The powerful effects of optimism are real. Optimism can be defined as “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.” (1)
Not only does it feel better to see the hopeful side of life, it is significantly practical too. Taking on this more strength-based and positive mindset leads to a whole host of benefits. It increases productivity, strengthens the immune system, promotes the experience of greater happiness by reducing stress and depressive symptoms, which leads to the experience of greater resilience overall (2) (3).
In fact, having a positive outlook is not only a factor in whether or not someone will experience resilience. It is the most important predictor of someone's ability to bounce back after hardship, a stressor, or even illness! (4)
A First-hand Account of the Power of Optimism
I was speaking with inspirational singer-songwriter-writer Tiffany Parker last week. I wanted to speak with her because I had read of her recent health complications and the miracle of the birth of her completely healthy baby boy! Against all odds, despite the doctors telling her she would lose her child several times and quite a few scares, he was born healthy and happy and only two weeks premature.
Tiffany was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease 5 years ago. Since then, she has experienced a myriad of painful and at times, life-threatening side effects and complications. She took the time to speak with me last week to express honestly what this journey has been like for her. From the outside, it seems to have entailed many ups and downs with periods of hope and faith alternating between moments of intense anxiety, fear, and everything in between.
I asked Tiffany, “What would you say to the loved ones of people who are experiencing a chronic illness?”
This was her reply.
“As far as being in the storm getting the advice I need or getting the support I need, I think [one] of the most damaging things is [when someone] acts like they do know exactly what it is like to go through this. I think it comes back to humility. [Instead go] to that person with a chronic illness and come from a humble place of ‘What is this like for you?'
Just being compassionate. Just being there and listening. I think that is one of the biggest things.
A lot of people want to compare what you're going through to what they've gone through and sometimes when you are in a debilitating disease and you're locked up in a hospital room and practically on life support, you just want to laugh in someone's face sometimes. [I think in my head] ‘Are you really comparing this to someone cutting you off today in some road rage or whatever it is?'
So, don't feel the need to always act like you know. We all have different life experiences so even if you knew somebody that had a disease that was same or even if you knew somebody that had a similar situation, nobody can really know…
Everybody's way of seeing the world is very different…So somebody going through ulcerative colitis somewhere else in a different life stage it may be completely different than me with a newborn baby and a pregnancy.
I feel like just having compassion and being…just being…slow to speak. Just be slow to offer unsolicited advice or things that aren't really going to be helpful in the end. Just having someone come alongside you and love you, in a way that's non-threatening and in a way that's supportive and full of compassion and empathy. I think that is one of the best ways. Just to say, ‘ I am so sorry. I can't imagine what you're going through.'
Just to feed [your loved ones] goodness. Tell them their strengths. Tell them what they are doing right.
I think it's so easy when you are dealing with a chronic illness or a long-lasting trial in your life to feel like you've failed or to feel like what you're going through is not ok. Sometimes just having somebody come up to me, even in the middle of the worst of [it], to say ‘you are making it and you are so strong' is [actually helpful].
Just giving somebody the food to fill their spirit. It encourages rather than ‘get up by your bootstraps and let's get going'. [When this happens I think] well why can't I get up, what's wrong with me? And you start to feel this weepy feeling of what's wrong with me.
But if somebody comes alongside you and loves you, listens to you, shows compassion to you and builds you up on the things you are doing right and the things that would encourage. Those are some of the most powerful things. I think that has been a huge thing in my life and the support group I have.
My family and people around me are people that come to the hospital and never leave me alone. And they walk with me at 3 am in the hospital halls with my IV to make sure I am exercising. They're loving me and listening to me and they're praying with me and they're reading to me when I can't read my Bible on my own. They're playing music for me. My husband will just come and play guitar. [They all just do] things that just bring life.
Just bring life to that person.
Encourage. Love. Show compassion. Tell them what they are doing right. Those are some of the things that have been the most helpful for me.”
I find Tiffany's story incredibly inspiring. Not only her personal strength but the loving actions of those closest to her.
What were the take-homes in her message? What are 8 things you can do when a loved one is ill?
- Be slow to speak and quick to just listen.
- Don't automatically compare your life situation to his or hers, by saying you “know what it is like.”
- Tell your loved one what they are doing right. Highlight his or her strengths.
- Be fully present.
- Respect your loved one's process. Don't give unsolicited advice.
- Help your loved one with daily tasks he or she is unable to do alone such as exercising, cleaning, etc.
- Bring life and hope to that person. Surprise him or her with his or her favorite things such as music, books, sports scores, etc.
- Just love him or her, compassionately and fearlessly.
There are times when we all doubt our own strength, our own ability to preserve. Being there for one another with silent and not-so-silent intentions of optimism is an immeasurably powerful approach to living an inspired life. One that fosters empowerment, vivacity, and true support as opposed to the more common approach of giving unsolicited advice, comparing one's struggles to others, and being quick to judge.
What could the intention of optimism manifest in your life? How can this intention apply to the lives of those around you?
CALL TO ACTION: Work on loving those around you!
How about work on that and loving yourself? We can all use a little work on it. A great way to improve is to practice. Start our 30 Days of Love challenge series to do just that and find yourself receiving more out of each moment with your friends, your family and yourself than you thought possible.
❤ TRY IT FREE! ❤