Put extra effort into things that are meaningful to you. / Deborah Harrison/Getty Images
While studies indicate that genes have some 30% to 40% control over our mind-set, Elaine Fox, Oxford psychologist and author of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, suggests it’s possible to retrain our brains through actions. Her advice for a sunnier outlook:
Count your blessings. Optimists tend to remember the positive things that happened to them, while negative events stick out in the minds of pessimists, Fox says. If you record your day in a diary and review the entries later, it becomes easier to see just how much in your life is going right. “We know that by doing these kinds of techniques, the biases will gradually start to change,” Fox says. “What I’ve found when I’ve done studies with people who are very pessimistic, they’re often genuinely surprised at how many good things actually did happen.”
Make time for you. Distancing yourself from stress helps eliminate a negative mind-set. “Literally take 10 minutes in the day out to sit ... turn off everything,” Fox advises. She also recommends spending time outdoors. “Try to think about nothing aside from enjoying the nature around you. Those simple things can actually make a big difference.”
Push yourself. Fox found that pessimists often hang back and wait for things to happen instead of taking initiative. To combat this tendency, she recommends putting extra effort into something meaningful to you. That could be raising the bar at work, adding distance to your morning run or spending more time with your kids.
“Pushing yourself and exceeding your comfort zone is very important,” Fox says.