“How satisfied are you with your life?”
For five years researchers from Michigan State University asked more than a million people that same question then compared the answers to the day’s weather conditions. Despite the association that gloomy, doomy skies have with gloomy, doomy moods, over a million people proved that depression weather isn’t a thing. In fact, the data published in the Journal for Personality and Social Psychology revealed that life satisfaction is higher on a cloudy day when it follows a sunny day; especially when compared to two cloudy day and two sunny days in a row.
FIND OUT: What Kind of Sad Are You?
The researchers aren’t sure why, but believe it has to do with where feelings of hopefulness are regulated in the brain. “There is evidence that suggests optimism is related to activity in an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, that has both genetic and environmental influences,” says Brian King, PhD, a San Francisco psychologist, and if you’ve ever had a bad bout of seasonal affective disorder, you know he’s right. Regardless of what it looks like out your window, the key to a prolonged sunny disposition is practice. “Optimism is cultivated by a lifetime of experiences, but with long-term practice, you can develop a more optimistic outlook.”
Here are some of Dr. King’s and other expert tips for giving your emotions a positive boost:
Remember: It’s (probably) not a catastrophe. When you’re feeling buried, Dr. King suggests re-appraising the situation. “Not to minimize anyone’s pain, but a lot of stuff is small stuff, and sometimes we need to be reminded of this,” he says. Tell yourself: This circumstance is not important enough to make me feel this way.
Revel in the ideal. Try this fun journaling exercise from Dr. King: On a weekly basis, imagine your life worked out exactly how you wanted to it, and write a few paragraphs on what that might look and feel like. Not only does it improve optimism and well-being, says King, but it increases your emotional resilience for the next time you’re faced with a challenging situation.
Practice gratitude. Start by writing down 10 things you’re grateful for every day for two weeks, says Tom Casano, founder of Life Coach Spotter, a service that connects people with their ideal life coach. By the 14th day (or sooner!) you’ll feel more positive.
Laugh it off. Feeling like it’s the end of the world? Exaggerate ominous scenarios to the point of comic relief, says Karen Reivich, PhD, codirector of the Penn Resiliency Project at the University of Pennsylvania and coauthor of The Resilience Factor. "At some point you think: Oh, come on, now. Am I really going to be living beneath an underpass in a refrigerator box because I'm a day late on a project?"
So whether you’re singing like Louis Armstrong or the skies are about to open up something evil, remember this: the weather doesn’t control your optimism—you do. And with these new practice tools, you’ll be prepared for even the cloudiest of days.
More from Prevention: 8 Ways to Have Your Best Day Ever
The coldest air of the season so far and some snow will pour into the northwestern United States by early next week.
Arctic air settling over Germany may prompt children to leave their shoes for St. Nicholas indoors instead of outside before going to bed on Monday night.
A deadly wildfire exploded in Tennessee this week, charring a popular resort town and causing devastating damage.
On the heels of Cyclone Nada, a new and more significant tropical cyclone threatens to take aim at India next week.
Dashing hopes for Christmas Day snowmen and white rolling hills, forecasters predict Britain's weather pattern will leave more to be desired on Dec. 25.
Rounds of heavy rain will heighten the risk for flash flooding across portions of the southern United States through the weekend.
As colder air sweeps into the northeastern United States, temperatures will settle to seasonable levels, and lake-effect snow will erupt into this weekend.
Thousands of firefighters from across the country answered the call to help save the South, not just on the front lines but also back in camps supporting those out among the flames.
A tranquil beginning to December will be replaced by unsettled weather ahead of the holidays.