When Mindfulness Meets Optimism
rē•spin your mindset.
Sometimes, it feels difficult to remain optimistic. (It’s okay, we get it.) Moments of pessimism, when it’s a struggle to see the bright side of things, are common and happen to the best of us. There are actually methods you can introduce into your daily life to become a more optimistic person. Sure, you can focus on solutions versus problems, or adopt positive mantras, but there is a sweet spot where mindfulness practices and optimism intersect. (For instance, research confirms that mindfulness promotes optimism, seemingly impacting the so-called negativity bias that impacts self-view and self-esteem. These changes can literally be viewed in the brain with fMRI imaging!) When you go there in your wellness practice, you can harness the merits of positive psychology while remaining present to what is happening in the moment. You can even train your brain to process it with equanimity, without falling on one side or the other.
A refresher on mindfulness
Mindfulness dates back well over 2,000 years, stemming from Buddhism. One of Buddha’s teachings for developing insight was to be fully aware in the moment. Mindfulness, or sati, is one of the essential components of Buddhism, bestowing upon you the power to look past daily tedium to focus on the larger picture; focusing on what is happening around you, what you’re doing in the moment, and where you are.
It’s easy to lose touch as you go through the day-to-day, becoming overstimulated by social media and daily encounters, fleeting from one thought to the next in a busy busy busy mentality. Mindfulness can provide you with the ability to be present in the moment and aware of what’s happening without feeling overwhelmed. These practices can help snap you back to reality, what you are doing in that moment, and what you are feeling as well.
What can mindfulness do for you?
Studies have shown that mindfulness has positive psychological effects including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation. Empirical evidence shows that mindfulness reduces rumination and stress, boosting working memory, focus, and performance while increasing cognitive flexibility. It can help you gain insight and self-awareness that allows you to increase your attention on others’ well-being while still tending to your personal needs.
Mindfulness also enables a detached perspective that ceases judgment of self and others, helping you to approach your life with kindness and warmth.
The intersection of mindfulness and optimism
Optimism, as you know, is having an attitude that reflects hope regarding life experiences as positive and in our favor. Mindfulness and optimism coincide when it comes to acknowledging obstacles in your life. It helps ground you in the present experience so that you can recognize your hardships, but then find the opportunity to embrace them without spiraling into emotional reactivity. Through adopting your own mindfulness practice, you develop a toolkit to manage life’s experiences and their ups and downs.
Studies have shown that mindfulness practices promote positive emotions that carry over into your life. Other studies have concluded that mindfulness helps you to feel happier, embodying more positive emotions—but only when you learn how to tolerate, embrace, and truly accept the occurrences in your life rather than denying or avoiding them. This often means addressing the issues at hand rather than letting them define who you are as a person. In other words, it is a self-empowerment tool.
How to practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is more than just a simple practice, but it is still something that can be done by anyone. At its core, it is the conscious recognition of moments of unconsciousness in which you bring your attention to the present. It can bring awareness to anything and everything you do—from making a smoothie to walking your dog.
Mindfulness can be practiced naturally in your regular life, but there are also accompanying techniques that help promote it. Meditation of any kind helps, whether you’re doing a seated, walking, or standing meditation. It is essentially a meditation of consciousness that can be combined with fitness activities like yoga. Never underestimate the importance of taking pauses in which you rē-connect with yourself throughout the day, anchoring into the present moment.