How to stay optimistic, according to the experts

It’s Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year so far (when chilly grey days collide with that post-Christmas comedown.) Now more than ever, we need to stay upbeat and positive about what 2019 will bring. So we asked some of our favourite inspirational personalities how to stay optimistic.

Here’s what they had to say…

How to stay optimistic
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Marcia Kilgore, serial entrepreneur and founder of Soaper Duper and Beauty Pie

Optimism is hope. And hope fuels everything. You can choose to have hope, or not, but given that NOT means being hopeless, it’s obvious what the preferred route is. Besides pessimism is lazy. There are always downsides, but what is the benefit of focusing on them, rather than spending your energy on finding solutions?

I’m a fan of thank you notes. Write a couple, and you realise how lucky you are that anybody has taken the time or effort to help you. It’s an instant mind-set changer. And for me, hard-core exercise works (like hot yoga or mountain climbing), but everybody has a different activity that naturally takes their mind from negative to positive!

Also remember, every hard situation is a learning opportunity rather than a problem.

Michelle Heaton, TV personality

It’s not always easy to find optimism – but I really want to teach my kids they can do anything they set their mind to. Tell your best friend they look gorgeous in an outfit, give them positivity if they are down – it costs nothing to be nice.

Exercise helps me stay upbeat in challenging times. I try to work out at the start of most days – it sets my mood for the rest of the day.

Before I met my husband (also a fitness freak!) I would lay in bed late and didn’t keep fit. Post menopause, which I’m now in due to surgery [a faulty gene meant Michelle had an 80 per cent chance of developing breast cancer so she underwent a double mastectomy in 2012], exercise gives me optimism and positivity. 

Tom Joule, founder and chief brand officer of fashion chain Joules

Optimism is the output of three factors; vision, determination and realism. If you can visualise what you want, if you truly want to achieve it and you are realistic about the hurdles that you must overcome, what you are left with is a state of mind that says, I can achieve this. To me this state is optimism.

It [optimism] gives you focus on the end goal, not on the expected path. If you do need to change direction, where a pessimist sees a road block the optimist will see a new road.

I re-mortgaged my house to stock the business when the foot and mouth crisis of 2001 threatened its future, as most country shows were forced to cancel. I managed to secure a government grant and used it to set up a mail-order operation. Country shows were my only road to my customers until then, but when that road was blocked I focused on my end goal and found new roads. With each hurdle I overcame I grew in belief that I could overcome the next, and bigger, one. [Indeed the brand is bucking the retail trend with sales increasing by 11.7 per cent over Christmas; E commerce is particularly strong].

Don’t give yourself different advice to what you’d give a friend. You are far more likely to tell yourself that you’ll never achieve something when to a friend you may well be the most supportive person in the world and tell them they can do it. Ask yourself why are you more of a friend to another than to yourself? Be a great friend, motivator, trainer, guide, mentor to others by all means but treat yourself with the same dignity. 

How to stay optimistic
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YOU magazine’s resident GP Dr Clare Bailey

As a GP it helps enormously to share a realistic but also an optimistic approach towards patients, whether they have minor concerns, or are dealing with distressing conditions. Optimism is contagious. If you believe patients can make small positive changes you are more likely to take time to discuss the detail. Your depressed patient, for example, might start to make small positive changes in their life  – perhaps getting up at a regular time, or doing something they usually enjoy even though they don’t feel like it.

Optimism can help people feel motivated to make change. Nowadays I give a positive message around the health impact of The Blood Sugar Diet, a low-carb approach with options for fasting, as I am passionate about helping people make lifestyle changes. Many of my patients give it a try and do really well, creating a virtual cycle.

Professionally, I’m looking forward to writing the companion recipe book for The Fast 800, a new book by [my husband] Michael Mosley about how to combine rapid weight loss with intermittent fasting as well as launching an online parenting program – both of which are all about optimism and achievable positive change.

Jean Queen Donna Ida, creator of the eponymous denim based fashion brand

The universe is a mirror and like attracts like. The more positivity you throw out, the more comes back at you.

I’m optimistic about the potential of everything. We are surrounded by opportunity and I live in one of the best cities in the world [London]. I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings and to watch everything and everyone blossom around me. 

YOU’s agony aunt Zelda West-Meads

Oscar Wilde called second marriages ‘the triumph of hope over experience.’ While he perhaps meant it in a rather cynical way, it is true that love thrives on optimism.

When relationships break down, many people feel that they will never fall in love again but those who put it down to experience and move on are much more likely to meet someone new. They are more likely to try to increase their social circle.

Also, we are more naturally drawn to cheerful, optimistic people as they tend to radiate warmth and are fun to be with rather than someone who is always anxious or unhappy which can drag you down.  If the person you love is feeling down, gentle support and a firm belief that things will get better can help them through it – and hopefully they will do the same for you in turn. If one person is constantly negative and the other one is always having to try to stay upbeat, that person can become drained and it can even start to erode their love.

A positive attitude to work will also help you to do a better job. If there is a problem ahead but you see it as a problem to solve rather than a disaster looming, it gives you the energy to tackle it.  Optimistic people are also more likely to call on a colleague who they like and trust to work on a project together, making it more likely that they will succeed.

Feature by Rosalind Lowe