun would come out and I would do all I could to help it.

Therefore, I made an agreement with myself not to complain—no matter the provocation—to Caleb about his father.  In addition, in the mornings we established a new ritual—three jokes from each of us told to the other–before leaving for school.  Some of his he made up; I confess that I laughed even when they were not very funny.

Bathroom stories…

When school was over, I asked him to share his day by beginning with the funniest thing that had happened.  I heard many bathroom stories.  Then I asked him about the most interesting/intriguing part of the day.  This was followed by—let’s make a decision about one fun thing we are going to do before bedtime.  Sometimes they were ridiculous.  We both put our pajamas on backward.  We both brushed our teeth with our non-dominant hands—which created lots of foam in the sink, which we turned into mustaches and beards. This cheered me up. 

This cheered him up.

Then I began to send positive messages—Caleb, this trauma will not last forever.  I said that a significant amount of times.  Then I said—this is only one aspect of our lives.  I also said this a significant amount of times.  Finally, I said—and this was probably the most important message of all—our brains are amazing; we have the ability to create/build/design happy and productive lives for ourselves.

Several years later, I discovered the research of Martin Seligman, guru of optimism.  As I am frequently in a bookstore, I saw a copy of Marty Seligman’s book entitled, Learned Optimism.  Ah ha, this was what I needed.

Coping skills for adversity are important.

I picked it up and read it in one night. Yes, absolutely, I want my child to be able to cope with adversity—to withstand the overwhelming negative news that hits the newspaper and TV reports, or not being invited to a friend’s birthday, or failing a test, or not making first string on the basketball court.  Moreover, optimists are healthier, experience less stress, often better problem solvers, and live longer.

Inoculations predict future wellness

A friend once told me that the average person experiences twenty-eight adversities every day.  If so, I want both myself and my son inoculated against them.  No-one can avoid sadness, heartbreak, adversity. It is part of the human condition. Yet at the same time, we want to be happy. As happy as possible as much of the time as possible.

Optimistic people are happier, they bounce back quicker, they roll with the punches. They have the following mindsets, understand the following statements, remind themselves often and practice them.

3 Habits of Extremely Optimistic People

Habit #1. Happy people know that trauma does not last forever. It is a temporary thing. They remind themselves, “This too shall pass.”

Habit #2. Optimists accept that heartbreak does not consist our entire lives. They place emphasis on other, more currently successful parts of their lives.

Habit #3. Positive thinkers appreciate that we can create our own changes, create a new reality for ourselves. They seek out opportunities to effect those changes.

This is what Caleb and I did during that terrible year. I continue to do so every time I hit the metaphorical bump in the road. As a recovering pessimist, I constantly remind myself of these points. Twenty-eight adversities a day is a LOT. I suggest we all take these habits on board.

What coping skills do you have to deal with your twenty or so daily adversities? What helps you the most? Please tell us in the comments. I truly appreciate heart-felt and thoughtful comments, they make my day.

Or ‘like’ the Six Seconds Facebook page for more valuable information about emotional intelligence. I would so appreciate it! Thank you.

The 7th International NexusEQ Conference is taking place at HARVARD UNIVERSITY in Boston, June 24-26, 2013. There isn’t a lot of time left! Join me, and luminaries such as Peter Salovey, Marco Iacoboni and Herbert Benson, for a ground-breaking three days. You can read more details about it here. :-)


About the author - Anabel Jensen

President of Six Seconds and professor of education, Anabel Jensen, Ph.D., is a master teacher and a pioneer in emotional intelligence education. A two-time Federal Blue Ribbon winner for excellence in education, she was Executive Director of the Nueva School from 1983 to 1997 where she helped develop the Self-Science curriculum featured in Daniel Goleman’s 1995 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence.

View more posts from Anabel Jensen

Comments for this article (12)

  • Joshua Freedman says:

    Anabel, today at the EQ Certification in the UK we talked about Exercising Optimism, and I was thinking of you as I told a story about finding my way toward optimism when I was in a very pessimistic place. I think the most powerful “habit” in your story is that it is work. In that year, and many many many times since, you EXERCISE Optimism, not just “wish for happiness.” Thank you for teaching me this!

