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Tools and Advice for Staying Optimistic

The daily news asks more questions than it provides answers these days. Expressions of grief, anxiety and confusion are more visible than those of excitement, gratitude or joy. We know it's hard to feel optimistic about the days ahead, and Mass General Brigham EAP wants to support our community so we all can move forward together. 

You can develop a more positive outlook by taking steps every day to change how you think. This process may take time, especially with today’s challenges. You may see a difference right away just by trying a few things. Here are tips on building more optimism into your life:

Be aware of your negative thoughts. Stop and listen to the messages you're sending yourself. If you have negative thoughts about a situation you can't change, try to replace them with positive ones. For example, you may say something like, “I can handle this,” when you are in a situation that you cannot change. What you can change is how you view the situation more optimistically.

Engage in positive self-talk. Create alternate responses to the negative thoughts you would like to change and consider writing those responses down. For example, if you think, "I'll never be able finish this project," try, "I'll break it down into small steps." If you think, "I don't know how to do that," try, "I can learn something new."

Bring more humor into your life. Tap into the power of laughter. Rent funny movies, hang a cartoon up on your refrigerator, or enjoy humorous songs and stories with your friends.

Spend time with optimistic people. Research has found that moods and ideas are contagious. Chronic complainers can bring you down even if you aren't aware of it. Spend as much time as you can with optimistic people who can help lift your spirits.

Practice gratitude. A pessimistic outlook may cause you to lose sight of the things you're thankful for; practicing gratitude can restore the balance. Spend a few minutes each day thinking about the good things in your life. Some experts suggest that you keep a "gratitude journal" and write down the things that make you feel grateful.

Recognize what you can control. You may start to feel pessimistic if you dwell on things you can't control. Focus on doing all you can to improve what you can control.

Develop or keep up healthy routines. Optimism is easier to maintain when you feel good physically and mentally. Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep and exercise.

Get help if you have unwanted negative thoughts that won't go away. Mass General Brigham Employee Assistance Program (EAP), can give you other ideas on what to do if you have persistent negative thoughts that are interfering with your work, relationships, or enjoyment of life.

You'll find more tips on how to develop or maintain your optimism in Martin E. P. Seligman's book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (2006).

Below are resources for people who are finding themselves in a challenging spot and looking for ways to cope.

For Mass General Brigham Healthcare employees and household members seeking help, please contact the EAP at 866-724-4327.

This content was last modified on: 07/31/2020

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