The way we think and react to a situation determines how much happiness and success we will find in our lives. For example, the pessimistic person who is watching his business go bankrupt due to the current economic slump will view his dilemma as “the end of the world.” Conversely, for the optimistic person, the same scenario would be “an opportunity to start something new and different” in accordance to his or her choice.
Attitudes are organized collections of thoughts about a particular issue. To be optimistic, you need to eliminate certain pessimistic thinking patterns. These include the four major types of negative thinking:
- Polarizing: a type of black-and-white thinking that defines failure as any result short of perfection.
- Personalizing: automatically blaming yourself every time something bad happens.
- Filtering: psychologically screening out the encouraging aspects of complex scenarios.
- Catastrophizing: expecting the worst possible outcome in any situation.
How adults with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism can improve their mood significantly:
1. Be patient with yourself as you begin the journey of moving from pessimism to optimism. It takes some time to accomplish this shift. There’s no hurry.
2. Beware of the fact that pessimistic people attract other pessimists. Those who live in a world of “doom and gloom” alienate others, thus they have no choice but to look for other pessimistic people to associate with. They then feed off one another and get locked in a clique of cynics.
3. Call a friend. Pick up the phone and call someone. Don't email …its much less personal. You'll have a laugh and the endorphins will start flowing again.
4. Do some deep breathing. Close your eyes and take slow breaths in through your nose as deeply as you can. Hold for a few seconds. Release slowly through your mouth. Repeat 5 times.
5. Donate money to a worthy cause. There are so many worthwhile organizations to which you can donate money to. Pick a cause that has a personal connection, make an easy annual limit that is within your budget, and then pledge to make that donation. Most of these are tax-deductible.
6. Employing positive self-talk will improve your outlook. When your state of mind is generally positive, you're able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of optimistic thinking. Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a destructive thought enters your head, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you.
7. Exercise at least three times a week to positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind, body and soul.
8. Failure to do what you want to do and what makes you happy causes physical and mental stress. So, the lesson is simple: Do what makes you happy (as long as it isn’t harmful to you or others).
9. Find a cool hobby. Pull out your video camera, your oil paints, or your clay. Get creative again. Do you play guitar? Do you like to write? Scrapbook? Getting that creative spark going may be just the ticket to feeling optimistic again.
10. Find a quiet place and about 10 minutes all to yourself at the beginning or end of the day. Turn off your cell phone and avoid all interruptions. Just sit by yourself and listen to your breathing. Observe your thoughts (but try not to judge them during this quiet time).
11. Forgive yourself. Write down one thing you think you did "wrong" in the past, or one way in which you think you are falling short, and let it go – completely. If you aren't convinced that you should be forgiven for the alleged transgression, then pick an easier item for self-forgiveness.
12. Get lost in a good book. Go to the library or bookstore and drift into the experience (e.g., the hush, the shuffling feet, the soft sounds, etc.). Emerge hours later feeling a little lighter.
13. Get organized. Sometimes clutter can make one feel overwhelmed and mildly depressed. If you are at the office, use your lunch hour to tackle some of the piles and stuff crammed in your desk drawers. At home, tackle on one room or space at a time. Getting things in their proper place can ease a lot of your anxiety.
14. Get out in the sun. Go outside or stand beside a bright window and bask in the warming rays for a few minutes. Sunlight ups the level of vitamin D in your body, which in turn keeps serotonin high.
15. Give an honest, heart-felt compliment to someone deserving of it.
16. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less anxious.
17. Have a good cry. If you have suffered a loss or are otherwise grieving, it may be helpful to let the tears flow. You may not immediately feel a great deal happier, but in the long term, the sadness will not be so bottled up.
18. If you choose to allow certain events or circumstances in life to dictate your mood, you are giving away your personal power to whatever triggered your pessimistic attitude.
19. If you want to become more positive, first identify areas of your life that you typically think negatively about (e.g., work, your daily commute, a relationship, etc.).You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
20. It’s always possible to change a pessimistic attitude, but it won’t be easy. If you lived your life seeing only dark colors, you can’t turn this around in a day. However, by taking small and consistent steps, you will gradually become a happier individual.
21. Know that positive thinking is not enough. If you can’t find the cause of your pessimistic attitude, you will only cover this attitude with positive words. So, find the cause of it, and this will allow you to change your pessimistic attitude.
22. Learn to focus on the here and now, and do all you can to make the most of what you have.
23. Listen to your favorite upbeat song and you’ll be happier in seconds. Music has a powerful influence over state of mind. Music activates the part of your brain that’s hardwired for pleasure.
24. Make sure the people in your life are positive, supportive individuals that you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Pessimistic people will increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in a healthy way.
25. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking about. If you find that your thoughts are mainly pessimistic, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
26. Practicing optimism every day. If you tend to have a pessimistic outlook, don't expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you. Plus, when you share your optimism, both you and those around you enjoy an emotional boost.
27. Say to you yourself that you are successful and you are having a great day. Repeat this 10 to 15 times to get the point across to your mind. You can convince your mind of anything if you say it over and over again.
28. Start a blog. A blog will give you an outlet for your feelings. And it may be even better for triggering happiness, because people can leave you positive comments.
29. Start a journal. It can be any kind of writing in which you relate your thoughts of the day. Sometimes just getting it out releases some of the negative energy.
30. To loosen the grip of a pessimistic attitude, become aware of your complaining, stop it in its tracks, and immediately look for something positive to say. It’s just a matter of replacing a bad habit with a good one.
31. Try to understand what causes your pessimistic attitude. It might be that you live with a person who constantly ruins your mood, or it may have something to do with your past. Maybe something happened to you that made you deeply upset, and you have not totally recovered from that incident. Understand that the incident is long gone, and you should not live in the shadow of it. Your past can only have influence on your present if you let it. Remember, your true power is in the present moment.
32. Volunteer somewhere. You can find a couple hours a month to make a big difference in a few peoples' lives. Soup kitchens always need extra hands. Religious organizations love volunteers to help with many events throughout the year. What about the local Humane Society? Local communities also have events that can use both volunteers. Check the local Chamber of Commerce website.
33. When you first awake in the morning, sit up in bed, take a big stretch, put a smile on my face, and then assert, “Today I am going to have a great day.”
34. Write to a family member. Choose someone with whom you haven't corresponded in a while and tell them how much you appreciate their being a part of your life, or tell them a joke – whatever cheers you up.
35. You’re not at the mercy of different kinds of pessimistic feelings that visit you when you least expect. You can control how you feel.
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