Train Your Brain to Be More Optimistic
A major trigger of emotional eating is worry or despair. It turns out that pessimism not only feels crummy and is harmful to your relationship with food, but also may impact longevity. If you’re looking to become more optimistic, you can retrain your brain to think more positively according to “Want to live longer? Be an optimist, study says” by Sandee LaMottte (CNN.com, 8/26/19, accessed 8/27/19, https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/26/health/optimism-live-longer-wellness/index.html).
Says LaMotte, “Optimism doesn't mean ignoring life's stressors. But when negative things happen, optimistic people are less likely to blame themselves and more likely to see the obstacle as temporary or even positive. They also believe they have control over their fate and can create opportunities for good things to happen in the future.” Two key concepts are going on here. First, when things go wrong, stop blaming yourself. Pessimists tend to be blame oriented—hard on themselves or others for causing problems. Second, get out of victim mode and remind yourself that there are usually actions to take to improve situations, even if the actions occur in your own mind.
Remember, like learning any new behaviors, change won’t happen overnight. But it will happen. Research at Davidson's Center for Healthy Minds tell us that 30 minutes a day of meditation over a two-week period can make changes in our brains. Here are four mental exercises they recommend for becoming more optimistic.
- Visualize your best possible self. “Imagine yourself in a future in which you have achieved all your life goals and all of your problems have been resolved…write for 15 minutes about a future day in your life in which you have accomplished everything you wish. Then spend five minutes imaging that reality.
- Keep a daily journal of positive experiences. Pessimistic minds focus on what goes poorly. By journaling, you train your brain to notice positive experiences. Instead of counting how many red lights you hit on the way home from work, count green ones.
- Studies tell us that “practicing gratefulness improves positive coping skills by breaking the typical negative thinking style and substituting optimism.” Gratitude improves your mood, while frustration and disappoint just bring you down.
- Practice mindfulness one minute each morning and evening by focusing on people who’ve helped and supported you. You’ll get a fuzzy warm feeling while you’re retraining your brain.
Be optimistic that you can retrain your brain. That’s the first step in making it happen.