Given the 24/7 news cycle, we could all use a little more optimism. It's how we cope with difficulty, and, ultimately, achieve happiness. We spoke with self-described “Optimism Doctor” Deepika Chopra, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, to arm us with tools to help us better navigate how we’re feeling.
Contrary to popular belief, optimism is not chipper positivity. Rather, Chopra says optimism is the practice of experiencing difficulty and setback, and recognizing it as temporary. How do you do that? By sharpening your resiliency to difficulty and your belief in your own ability to overcome it.
Here are her five recommendations for cultivating more optimism:
1. Perspective is your most powerful tool.
It can either empower you or leave you feeling hopeless. Commit to making small perspective shifts throughout your day. It can be as simple as flipping one word in a sentence, i.e. instead of "I am stuck at home", say "I am safe at home." That one word can shift your mood from hopeless to empowered.
2. Give yourself more joy.
We can go through life thinking that joy is selfish and frivolous, when it is actually positive survival. If there are things that bring you joy, whether small or big (provided they don't cause harm to you or anyone else), do them more, and do them even more than that!
3. Actively seek out positive news.
This doesn't mean an "ignorance is bliss" approach. Knowledge is power, so I don't advocate for turning off the news entirely and avoiding it. I do believe in keeping good boundaries — limit your news intake to fit within a boundary that feels good. But seek out positive, happy, inspiring news, too. It's out there. Amazing things are happening every day, all over the world — we are just not exposed to them in the same way we are to negative news stories. An aside: The Feals team is partial to Instagram accounts like, @tanksgoodnews, @upworthy, and actor John Krasinki's weekly YouTube series Some Good News.
4. Move in any way you can.
You don't have to be an avid exerciser to get the benefits of movement. I love to dance. I am not a professional dancer by any means, but I know that music makes me happy and moving to it gives me energy and increases my endorphins. I get up and dance first thing in the morning when I get out of bed, even if for just half a song. Your mood in the morning has an impact on your mood throughout the rest of the day.
5. Be compassionate with yourself.
The only way to overcome a difficult or painful feeling is to lean into it and acknowledge it, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug. However you are feeling right now is okay — there is no right way to feel or be, especially now. Elevated anxiety during a crisis is not abnormal. Allow yourself space to feel that and acknowledge your experience. It's a powerful and effective way to work towards resilience and optimism.