Cover Expert advice on how to be happier—and sleep better at night (photo: Getty)

Turns out, an optimistic outlook benefits more than just your mood

Looking on the bright side has plenty of benefits, from reducing stress to increasing happiness. But according to recent studies, optimism has another clear perk: it can help you sleep better. Optimistic people log more hours of quality sleep time than pessimists—and they’re less likely to experience daytime sleepiness, too.

Optimism may be a state of mind, but Susan D’Addario, certified sleep science coach, tells Tatler it affects the body, too: Positivity releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin—three essential ingredients to quality sleep. What’s more, serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone more colloquially known as the “sleep hormone,” as it encourages a state of sleepiness in most people.

Plus, in today’s world, worry and fear can often drive insomnia, says Annie Miller, LISCW, a psychotherapist and behavioural sleep medicine provider. Optimists may experience less worry, which could help quiet their minds at night and allow them a more restful sleep, she explains.

But if you’re prone to pessimism, you don’t have to resign yourself to restless nights. You can take steps to increase your optimism and catch more quality Z’s, starting as soon as tonight.

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Work exercise into your regular routine

Working out can work up optimism. Just 20 minutes a day of light cardio—think: a brisk walk on a treadmill, or a jog around your neighbourhood—can reduce cortisol, which can cause stress, says D’Addario, and increase serotonin and dopamine, which can help you get quality sleep. To see the best results, D’Addario recommends exercising for 20 minutes at least five times a week.

Start every day on a positive note

You’ve heard the saying, “start the day on the right foot,” but Miller recommends starting each day on the right thought. “Start every day with thinking about what you have to look forward in the coming day,” she recommends. If negative thoughts creep in, “push yourself to stay focused on only what is good, even if it's something simple, like lunch,” she says. By focusing on only positive things at the beginning of the day, you could change your entire outlook until bedtime.

Keep a gratitude journal

D’Addario suggests keeping track of the good things in your life by recording them in a journal each night, writing down five to 10 things for which you’re grateful—small or large—and that happened during the day. She says recognising, acknowledging, and appreciating what you feel grateful for can reduce depression and stress, and increase your overall optimism and wellbeing.

If you’re not into journaling, then Miller suggest simply thinking or talking about what went right during the day. “If you eat dinner with family at night, make it a habit to only talk about what you enjoyed that day,” she suggests, and adds that hearing about others’ experiences can make you a more positive person, too.

Push out negative thoughts with positive ones

Everyone has negative thoughts—even the most optimistic people. But what you do when those negative thoughts enter your mind is what really matters, says Miller. She recommends tracking when your mind tends to focus on negative things or replays difficult situations, then actively re-directing those thoughts to more positive ideas. “Give yourself a few positive go-to thoughts, and work on directing your brain to those if you notice anything negative creep in,” she says. “This practice will help your mind to automatically go towards more positive thinking on its own. And hopefully, it will lead to less worry—and less tossing and turning—when it's time to sleep.”

Tatler Asia
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