Creating Your Own Optimism

Although objectively I know I have a pretty incredible life, sometimes I find myself in a cycle of downtrodden grumpiness. Everything feels like it’s going wrong; I feel like I’m stagnating at work, I’m not growing emotionally and I get unreasonably down for the smallest things, muttering to myself about whatever new perceived problem I have.

Unfortunately, it’s become obvious that this nasty habit snowballs into something larger.  Once home I’m short with my husband, too cranky to play with the dogs and too focused on the day’s roadblocks and difficulties to see that I’ve actually had a pretty great day. And to be frank, feeling myself behave in this way just heightens the wallowing.

Many people are naturally optimistic, but there are also those of us that aren’t. I don’t believe it’s a desire to be unhappy, but unless we take action to shake ourselves of it, this despondency risks becoming a regular occurrence.

This year, I’ve set the goal of resisting this rut of negativity.  I realized that my feelings of stagnancy were tied up in two separate issues: I hadn’t outlined any clear objectives for myself and, like many others, I have a tendency to fixate on the negatives.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. For example, who hasn’t groggily responded that they slept “okay, I guess” for months on end, when asked, even when they’re getting reasonable amounts of sleep? I know we’re guilty of that at my house.

So I propose a change:, to combat the human tendency to fixate on the negative, I propose we choose to fixate on more positive occurrences, specifically ones in which we have had direct influence. At the end of the day for the next thirty days (the amount of time it takes to establish new behaviors), I challenge everyone to keep a journal and pen by your bed and write down three positive things about each day. I’ve done this since New Years since reading this article from Whole Living, and I can already notice a change. It also doesn’t hur that on the first page of this journal, I outlined some personal goals. On days that I feel that I’m coming up short for personal triumphs to celebrate, I can look at my list and think about what small steps I’ve taken that day or could take that evening to further my larger goals.

There will be days that you struggle to muster up those positive points, but there will also be days that your optimism is overwhelming and can’t possibly limit yourself to just three things! Then when you flip back through your journal, you’ll see how great things ultimately are.

Life is choices. You can choose to see life as a series of uncontrollable events that happen to you or something you’re affecting. We can choose to see that in reality, our glasses really are half full.

7 comments

  1. Evelyn says:

    This is a really good reminder of something we all know, but rarely practice. Something always seems more important, and taking the time to pat ourselves on the back can seem so self-indulgent. But you’re right, it brings your whole mood down and affects the people around you. I want to pick up that journal habit again; I followed it for a while but it fell by the wayside. Question- do you share yours with anyone, or is it solely a private-boost kind of thing?

    P.S. Shamelessly read that page from your journal and I’m so excited to see you’re reading The Age of Innocence! I just finished The Custom of the Country a few months ago and it was so gleefully, indulgently good. It’s nice reading a book with characters you can fully hate, and not pity/hate/sort-of-like.

    • kate says:

      I don’t actually tend to share with anyone. On some days that I’m really struggling to come up with things, I’ll often ask Walker because he’s better about praising me than I am about praising myself, but otherwise, it’s just a personal reminder.

      And yeah, loved Age of Innocence. Edith Wharton is incredible. I’ll have to give Custom of the Country a shot! Thanks for the rec!

  2. Natasia says:

    Journals are a great way to slow down for a moment, to reflect and evaluate a day’s performance and actions. Even so, I haven’t written in one since elementary school. Recently there have been a lot of journal APPs out there, but perhaps the process of pen and paper is what aids the calming?

    • Kate says:

      It’s not so much a journal – or maybe I’ve always journaled weirdly. For me a journal would be a much more prolonged process, writing more details. This is really just three good bullet points about your day. The pen and paper aspect just helps me further my personal goal of cutting out as much tech as possible, especially before bed, but you could certainly use an app and have similar results!

      • Evelyn says:

        I agree with the added element of pen & paper- your post inspired me to jump back on the “3 Good Things” journal bandwagon. I dug out a Moleskine and my favorite fountain pen, and the marriage of flowing ink to smooth paper just gives the whole experience such a soothing, luxurious feel. I find myself looking forward to writing down the good things I’ve collected in my head during the day.

  3. Cindy says:

    This is a terrific post, totally something I needed to get me out of my current funk. Shame on me for reading it several days late. But I will pick up on your advice and do this type of journaling again!

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