Optimism: A Key Ingredient
Monday, August 31, 2015
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." Optimism is defined as a hopeful, positive outlook on the future, yourself, and the world around you. Studies show that optimists tend to be happier and healthier than pessimists; and optimism has been scientifically shown to protect against many ailments, such as heart disease and depression.
In Authentic Happiness Seligman examines the thought patterns of people who are optimistic versus those who are pessimistic. He says that pessimists view the bad things that happen to them as permanent, but optimists view bad events as temporary. For instance, if a pessimist is trying to lose weight but hasn't had any success after a few weeks on a diet, they might say something such as, “I'll never lose weight” or “Losing weight is too hard.” An optimist, on the other hand, would likely have a different view. They might say, “This weight-loss plan isn't working for me; maybe I should try exercising along with dieting,” “Maybe I'm not following the plan correctly,” or “Maybe I should get a check-up to see if a medical condition is hindering my weight loss.”
Seligman says that we can learn to be optimistic, and the key to doing that is to recognize and dispute our pessimistic thoughts. One way to do this is to consider multiple possible explanations for why something bad happened. People who are pessimistic tend to focus on only one explanation – usually the worst possible alternative. For example, a pessimist who fails a test might conclude that they aren't smart – that's the only explanation they can conceive. In reality, though, failing a test could be the result of a number of possibilities – the test was hard, you were sick that day, you didn't study enough, etc.
~ Pat Humphrey, “CLOUD NINE: The Four Things Happy People Have In Common”, courtesy of Vibrant Life.