The American Journal of Epidemiology conducted a study several years ago that showed optimism and positive health factors are inextricably linked. Most studies have focused on heart health, but there are correlations between positivity and other health factors, including stroke, cancer, infection, and respiratory disease. Generally speaking, positive people live a longer life of better quality. The scientific term for this state of mind is “dispositional optimism.” The phrase means that a person generally holds the belief that good things will happen. And if you don’t come by optimism naturally, fear not. It is a mindset that can develop through practice. New Year’s Resolutions can sometimes be used in a negative way to belittle ourselves for not accomplishing what we’ve set out to do. So, make your resolution this year be one that is marked by dispositional optimism and start the year strong. Here are a few examples to get you started.
If you are one of the millions of people who make diet or exercise resolutions, you already know these are the hardest to keep. This year, adopt a more straightforward and optimistic approach. For example, resolve to choose a veggie-rich side dish for one of your meals every day. After that, keep adding more vegetables until you’ve hit your goal of five servings daily. Or, if you’re trying to improve your flexibility, resolve to perform one good hamstring stretch every morning upon waking. Once that has become a habit, you can add shoulder exercises when you’re feeling stiff. Remember to keep your focus on what you can achieve here and now, and avoid pressuring yourself to push harder when you’re not ready.
Adopting a new hobby or advancing your sphere of knowledge is optimistic by nature. You are setting yourself up for a fulfilling future when you expand your horizons. To keep the momentum positive, give yourself room to play and explore. Rather than saying, “I must learn Italian by the end of this year,” resolve to try out a few books on Italian and see if you enjoy it as much as you think you will. Otherwise, you can try Spanish. Instead of declaring that you will learn to paint this year, try visiting the expressive arts studio once or twice a week to play around in a few mediums and see what speaks to you. The result is the same: learning a language or creating art, but it’s approached in a relaxed and positive way.
These can be daunting for sure! But they become necessary as we age and acquire more while simultaneously needing less. Take this time to create one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones: a well-organized and decluttered home. This process can be overwhelming, but even just a little bit of work will yield significant results. Keep it positive by creating fun rituals like telling a family member the story behind the family heirloom that you’re passing on to them. You could even plan a special get-together or video call just for the occasion and enjoy some quality time.
Feeling sad and frustrated over life’s challenges is perfectly normal and does not need to be suppressed. Just focus on keeping your overall outlook positive and expect better days to come. It doesn’t cost anything, and it could genuinely change your life. Remember the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor emeritus of medicine at M.I.T., “You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”