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Optimism: Mixing the Winning Chemical Cocktail

We’ve all heard the question – Are you a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty” kind of person? While you might recognize a tendency toward optimism or pessimism within yourself, optimism and pessimism are not fixed states – they can be influenced. If you understand the underlying neurochemistry, you can get in the driver’s seat of your own mindset and navigate your way to success.


Optimism arises in two ways: from individual belief in oneself and from collective belief. Sometimes we are that lone voice attempting to give others hope and other times we are influenced by a “wave of optimism” around us. Either way, optimism is a choice. We can influence our own point of view by using Physical Intelligence – our ability to influence our own neurochemistry.

The Winning Cocktail for Optimism

Serotonin: Serotonin is the key chemical for self-esteem, well-being and status. To increase optimism, be hyper-vigilant in spotting and stopping negative beliefs and self-talk. Our minds are keen to protect us from perceived risk, but often applies inaccurate templates from the past to our future, which can interfere with optimism. Pessimism is likely to be caused by a drop in Serotonin. To combat that, it is critical for each of us to acknowledge to ourselves the true positive qualities that live within our core.

Dopamine: Dopamine is the major pleasure chemical – it is the great motivator and its release is very connected with the visual cortex of the brain. To improve optimism, visualize a positive future and replay this mental picture regularly.

Oxytocin: Oxytocin is the chemical for social bonding, social responsibility and trust. On difficult tasks, teamwork is vital. We can boost Oxytocin through communication, sharing personal stories, identifying shared goals and mitigating risk. If we build belief over a period of time with others, we can experience that wave of optimism that comes from collective belief.

(Warning: The chemical cocktail for pessimism also includes dopamine, which, when joined by high levels of cortisol, testosterone and adrenalin, leads to defensiveness, survival fears, doubt and retreat.)

Once you understand the chemistry of optimism and feel the different chemicals playing out inside you, you can immediately change your thoughts and emotions – and better control your own mindset.

Chemistry of Optimism Checklist:

- Acknowledge your core qualities

- Anticipate future events

- Balance realism with optimism

- Visualize the future

- Tell stories

- Identify shared goals

- Overcome negativity within yourself and your environment: We’ll share multiple ways to do this in the next two posts but one quick and easy technique to overcome negativity is to simply jump. The act of jumping changes how we feel. If we jump for joy, then we can also generate feelings of joy through jumping. Everything about the act of jumping defies defeat: it is all about rebounding, pushing up, reaching higher, bouncing back. It is best to jump on a carpeted or wooden floor or grass; (avoid concrete flooring as it is too hard); some people even like to use a trampoline. The older we get, the less we feel we should or can jump. It is important to defy this notion. (If you have past injuries or medical conditions, please check with your medical practitioner prior to trying this and do not execute this exercise if in any doubt of its safety.)

Life Hack: Add jumping jacks to your morning routine to start you day with a boost of optimism! Challenge yourself by adding a few more jumping jacks each day. The simple act of jumping literally makes us feel more optimistic.

For more information about how Physical Intelligence can help you, your team or your organization, visit us at or order our book, on sale now.

About Companies in Motion

There are over 80 easy to use techniques and tips to build our Physical Intelligence. You can read about all of them in our new book, Physical Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s Untapped Intelligence to Achieve More, Stress Less and Live More Happily available from Simon and Schuster. (Order here.) (Multiple translations will be available later in 2019.)

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