But this is a classic case of the vast chasm between knowing about something that’s really good for you and knowing how to work it into your life. If you could do it easily, you’d have done it by now.
Here, science lends a hand. More specifically, a new 3,500 person study published in July in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine shows that developing a specific trait can dramatically help your ability to get a much better quality of sleep (better sleep, longer). What’s that trait?
Optimism–and how to develop it.
That’s right, good old fashioned optimism should leave you optimistic about better sleep in your future. Study participants were presented with a number of statements to agree to (or not) on a five point scale–thus separating the least optimistic from the most. Participants also reported on their sleep duration and quality, two times, five years apart.
Now for the incredible part. For every standard deviation increase in the participants optimism score, they had a whopping 78 percent higher odds of reporting “very good” sleep quality.
Why? Optimists are better at coping with and solving problems and handle stressful events in a more positive manner, thus reducing the amount they worry and mentally replay negative thoughts. This benefits them when they’re trying to fall asleep and throughout the sleep cycle.
Optimism is already a good business skill to have because it keeps energy and motivation high and makes it easier to problem solve. Sleep is a good thing to have as everyone knows how productive you feel the next day on a good night’s sleep as opposed to when you trudge into your day overtired. (You certainly don’t have to look far to find research that extols the virtues of sleep for us at work–and in life)
Now put the two thigs together and it begs the question, how can I develop my level of optimism?
Question asked, question answered. Here are five ways to be more optimistic.
1. Know that setbacks don’t take you as far backward as your forward progress.
It’s easy to catastrophize–take a negative event and run with it, projecting a level of impact that just isn’t proportional. But optimists keep bad outcomes in perspective. They know that each setback is just a step back, not a leap back.
I use this trick all the time; when I hit a bump in the road I remind myself of how far down the road I’ve already traveled. It always reminds me that I’ve gotten past obstacles before on this journey, and I will again. It gives me a jolt of optimism.
2. Don’t make one thing everything.
You become more optimistic when you learn to avoid getting stuck wallowing in negative events, outcomes, or opinions. Optimists get over wrongdoings and unfair treatment, pronto. If that one thing you’re stuck on is a mistake you’ve made, know this. You are bigger than your mistake. If that mistake involved some level of failure, know this. Failure is only an event, never a person.
Optimists don’t have to wear rose-colored glasses. They can, and should, see things for what they are, especially if they are inescapably negative. But there’s a difference between acknowledging bad outcomes and assuming they’re part of an inevitable pattern.
3. Surround yourself with positive people.
Try being an optimist after spending an afternoon with a pessimistic group of people. I have–it can be exhausting. You can’t help but feel your defenses wane as you’re slowly sucked into their orbit. Your doses of positivity fall on deaf ears until they aren’t worth sharing anymore.
Extract yourself from those negative ion personalities that sap your energy and replace them (as much as is feasible) with people who zap you with energy.
4. For every bad thing in the news, know 1,000 good things don’t get coverage.
News flash: the news these days can be downright depressing, sapping the will of even the most steadfast optimist. I know some say “Just turn the news off.” But you don’t have to live in a bubble to be optimistic.
I try to remind myself of all the good that happens in the world every day that simply goes unreported. It’s just that good will doesn’t get good ratings. So look for the good yourself, and know it’s transmitting everywhere, even if you aren’t tuned in.
5. Practice gratitude.
When you’re intentional about being thankful, it’s hard not to be optimistic. Appreciation garners positivity which begets a hopeful outlook.
So now you can sleep better at night (literally) knowing all the good you’re doing by developing your optimism.