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Alexander has been contributing for THS for over a year! While he attained a major in communications at SFU, he also recieved a minor in Psychology. Despite those accomplishments, Alex has also never had a full cup of coffee (crazy right?!). Alex is a lifelong sports fan and will defend his Seattle Seahawks to the death, especially if faced against a 49er fan. While Alex's long-term goal is to become a marriage counsellor, he also has a strong passion towards writing that he looks forward to exploring.

How to Live Life Optimistically and Gratefully

{Image Credit: iStock}

As you go through life, you are going to encounter a plethora of moments in adversity. But nothing is more important for your mental health than making sure you handle it in a healthy way.

Working towards becoming a more optimistic and grateful person doesn’t mean that you suddenly become ignorant about difficulties placed in front of you — it means you’re able to take these challenging moments and frame them in a positive way that helps instill a greater sense of self.

There are several different techniques that have been proven through various research studies that help make it clear how becoming a more optimistic and grateful person is a skill that can be developed and learned, as well as further validation toward the countless benefits that being optimistic and hopeful can have when facing areas of struggle such as health concerns and addiction. These different strategies can help you to learn how to love your life and all the ups and downs that will come with it.

Those who define themselves as being optimistic often display tremendous coping mechanisms. This can be influential in their ability to properly assess problematic situations and find productive ways to come out of the experience with the knowledge they are a stronger and better person than those who they were before their adversity and are grateful for what they’ve learned.

Dr. Aparna Iyer who works at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center highlights the fact that one of the key components is not blaming yourself for the situation you find yourself in. By not weighing yourself down with how you got to the place you are in, you can put your energy into finding the best way to frame it in your mind.

Former professor, Randy Pausch, whose diagnosis of cancer led to him presenting what was called “The Last Lecture,” which went on to also become a best-selling book, talked openly about the struggles that came with the diagnosis, for both himself and his family. Pausch asserted above all else that while you cannot change the cards you are dealt, the reaction to them is in your control.

From this lesson, cancer gave Randy many things to be grateful for, including the ability to help prepare his family for his eventual passing. Cancer is also the reason my mother is no longer alive, but her mission statement above all else was to make sure I was always grateful. And while there is a lot that I can say I dislike about what cancer has brought to my world, it has also given me a tremendous amount to be grateful for. I am confident in myself and assertive that my positive, optimistic attitude has shaped the world around me. I am grateful to use my past experiences, including my most difficult ones, to help make life easier for others.

Practicing mindfulness is one of the most proven ways to help improve your overall sense of optimism. What this involves is looking at life not in terms of what lies in your past, or future, but living in the moment and counting your blessings for what is right in front of you. In doing so you are able to realize that there are many things that are in your current control and that will reduce the feeling of helplessness that can be associated with being pessimistic. Being frustrated that my mother got sick did not change the situation, nor did being scared and worried about what life was going to look like when she was no longer around.

But by being grateful for every moment that I got with her because of the situation, I was left with tools that I will utilize my entire life. My mother’s battle with cancer also lasted significantly longer than we were originally told at diagnosis, including periods of remission. Research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health over the course of 8 years also discovered that those who were defined as being the most optimistic were 30 percent less likely to die from a serious illness that included cancer and heart disease. Like with Pausch, being optimistic and grateful were two my the biggest tools utilized by my mother and assisted us in how we coped.

Image Credit: LibreShot

One of the most productive things that you can do to try and live your life with a more grateful and optimistic attitude is to keep track of things you are grateful for by writing them down. Research that was done by Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Michael McCullough out of the University of Miami discovered those who write down things that made them grateful for throughout their week feel better about their lives.

Further research by Dr. Martin Selgiman from the University of Pennsylvania also came to the conclusion that those who were tasked with writing a level of gratitude to someone that they had appreciated, but never properly thanked, led to a huge spike in their overall sense of happiness. This helps further assert the belief that being grateful and expressing that attitude to others can be influential in improving your life and the lives of those around you.

There are some people in your life who you may know that struggle with their sense of happiness. But to those individuals, you can induce hope based strategies that will leave both you and the other person feeling stronger. When talking about hope, that includes like with being optimistic, not having an ignorance to the negatives of the situation.

By asserting that you understand the situation to the other person through listening and displaying empathy without making them feel judged for the circumstances that they are in, you can then help induce a sense of hope towards their future. This allows them to avoid focusing on their past difficulties that have led to where they are and reduces their feeling of hopelessness.

The Power of Hope is a Canadian based charity that centers their attention at helping youth. The programs put on by the PoH include things like a camp that allows youth to express themselves with the knowledge they will be met with love and support. The 2018 camp will be held at Cortes Island in British Columbia and give youth an opportunity to form a deeper relationship with themselves and the incredibly diverse group of youth and staff around them as they learn to identify their strengths and reach their potential. As you talk to others and help them learn how to identify their own strengths, you will also come away with a better understanding of what yours are as well.

Dr. Elizabeth Clark has talked more about hope and in doing so highlights the importance that hoping is an active behavior. While being optimism is looking at a situation in a positive way, being hopeful and transferring that feeling to others is something that is a measurable effort that is put forth. Therefore one of the ways to induce a sense of hope in yourself and others is to practice a goal-oriented approach. This can leave you also looking towards the future in a way that is more positive as you actively move towards a target that you know will make you feel better to attain.

Being a hopeful person means being able to be adaptable to the dynamic difficulties that will be presented to you. It is why that when even faced with the difficulty of something like a relapse, that those who are hopeful who struggle with addiction can continue pushing forward towards the life they are striving for. The Edgewood Health Network talks about hope as being the foundation of which recovery is built. They reveal several ways to help induce hope including accepting the situation you are in but making realistic plans to improve how your future looks. As well as making positive affirmations that you are a strong enough person to achieve the future you want for yourself even if you undergo setbacks or are not in the place where you thought you would be at this time in life.

You are not going to be able to stop difficult moments from happening in life. But in those moments that are difficult, remember the strength that you will attain as a person when you make it through that situation and how you may use that experience to help others.

And while the situation might not always be fair and can be overwhelming, you owe it to yourself and those around you to take the steps to make sure you are proud of yourself for how you have handled it. It is an active effort and living optimistically and gratefully with a sense of hope and one that is not always easy to remember, but it can be the important skill you take through life.

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