  • Remembering that “everything happens for a reason” is one of the main ways in which I cope. Sometimes people fail to realize that an adversity one day could prepare them for an even bigger one of the like in the future, or that a situation was “masking” itself as an adversity so that a new possibility could arise. It is best to think in any “adversity”, “What is it that I learned from this & what came from this that was positive?”

  • Meg Price says:

    Great post Anabel, I really enjoyed this – as a family we always remind each other we get to choose our feelings if we can take the time to catch our thoughts. We always ask at dinner for everyone to share your favorite thing that happened today and we try to go to bed thinking of all the good things about the day and all the great things that may happen tomorrow! After reading your story, tonight we are going to try to do our teeth with our non-dominant hand and tell some jokes and take the time to enjoy right now.

  • Illy says:

    I love this. I will certainly apply this in my life!
    Sometimes though is hard to remain optimistic. I have a lot of aggressive people in my surroundings.
    I call them people who react from a FOAM state of mind ( I am Dutch so F stands for Frustration, O for Onzekerheid (meaning insecure) A for Anxiety (or Fear) M for Might (exercise of might). I think these four words are the reason some people behave aggressive. FOAM is a material which you can easily break in pieces. Emotionally intelligent people can break into pieces but know to find a way to restore themselves and stay in one piece. If you react from a FOAM state of mind your environment can easily tear you in pieces. Therefore I will certainly print out the the tips in the above article. Thank you very much!

  • Andrew Harrott says:

    As a father I read this with interest. We set the tone with our kids and we should be aware, how powerful our moods can be. I often think our kids are mirrors what you give out comes back. Why did my son snap at me the other day? Because he saw me do it a few days before. Setting the right environment when there is fun, silliness and looking forward to things is a daily routine that keeps me up as well. (regardless of the normal pressures of life, work stress, bills, uncertainty).

  • Zahir Shaik says:

    My son was not performing well at school, at least not putting in his best effort. I kept on remonding him of how important school was and the lectures were driving him away. Thus i thought there must be an alternative way of bonding with him to inspire him. This is a phase that is temporary. schooling was a part of his life not his entire life so let’s celebrate the other successes and build a positive atmosphere to eventually address the areas of improvement.

  • Francette Bedford says:

    It is helpful to remind myself that my pain will pass, that somehow after time we get perspective and learn from our difficulties. It makes us stronger to go through difficult times, even this is a cliché, it is so true. I went through a divorce recently, and although I still feel sad, I have done so many things I have never done before, and when I look back I have grown immensely. I have learned that self control is extremely important. I will now after the EQ training first think before I just react, and this in itself makes me more optimistic as there are less thing said that I regret. EQ in itself creates optimism.

  • Niza Y says:

    I am so thankful for having come across this article. I just gave birth 5 months ago and as most moms have it, it is exhausting. Since Day 1, people have been saying ‘Things will get better’ and I have been waiting since. Not much changes! Sometimes I get really frustrated that it hasnt. Having read this article, I realised it is all about my motherhood journey with my son. And I wanna be happy going through this journey. So I will. Cos my son deserves the best. Optimism is powerful indeed.

  • Lize Rech says:

    I too am a “recovering pessimist” – love that term. I have only recently realized that I don’t always look on the bright side of life. At least now that I know, I can do something about it ….

  • Bahjat Biri says:

    Wonderful !
    This is a simple way to cope and keep a place for happiness in our day even if challenges become bigger , if we know we will smile next morning will be enough to keep our quality of life.

  • Sarah Whyte says:

    This is a great article! Thank you so much for sharing it. My preference for dealing with adversity has always been to adopt the attitude that this problem is temporary, isolated and can be changed with some effort. This is thanks to the very optimistic way in which my parents supported me to tackle problems, which I can remember happening even at a very young age. When a really big problem arises which is out of my control, I do still take the same approach, but I always remind myself that every adversity is a great lesson and that eventually I will benefit from it. Even if the benefits are not immediately obvious, I know that some day they will become clear.

  • Nada Binshihoon says:

    “This too shall pass!” every time ..

    I think by focusing on the good things we have in life .. all the blessings .. the countless blessings .. optimism will automatically follow ..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *