Adding Optimism and Gratefulness to Your Daily Life
Living with ADHD can be frustrating, there is no doubt about that. But how you look at those frustrations, whether with optimism or pessimism, might be the difference to how well you cope with your ADHD symptoms. Optimism and gratefulness have been linked to better health and happiness. Those who are optimistic are less apt to develop heart disease and cancer. They catch colds less often than pessimists. Optimists are more satisfied with their life, make more money and have happier marriages. .
In the book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Martin Seligman explains how optimists and pessimists look at situations differently:
Setbacks - Optimists see setbacks as caused by a specific reason. The setback is both temporary and changeable. Pessimists see setbacks as more global, permanent, unchangeable and pervasive. For example, suppose you fail an important test. An optimist would see this as a temporary setback, caused by having a bad day or lack of studying. They know with better preparation they can bounce back. A pessimist might say, “I am never going to understand this. I will never pass this class.”
Victories - Optimists see victories a permanent and leading to further successes. Pessimists view victories as a fluke, something that is situation specific and doesn’t relate to other areas in their life. For example, suppose you get a raise at work. An optimist would see this as a step toward other raises in the future. A pessimist would see this as a one-time raise and believe that further raises are out of reach.
While some people seem to be inherently optimistic, if you are a pessimist, you can learn to be more optimistic in your life. By doing so you can improve your outlook, your health and your ability to cope with ADHD symptoms. Dr. Ned Hallowell, in an interview with ADDerworld.com, states, “a realistically positive attitude makes all the difference in the world.”
How do you change your attitude to focus more on the positive? Use the following tips to start changing your thinking and how you view the world.
Find Balance When Things Go Wrong
Pessimists tend to overreact to bad situations looking at it as “I am unlucky” or “Bad things always happen to me.” Many situations are a combination of circumstances you can control and those that are out of your control. Look at a situation in a more balanced way by accepting your responsibility for things going wrong but also accepting that some things are out of your control. If something was completely out of your control, such as getting laid off because your company went out of business, don’t try to attach blame to yourself.
Be aware of your language. Stay away from words that imply things won’t change, such as “I will never get a better job.” Reframe your thinking by changing the wording to “I will keep trying until I find a better job.” You can talk yourself into being optimistic simply by changing a few words in your thoughts. If you need to, keep a journal of your negative thoughts and write down a more positive way of looking at the situation. As you continue to do this, you will find thinking positive becomes more natural.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
If you spend your time with people who are pessimists, chances are you will pick up on their thinking styles. Look for people who are positive and supportive and spend time with them. In the same way, fill your life with positive experiences. Don’t read books or watch movies that bring out your negative moods. When doing something unpleasant or tedious, think about more positive things, such as a bright sunny day or spending time with someone you love.
Focus on the Process, not the Outcome
We can’t always control the outcome (such as whether you get a job after an interview) but you do have control over dressing correctly, showing up on time, having a polished resume, focusing on your strengths. Focus on the process and reward yourself for completing the process with enthusiasm rather than punishing yourself when things don’t work out.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Optimism and gratitude go hand in hand. Each night write down three things you are grateful for and review your previous entries. As you continue to do this, you will start looking for the good in each day and seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty.
Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment. When you spend ten minutes a day on mindfulness meditation it can help you stay away from thoughts about failures in your past or worries about the future. Right in this moment, all is good.
Counteract Your Negative Thoughts
Make a goal to come up with three positive thoughts or experiences for each negative one you have. By doing this, you are left with more good thoughts than bad and your spirits automatically lift, for example, you have an argument with your boss. When you get home, turn on relaxing music (#1), pet the dog (#2) and give each of your children a hug (#3). The argument at work suddenly does not seem as important.
Changing your thought patterns, from negative to positive, takes time, persistence and patience. Keep at it and you will start to see a change in your life and your relationships.