Building Optimism from Negative Experiences

March 18, 2022

Sasna Nawran, Low Entropy Volunteer Writer

 

As human beings, we face numerous challenges and negative experiences in our day-to-day lives such as relationship struggles, loss of a loved one, financial crises, and many more. We go through a range of emotions. At times when everything goes wrong, we lose hope and we tend to view our life as a failure. Yeah, it’s normal to experience these negative thoughts and emotions during hard times but prolonged negativity can be harmful. It can inhibit us from reaching our goals and it can hinder our happiness. Therefore, it is important to know how to be optimistic while we go through bad phases in our lives.

What does it mean to be optimistic?

Most of the time we misunderstand what optimism is. We think optimism is ignoring our emotions or the negative situation and focusing only on the good things in life. But it’s not that. It is simply the attitude of hope and positivity. It is accepting the bad situation we are in and hoping for the best in the future. Research shows that optimism can affect our physical and mental wellbeing along with our everyday activities. By learning to cope with negative experiences effectively and by practicing optimism, we can transform our lives.

Here are some tips that I find useful to keep me optimistic while going through negative experiences.

  • Acknowledge and accept the situation.

When you are in a bad situation it’s normal to experience negative emotions. Acknowledge your feelings rather than ignore them to convince yourself that you are fine. Instead, give yourself a pep talk. You may have faced numerous obstacles in the past that you have now overcome. So believe that this is another one of those challenges that you can face and it will pass like all the others. No situation is permanent.

If the bad experience you are facing is due to a wrong choice or a mistake that you have made, then do not be too harsh and judgmental of yourself. If you have made a mistake, make peace with it, forgive yourself and try to avoid doing it in the future. Remind yourself, everyone makes mistakes and it is how we learn.

You can also talk about your feelings honestly with a close friend or write them in a journal. Even involving yourself in a physical activity that you like such as running, yoga, or simply a walk outside while enjoying the cool breeze will help you to eliminate the negativity and make you feel better.

  • Practice mindfulness

While going through a negative experience, it is natural that you overthink and imagine the worst scenarios that could happen in the future. Practicing mindfulness will help you avoid this. Mindfulness is being in the present moment rather than overthinking about the future. 

I found a useful technique to practice mindfulness. It is W.I.N. which stands for What is Important Now? When you have a negative experience and start to obsess about the uncertain future, ask yourself “What is important right now?” and bring your thoughts back to the present. Determine what is most essential to you at this time and in these circumstances. Make it your primary goal for the day. Practice this technique every day and eventually, your thoughts will be focused on the present.

  • Practice gratitude

No matter how bad the situation you are in, there will always be positive things that we don’t notice as we are focused on the negativity only. Try to think of three positive things at a time. Ask yourself, “What good things happened today?” It could be simple things like having a good meal or completing a simple task that you have planned. When you do this daily you start to notice, appreciate and be grateful for the good things around you. This will build positivity and eventually you will see a huge change in your life. This is a technique that has helped me immensely in  becoming an optimist.

  • Determine the things that are out of your control

You are not in control of everything. Some situations are beyond your authority. For example, during this pandemic some of you may have lost your jobs or some of your plans may not  have gone as expected, but the pandemic is something that is out of our control. Remember you have the option of either allowing these unfavorable situations to pull you down or embracing them and rising above them. 

We all prefer to face positive experiences and avoid negative ones. But a world without challenges or hardships is unrealistic. Therefore, learning to cope with the negative experiences effectively is the best possible way to lead a happier and healthier life.

 

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