Home Features Cultivating Optimism: The Magic Ingredient in Moving Forward

Cultivating Optimism: The Magic Ingredient in Moving Forward

Photo: Matheus Bertelli

Praise the Lord and Pass the Biscuits, 2023 is gone. 

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Do you ever feel that way about a year? It always starts so well. That cute Andy and Anderson just effervesce us into an outlook of excitement and hope. 

We’re gonna lose all the weight, find love, read the book, and improve the self. Then ten days later, little Johnny gets the flu and the check engine light blinks on. 

By Valentine’s Day, we’ve found the weight, hate love, burned the book, and lost ourselves. 

With a prescription for King Cake, we might make it until March.

By then, at least the sun is shining and we can go to the beach again. Gulf Coasties don’t follow the traditional calendar anyway. We have two seasons: Beach Season and All The Holidays We Smash Together To Cope With It Not Being Beach Season. 

I digress; let’s get back to today. How is it that today, while technically no different than yesterday is unique and bursting at the seams with possibilities? 

Because of the magic ingredient in moving forward – optimism. 

So why do we have it on the first day and lose it along the way?

For starters, our intentionality is engaged and we are focused on our mindset for the New Year. We stop and reflect with gratitude on all that has happened, focus on our priorities and dreams, and then resolve to accomplish new goals.

So how do we take our optimism with us as the days go forward? 

We have to accept that optimism isn’t an arbitrary quality, it’s a practice. Being optimistic doesn’t mean you aren’t in touch with reality or don’t have bad days. It’s the special sauce deep inside that desires to have a hopeful outlook for the very next step. 

But what if we don’t even desire to have a hopeful outlook? 

Well, mindset is also a choice. A choice as simple as, “Am I going to walk toward the light?” And if not, “what will come of my staying in darkness?” 

You see, you are an astounding creation. And you are designed to press forward. 

You are made of 40 trillion microbial cells and 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Like the 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, so are the number of neurons in the grey matter between your ears. You are a sophisticated and creative masterpiece, and yet so much of you, of all of us, is completely inexplicable. 

You, my friend, are simply…

Extraordinary and beautiful,

Exquisite.

And while so much of our body operates autonomically, our spirit can operate quite willfully. 

The biology of our bodies is fairly concrete and definable. But in our consciousness, creativity, and emotions we find the mystery and beauty of the human experience – it’s the essence of who we are as individuals.

In that essence, we find the nuances of how we see life, what influences our decisions, and our perception of life and its purpose. It is there we can cover all of those things in optimism and shift our entire life. 

If you want to boost your optimism quotient and shift your life, start with these five things:

Practice Gratitude The first thing that always shifts my outlook is actively acknowledging what is good and right. I bought a calendar that included a box for writing one thing per day you are grateful for. Simply seeing that statement shifts my mood, before I’ve even written anything! So, stop right now and put a reminder in your phone to alarm you at a set time each day to remember something to be grateful for. 

Arrest your thoughts and words. The second thing I try to do is to consciously stop myself the moment I think or say something negative. Negative thinking can become habitual. Sometimes cynicism and sarcasm become our personality, so to be different feels a little like being an imposter.

Listen to your body. We extend this concept to children but often forget about it with ourselves. A hangry person ain’t gonna be optimistic about much a nuthin’, you heard? So, to have a better outlook, make sure your body is rested, hydrated, and fueled with good nutrition. If you’re cranky and negative, don’t underestimate the power of a nap and a good snack, first.

Consider your influences. Have you ever heard a song and you can’t get it out of your head? It becomes an earworm of madness. The same is true when it comes to the people and social media you surround yourself with. The phrases you hear and the biting commentary can be a subconsciously repeated tape in your mind. Take some time to consider which social media accounts you need to unfollow and what friends bring out your best outlook. Are you uplifting them in the same way?

Say yes to fun! I love having fun, but often struggle with justifying taking the time or spending the money on fun activities, viewing them as “icing” rather than “cake.” Personal care is often the first thing to go when we are budgeting our time and money, but what if self-care is making sure your oxygen mask is on before you can begin helping others with theirs? It’s okay to have FUN so you aren’t pouring from an empty cup. Get out your calendar and schedule one fun thing to do every month. Simply looking forward to the activity will change your outlook. 

The ceremonial opening and closing of the year is the perfect time for reflecting on life, and its purpose, and for looking optimistically toward the future. But the reality is that every single day holds the same opportunity for optimism if we choose it.

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Dana is an Arkansas native and a seasonal resident of the Gulf Coast since childhood. She was a Pensacola resident for 13 years, before moving to Gulf Breeze. Dana attributes her Mayberry-esque childhood in Warren, Arkansas, as enormously influential in honing her definitely Southern style of storytelling. She earned a degree in Journalism, Advertising/Public Relations from the University of Arkansas (Woo Pig Sooie!). In addition to writing, she loves photography, art, adventures in the great outdoors, and spending time with her three children.