3 Simple Steps to Increase OptimismSep 19, 2023
I’ve had a great summer reconnecting with some old mentees and proteges. I had a player from my first conference winning team pass through with his family enroute from Denver to Maine. I had another former player that I recruited from Venezuela stop in to share barbeque and reminisce about the great times we had at our first ever national tournament appearance. Just last week, I had a mentee send me a card and some swag from her first Director of Coaching Operations job she landed with the NBA. All of these visits and expressions of gratitude made my day. I was proud of each of them for all the many milestones and accomplishments they were achieving--from franchising a health care business to purchasing their first home, to landing their dream job—these young professionals, whom I am now lucky enough to call friends, are filled with hope and optimism as they achieve ambitious goals.
You’ll recall from my previous blogs about the power of reminiscing, savoring, and expressing gratitude and how that impacts your optimism through the release of dopamine. I thought I would share a few new nuggets that I have found helpful, but ran out of space to share in my first iterations of this topic.
First a little biology/organic chemistry refresher: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Dopamine packs a serious kick. Imagine dopamine as the ignition system in your car. Insert the key in the lock and the car springs to life. Dopamine is the same for our brains and our electrical intellectual stimulation. Dopamine makes us happy, it increases motivation, and even is responsible for giving entrepreneurs the courage to take risks. Simply put dopamine is a big deal. Around our late twenties or early thirties, dopamine begins to fade. We lose our ability to be as happy and hopeful. Now I understand why I can sometimes be a grumpy old man . We can intentionally counter act this drain with these simple steps.
3 SIMPLE WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR OPTIMISM
#1. Pursue Pleasure. Pleasure creates positive emotions. Pleasure increases the number of thoughts available and the number of actions individuals are willing to engage in. Sit in the sun. Enjoy the aroma of your coffee. Take a few extra minutes under that hot water in your morning shower. I love to listen to the rumble of the pipes on my Harley and feel the wind on my face on the way to work.
People who seek and pursue pleasure have more ideas and are more willing to act. That means that in those following moments you have greater intellectual resources at your disposal.
#2. Write a 300-word letter to someone who means a lot to you. If you can, visit that person and read, out loud, that letter to them. This thoughtful action will immediately spike your Dopamine levels. In fact, when researchers come back 30 days later, there is still elevated levels of Dopamine in your system. Next time you try this exercise, pay attention to how your mood swings up and you have a bounce in your step that will stay with you for days.
The science will tell you that this feeling will even be reciprocal. I felt this first-hand just this week when I got that package and card in the mail. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found a note from one of my former colleagues that was expressing her gratitude for the mentorship, I passed along that helped her reach her goals. I had a warm glow in my heart all day.
#3. Start the process of a gratitude journal. It has been proven that the practice of focusing on gratitude stimulates happiness that lingers. If you miss a day, don’t stress. In fact, researchers found that those who wrote out their gratitude even just once a week had more feelings of happiness.
Try this simple gratitude exercise to generate dopamine the next time you are felling blue… recall three positive things that happened during the day, big or small it doesn’t matter. Now describe why it happened. For example… I got an ‘A’ in math class because I studied. My boss gave me the assignment I wanted because I let him know I was interested in it. Assigning your actions to positive outcomes helps reinforce the agency you have over your performance and has been scientifically liked to feelings of happiness and optimism.
If you want to learn more about how to build your Confidence, Grit and Optimism be sure to enrol in my course, The Confidence Catalyst.