Vignettes on Aging – Optimism

Getting old with grace and gratitude requires optimism.

Gratitude is the practice of looking back and being thankful. Optimism is the practice of looking forward and being hopeful. Sometimes it’s the looking forward part of optimism that is difficult for elders to incorporate into their lives.

Michael Fox, who certainly has had more than his share of life challenges, says it best: “If you can find something to be grateful for, then you can find something to look forward to, and you carry on.” Therefore, I realize with gratitude, optimism is sustainable. To me, optimism is being grateful for things I have rather than lamenting things I don’t have. Also, I’m being optimistic when I’m focusing on my successes rather than my failures. And we all know that what we focus on is what we create. I’m focused on creating future successes.

What’s not to love about optimism? And yet, it often seems like being skeptical and pessimistic is more widely accepted in our social circles. Talking about how bad things are bonds us, but does it serve us?

Someone who is optimistic is generally happier, more successful, and healthier. It’s optimism that can help combat depression and helps us be more resistant to stress. Even without hard research data, it’s generally agreed that optimism may help us live longer.

If you are struggling to be more optimistic 1) consider a gratitude journal, 2) remember you have the power to change within you, and 3) it’s always good to make a difference in your community by volunteering. Giving to others brings out an overwhelming sense of gratitude and optimism.

Lastly, but no less important, break the habit of wallowing in negativity with others. I’ve been known to keep silent in such a group and slide away to a happier conversation elsewhere as soon as is graciously possible.

Remember, age is never a barrier to being more optimistic and grateful and happier.