For most of us, 2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges. Through these difficult and trying times, it’s been challenging for many of us to identify moments of positivity or to recognize hope.
More than ever, people today are looking for silver linings.
And when it comes to optimism, there’s often an incorrect idea of what the word, and more importantly the concept, actually means. Optimism isn’t about forcing or convincing yourself to stay positive 24/7. It doesn’t mean always putting a smile on your face, or “faking it” when times get tough. Instead, it’s about being mindful of all the setbacks that come with life but, acknowledging that they’re temporary and you have the power or ability to overcome them, even if you don’t know how or when.
Optimism isn’t about forcing or convincing yourself to stay positive 24/7.
Practicing optimism is all about increasing our positive thoughts about the future. That future outlook is critically important – there's even clinical research that shows it can have an impact on not only your mental health but your physical health as well.
So, what are the physical benefits of an optimistic outlook?
To start, people who take this life approach experience a reduction in stress, lower blood pressure, better quality of sleep, better cardiac health, are sick less often, heal from illnesses more quickly, and experience an overall longer, more fulfilled life. Additionally, optimists often have stronger support systems and are more likely to achieve personal and professional successes.
But with all of these benefits, are Americans embracing optimism?
Especially right now? During 2020, Colgate, the brand who knows best what the power of a smile can do, set out to better understand exactly that with a proprietary study dubbed the “State of Optimism in America.” What they found was that America at its core is an optimistic place, but pessimism is creeping into the minds of Americans when it comes to their outlook on the future.
What’s more, a follow-up survey revealed an interesting shift. Colgate found that Gen Z – the audience revealed as the most pessimistic in the original study – underwent a change. Over a period of six months, throughout some of the worst moments to date of the pandemic, Gen Z participants shared that they would like to adopt a more optimistic attitude – signaling that this generation is already moving in the right direction.
8 out of 10 Gen Z members said they believe they have the power to choose optimism, and almost half think the pandemic has made them more likely to think optimism is a choice.
This is just one example of Gen Z’s resiliency. As things got harder, this group put optimism into action by embracing the possibility of a more positive future.
While 75% of Gen Z participants said they feel like they’ve missed out on opportunities due to the pandemic (both academically and professionally) they still would like to embrace a more optimistic outlook, which gives me hope for what’s to come.
Overall, 2020 wasn’t easy for most of us.
It's been a period of collective trauma, but that also means it's created room for growth and resiliency. My advice? Lean into your emotions and learn how to navigate them. Grow from them. You could be closer to becoming an optimist than you might think.
Dr. Deepika Chopra has teamed up with Colgate to help inspire others to choose a little bit of optimism each day and create a future we can all smile about.