SAN DIEGO: There has been much which has been written about the importance of being a positive person. Pessimism, on the other hand, is socially frowned-upon as connoting toxic and unsuitable behavior.
How to be optimistic in an ever-changing world!
As a result, it is difficult for many to find their emotional balance within themselves and in the world around them. Somehow believing that it is simply not ok to have downtime or depressing moment or day(s).
Yet, most do have depressing moments and unpleasant life experiences; and, it is indeed an inevitable fact of being human.
The human experience includes the go and not so good
Today, more than ever, we are experiencing unprecedented times of hate, rage, and destruction to what many have held most dear.
Especially for those middle-aged and older, current times seem frightening and unpleasant with a dooms-day sense that quality of life is coming to an end.
For younger generations, it could be imagined that there is confusion, anger, and a sense of feeling lost in the mix of conflict and conflicting stories and information-how could most feel motivated to succeed without any vision for a positive future.
Choosing to optimistic is no simple nor easy matter, and there is plenty to be concerned about
According to Psychology Today, optimism is “…a way of looking at the world that gives more agency to the optimist as being at least partly responsible when life is going well.
Optimists have healthier outlooks and tend to live longer…they are also less susceptible to the negative effects of illness, fatigue, and depression.”
Being overly optimistic and choosing to believe that everything will be perfectly fine and work out in a positive way lacks realistic balance; therefore, being realistic about the risks of any undertaking, difficulty, challenge and the like will lead to a greater likelihood of success.
“Expect the best, prepare for the worst.”
-Muhammad Ali Jinnah
The opposite, of course, of optimism, is pessimism, and there are some who believe that there is neural programming which can determine one from the other.
Optimism and pessimism, therefore, can cognitively interpret an event in a distorted way as personalization, pervasiveness and permanence; and, how tackling these perceptions may occur can mean the difference between one form of positive behavior versus the other more negative one, according to Positive Psychology.
Further defining, then, the following meaning of perceptual distortions:
1. Personalization: The internal vs. external attribution style.
2. Pervasiveness: The perception of a global or specific element of adversity or negative event.
3. Permanence: Is whether there is the viewpoint of whether a negative situation is fleeting, lasting or unchangeable.
Pessimism can be ripe with negative internal messaging such as blaming oneself for a particular situation or occurrence, replete with the sense that something cannot be altered, changed or improved.
The optimist, however, could experience the same situation and express, “I probably didn’t dance so well because my leg is currently hurting, but I’ll be back on top soon )
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
-Winston s. Churchill
In Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, are the 3 main attributes he attributes to optimism:
1. The Pleasant Life is about learning how to amplify positive emotions and acquiring the skills needed to do this; and,
2. The Engaged Life is discovering the highest individual strengths while reshaping life and making the most of them; and, this includes the major life spheres of relationships, work and play; and,
3. The Meaningful Life is about utilizing the highest identifiable individual strengths to contribute and serve some purpose which is meaningful and more significant than the self.
“And imagine acquiring a new language and only learning the words to
describe a wonderful world, refusing to know the words for a bleak one and
in doing so linguistically shaping the world that you inhabit.”
Most research would support is that optimists are healthier, happier and more successful than those who are not
Choosing to be optimistic, for some, is an acquired behavior, and worth the effort for leading an optimal life.
Limiting negative influences is a great way to begin to reprogram the brain to be more optimistic, whether it means viewing less news, watching fulfilling TV programs, disconnecting from technology, enjoying music, meditating, prayer, laughter, and the like while also practicing mindfulness and paying grateful attention for all that is good.
Ensuring a lifestyle that includes those persons, places, things, and activities that are intrinsically rewarding and positive, which is a completely individual endeavor.
Contributing oneself for a meaningful purpose and/or a life of service is a cornerstone for an optimistic life, for by forgetting oneself during those moments individual value can be recognized and make a positive difference.
Life is filled with ups, downs, good, bad, fair, and not so fair….and the list goes on.
Where there is optimism there is hope, and hope for a better tomorrow
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based
on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also
of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness…If we see only the worst,
it destroys our capacity to do something….The future is an infinite
succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should
live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Lead Image: Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/FtZL0r4DZYk