Dispositional optimists: How to become one of them

Dispositional optimists. Researchers have found that your habitual attitude in life, affects your health on a day to day basis. It also has a major affect on how long you live. Your basic attitude towards life and your circumstances in life is a big predictor of how long you will live.

What do you do, if you find that you are not a Dispositional Optimist? If you find that you do not have a very positive or 'can do' outlook on life, you need to know that you CAN change.

It is really worth making the effort to change since dispositional optimists experience less stress in every day life. They tend to enjoy life a great deal, have greater social support and, as the research shows, they live longer. .

So how do your become of the many dispositional optimists?

First, you need to recognize that your current attitude , is probably associated with your early life experiences.. If you grew up in an optimistic household and the adults around you spoke as though 'you can do it', "let's figure this out so things will be better' you are more likely to have become a dispositional optimist.

But if that was NOT your upbringing,you can do acquire this attitude NOW. Here are some ways to do it.

  1. Counseling. There are a number of counseling methods that have been effective in helping people develop a more positive, problem solving attitude. They are often short term. You can probably get some references from your county health department. At your first visit, explain that you want to develop a more optimistic, "can do attitude ". Ask if the therapist has experience with helping people to shift their attitudes. If the answer is NO, then leave and find someone else. If the answer is YES, then ask them to outline how the two of you will go about doing this. Ask about costs...whether your insurance will cover it (Many will cover short term therapy. But do ask.) When you find someone you think you can work with, go to it. It may turn out to be hard work - after all you are changing a long established habit. But others have done it. You can be one of the Dispositional optimists. And the rewards are great - less stress, better health and a longer life are just some of the possibilities.
  2. If you suffer from PTS (post traumatic stress) you might want to find out if their is a practitioner of EMDR therapy in your area. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a non-invasive therapy that has show great success in helping people who have experienced traumatic events in their past. It is worth looking into it. You will find some information on the Internet about this therapy or you might want to read one of the books about it. If you decide to go this route be sure that the person you see is a CERTIFIED EMDR therapist. This is not an area for amateurs.
  3. Disclosure. Researchers have found that events from our past that we hide from ourselves or others, can also make for dispositional pessimism. Therapy ( listed above) is one way around this. Others have found that talking to a trusted friend or clergy person helped. Do be sure to ask before launching into your story. Some friends may have experiences of their own that would make it difficult for them to listen to yours. Recently researchers have found that just writing about the events can also release their hold on us. Take a paper. Begin writing about the events. Do not worry about grammar or penmanship (Yes, write with pen or pencil and paper...do not type or keyboard this.) Let all the emotion out as you write. Write how you feel as well as describing the event. Putting the feelings on paper, lessens their intensity and that frees you up to join the Dispositional optimists. If you want to read more about this topic, do get a copy of Noram B. Anderson & P. Elizabeth Anderson, Emotional Longevity: What Really Determines How Long You Live Viking, 2003 and read Chapter 5, "Emotional Disclosure: the Remarkable Benefits of Opening UP".
  4. Finally, it often helps to read books and articles by those who are dispositional optimists. You will not only be inspired, you will begin to grasp how dispositional optimists think about things, how they react to problems and difficulties. There are so many stories out there. Here are some titles: Marvin "Magic" Johnson, My LIfew Art Berg, the Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer Rachel Hitt's book Overcoming Odds , Paul Orfalea's Copy This! - He's the founder of Kinko's Heidi Von Beltz , My soul Purpose. You might even want to pick up Norman Vincent Peale's, The Power of Positive Thinking or Positive Imaging: The Powerful Way to Change Your Life . Those are just a few title. Read them. Learn from them.

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