Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining is a metaphor for optimism in the English language dictionary. How perfect that Poppy, the Troll full of optimism uses it to encourage her fellow Trolls in the new DreamWorks animation film Trolls, especially Branch, the eternal pessimist.
Optimism is a hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, an optimism researcher at the University of Kentucky and author of Breaking Murphy’s Law recounted a study in the May Prevention Magazine.
Researchers asked a group of people to use a beautiful piece of classical music to raise their moods, while telling other volunteers simply to listen to the symphony. The result: The concert didn’t help those who were focused on lifting their spirits—but the others wound up feeling much better.
Her analysis on this: “To truly be happy, you have to stop trying,” says Segerstrom. Even monitoring yourself—Am I feeling better yet?—gets in the way, studies show. Instead, aim to be engaged. “Engagement bypasses pessimism,” she says. One reason: When you’re fully involved in something, it can distract you from a pessimist’s favorite pastime—rumination. (That’s what psychologists call the destructive pattern of obsessing endlessly over problems or concerns.)
So what is recommended to turn pessimism to optimism? An Attitude adjustment: Find quick distractions you can use when you realize you’re stuck on the same negative thought, suggests Segerstrom. Try activities that demand your full attention: Go to a yoga class (or a kickboxing or aerobics class, where you have to commit fully to avoid falling on your face). At the office, try calling a friend or switching on some absorbing music.
Want to be a little more optimistic, like Poppy from Trolls? Segerstrom offers up three exercises to become a more optimistic person:
Use your signature strengths in a new way: Researchers asked study participants about their top five strengths—generosity, for instance, or creativity—and then told them to use one of these strengths in a new and different way every day for 1 week. The result? The volunteers measurably increased their happiness for a full 6 months.
Write down the good things: Every day, a group of adults was asked to write down three things that had gone well and why they happened. And again, even though the experiment lasted only 1 week, participants reported feeling happier for 6 months afterward.
Pay a gratitude visit: People were given 1 week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind to them, but whom they had never thanked properly. The happiness boost from this experiment lasted about 1 month.
Here are some tips from parenting expert, Dr. Karen Reivich on how to help your child become more optimistic:
Go on a Happiness Scavenger Hunt Next time you are taking a walk with your children, ask them to point out anything they notice that makes them smile: a friend waving to them, a bright red cardinal peeking out from a tree limb, the sight of their favorite ice cream shop. This activity teaches your children to notice and share the everyday good things that surround them, and builds optimism and happiness.
Keep a Good Stuff Journal Another way to counteract the negativity bias is to keep a family journal of the good things that happened in the day. I labeled ours the “Good Stuff Journal” and a couple of nights a week, before the kids go to bed, I ask them to share something good that happened that day. I write it down and ask them one question to help them savor the good thing. Sometimes I ask, how did you feel when that happened? Or, how did you contribute to that good thing? Or, what did you like about that good thing?
One of the things that makes us the most optimistic at Pillow Pets is knowing that children and adults take true comfort in Pillow Pets. Putting a smile on millions of faces worldwide helps us to be happier and in turn, we are more productive, grateful and always happy to hear from fans.
Want to see optimism in action? Checkout the new Trolls movie November 4th in theaters nationwide.