How Do We Use Hope and Optimism to Overcome Stress?
Hope and optimism can help us get through stressful moments and manage those pessimistic thoughts that creep in. One of the most useful ways we can develop attitudes that work well for us is by using the power of self-talk. Self-talk is the inner conversation we have with ourselves. People facing distressing events and trying times can use more supportive self-talk to guide their thinking away from pessimistic thinking to move in a more hopeful direction.
For example, you may find yourself saying things like:
- What's the use?
- Why bother?
- Nothing ever works out anyway.
- I always mess things up.
Practice challenging these and other pessimistic thoughts you might have over and over again. Keep reminders at home and at work to replace them with more hopeful, supportive thoughts. When we change our self-talk for the better, we're retraining our brains to handle these difficult decisions automatically.
This exercise can help maintain a hopeful attitude and improve the ways in which you deal with stress in the future. It helps you identify your goals and find pathways to make them happen. Download our goal planning worksheet to help you take your next step in moving in the direction you'd like to go, figure out obstacles in your way and identify emotional barriers that are holding you back.
It is important to make optimistic thought patterns a habit in everyday life. Here are a couple daily exercises that will help you retrain your brain and change the course of your thought patterns.
- Do a nightly review of the major challenges you faced during the day. Consider your thoughts and feelings for each of them. It can be a quick review if you pick the most difficult challenges and take a few minutes to check your thoughts and challenge the pessimistic ones.
- Think of three specific good events that happened during the day. This is something you can do out loud with your family or friends at dinner, or you can just think about them right before you go to bed. Research shows that this simple exercise increases feelings of happiness and optimism.
Also, download our gratitude journal worksheet to create a list of positive thoughts you can revisit when you're feeling low and reverse pessimistic thoughts.
It can be difficult to measure hope and optimism in everyday life. The hope and optimism challenge helps break down common stressful situations to help identify pessimistic thoughts, challenge them and replace them with a more positive attitude.
Download our sample hope and optimism challenge worksheet to see how you react in difficult situations, and really think about your natural reaction to stressful events.
Past research shows we are born with a happiness set point – a normal level of happiness we always return to after temporarily feeling better or worse. But we now know we can retrain our brains to change our set points for other emotions, like anger, sadness and joy.
Listen to our meditation instructions and download the three-week compassion meditation schedule to help retrain and exercise your brain just as you would your biceps. Practicing it for an hour each day can help strengthen connections in your brain and change your set point for happiness.
A state of coherence can help bring a sense of clarity to your day, and balance your thoughts and emotions. In a stressful moment, take 60 seconds to reach a calmed state and drain negative feelings like frustration, irritation, anxiety and anger. Listen to these quick instructions from the HeartMath Institute to learn how to quickly enter a coherent state.