What Is Optimism?
Wikipedia states that Optimism is "an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome. Optimists generally believe that people and events are inherently good, so that most situations work out in the end for the best.
We tend to look at optimistic people as those with their heads 'in-the-clouds' - out of touch with reality. However, we know from our research that optimistic people are not always smiling and chipper - they get mad and angry. However, they don't get stuck in their emotions and they have been found to be better at doing one thing then those with a different attitude or outlook on life.
Optimism takes work. Being pessimistic means you are stuck in identifying the problems over and over again. Being optimistic means you have to move forward and do something about it. Click to tweet
They are better at problem-solving - they move quickly from problem-identification to problem-solving. They believe that situations will work out, so they spend their time and energy on making these situations work, rather than focusing on their own emotional reactions.
Personal optimism correlates strongly with self-esteem, with psychological well-being and with physical and mental health. (Scheier, Carver) Optimism has been shown to be correlated with better immune systems in healthy people who have been subjected to stress. (Segerstrom, Taylor, Kemeny, Fahey)
Research suggests that optimism significantly predicts rates of recovery, such that optimists are faster in achieving behavioural milestones, such as sitting up in bed and walking, than are pessimists, and are rated by staff members as showing a better physical recovery. Even at six-month follow-ups, optimists still continued to have a recovery advantage.
Dr. Martin Seligman found in his research that optimists overall stay with difficult and challenging jobs, while pessimists seem to do worse than predicted and even give up. In academic and athletic research, when subjects were given a lower grade in a class or a slower recorded time in an athletic event, thereby stimulating defeat, the optimists rose to the occasion and did better the second time around while the pessimists did worse. This evidence supports the theory that there are two factors in human potential. One is our ability and the other is our optimism or pessimism. There is an interplay between our attitudes and our actions.
Optimism is not a disposition you are born with. It's a learned skill, and a very important ingredient in determining your level of happiness.
Beverly's Hot Tips For Celebrating Optimism Month:
Act like an optimist.
Use the word choices and body posture of optimistic people. The words we use can affect our mood. Use "upbeat" words instead of "upset" words - Challenged vs Overwhelmed. Optimists take big steps, walk faster and stand taller. Pessimistic people shuffle their feet, take tiny steps, walk slowly and slouch.
Move quickly from problem-identification to problem-solving.
We all get angry and upset, but the challenge is to move past these emotions and start looking for strategies and solutions that will help you to deal with that challenge.
We teach by doing. Practice optimistic thinking yourself. Keep things in perspective and acknowledge your own successes and strengths. Click to tweet
Avoid emotional leeches.
Pessimists suck the life energy from those around them. Minimize your contact with those who look on the down-side of everything, who criticize you or mock or sabotage your dreams and aspirations.
Research indicates that those who write out their gratitude on a weekly basis report fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the upcoming week. Grateful people also report lower levels of depression and stress.
Tips for helping your children to be more optimistic:
Help Them Experience Success.
Children become more optimistic by experiencing success. Support them and acknowledge their efforts. Help them see how they contributed to it, and label those actions as strengths.
Do acknowledge when their efforts aren’t successful.
Validate your child’s feelings, but ask questions that can cause them to see things more optimistically. Helps them to process their emotions, but put the situation in perspective. Look at how things may go better in the future or under different circumstances or look for opportunities to improve.
Be a good example.
We teach by doing. Practice optimistic thinking yourself. Keep things in perspective and acknowledge your own successes and strengths.
Optimists enjoy better health.
They find more success.
Optimistic people feel less stressed during stressful times.
Optimists tend to have more supportive networks and resources.
"I don't think you lead by pessimism and cynicism. I think you lead by optimism and enthusiasm and energy."
"Optimism is essential to achievement and it is also the foundation of courage and true progress."
Nicholas M. Butler
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!