4 tips to see the glass as half-full
How we view ourselves in life is formed by a combination of factors – particularly our innate personalities, upbringing and early influences. Yet it’s widely recognised that people with a more positive attitude are healthier, better able to cope with stress and are less prone to depression, and that positivity begets positivity – in other words, those of us who feel more positive are more likely to engage in activities that make us feel good, such as eating well, exercising and forming close relationships.
Does this spell bad news for those of us with a naturally gloomier disposition? Not necessarily. Research now indicates our ‘set-point’ for happiness – the level of contentment we naturally settle at regardless of whether we win the lottery or break a leg – is around 50 per cent determined by genetics.
That leaves plenty of opportunity for us to take control of and affect our own levels of wellbeing positively, but psychologists note that for long-term benefits, this must be done authentically – with a committed approach to ongoing personal development and growth, rather than just altering our personality to reflect who we would like to become.
‘Describing someone as glass half-full is really just shorthand for whether they’re more optimistically or pessimistically inclined,’ says business psychologist Dr Hamira Riaz. ‘We are wired to be different degrees of optimistic or pessimistic, which we used to think of as fixed. However, with the right ‘re-wiring’, half-empty can become half-full. The key is to make changes in an authentic way so they “stick”, rather than just being a short-term fix.’
Here are four ways to change your perspective:
Practise sitting with negative feelings
‘Sometimes, there is no way of reframing things positively,’ says Dr Riaz. ‘So you just have to keep plugging away towards the light.’
Find the middle ground
If you have a tendency to catastrophise, try this, says Vanessa King, an expert in positive psychology for Action for Happiness: imagine the best scenario you possibly can, as well as the worst. Then try to get to a point somewhere in the middle – which is where things are far more likely to be.
‘Take positive steps to address negative aspects of your life, but remember also that you need support structures in place to help you achieve this,’ says chartered psychologist Dr Zoubida Guernina. ‘Otherwise you set yourself up to fail, which is completely counter-productive.’
Rumination – revisiting a negative experience repeatedly – gives the event more importance than it deserves and you’ll be unable to move on. If you wish you’d handled things differently, consider the outcome you’d have wanted and what you could have done to enable that. Next time you’re in similar circumstances, you’ll have a well-rehearsed, positive reaction instead.
What techniques do you use to see things in a more positive light? Tweet us @healthymag or drop us a line on Facebook.