Optimism is a mental state characterized as hope and confidence in one’s success and a bright future. Optimists expect good things to happen, whereas pessimists expect bad things to happen. Optimistic attitudes are associated with a variety of advantages, including improved coping skills, lower stress levels, improved physical health, and greater persistence when pursuing goals.
Optimists tend to see adversity as a learning experience or a temporary setback. Even the worst day holds the promise that
“Tomorrow will probably be better.”
If you always look on the bright side of things, you may feel that you have more positive events in your life than others, that you are less stressed, and that you have better health.
How do we know we are an optimist?
Optimists tend to have a few key characteristics in common. Some indications that you are an optimist:
- Have a strong feeling that good things will happen in the future.
- Anticipate that everything will turn out well.
- Believe you will triumph in the face of life’s challenges.
- Have the impression that the future is promising.
- Believe that even good can come from bad events.
- You see challenges or obstacles as learning opportunities.
- You’re thankful for the good things in your life.
- Always looking for new ways to capitalize on opportunities.
- You have a positive outlook on both yourself and others.
- Accept responsibility for your errors but do not dwell on them.
- You don’t let one bad experience cloud your outlook for the future.
- However, many factors influence optimism. Your life events explain whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.
Explanatory style, also known as the attributional style, describes how people explain events in their lives. People can explain a situation in three different ways. This can influence whether they are pessimists or optimists:
- Stable vs. Unstable: Can time change things, or do things remain constant regardless of time?
- Global vs. local: Is a situation a reflection of only one aspect of your life, or your entire life?
- Internal vs. External: Do you believe events are the result of your actions or an outside force?
Optimist Explanatory Style
Positive events, according to optimists, occur because of their actions or characteristics (internal). They also see them as proof that better things will happen in the future (stable) and other areas of their lives (global).
They, on the other hand, believe that negative events are not their fault (external). Some people also regard them as isolated flukes that have nothing to do with other aspects of their lives or future events (local). For example, if an optimist receives a promotion, they are likely to believe it is because they are good at their job and will receive additional benefits and promotions in the future. If the
Explanatory Style of a Pessimist
Pessimists believe the opposite. They believe that negative events are the result of their own mistakes or characteristics (internal). They believe that making one mistake means making more (stable) and that making mistakes in other areas of life is unavoidable (global) because they are the cause. Positive events are viewed as flukes (local) that are caused by factors beyond their control (external) and are unlikely to occur again (unstable).
A pessimist would regard a promotion as a one-time occurrence that is unlikely to occur again. As a result that kind of a person will lose hope to ever get promotion again and will always consider herself not worthy to achieve promotion
How to Be Optimistic
If you’re an optimist, this should bode well for your future. Negative events are more likely to roll off your back, whereas positive events strengthen your belief in yourself, your ability to make good things happen now and, in the future, and the goodness of life.
According to research, genetics determine approximately 25% of your optimism levels, and environmental variables beyond your control, such as your socioeconomic status, also play an important role.
However, this does not preclude you from actively working to improve your attitude. While you may have an optimistic or pessimistic explanation style, there are things you can do to cultivate a more optimistic attitude. These are some examples:
Learn to be more mindful
Mindfulness is a focus on being engaged, attentive, and present in the present moment. It can be a helpful technique for focusing on what is important in the present moment and avoiding worrying about future events and things over which you have no control. When you are fully present, you are much less likely to ruminate on negative past experiences or be concerned about upcoming events. This allows you to be more grateful for what you have right now and less consumed by regrets and anxieties.
Gratitude is defined as a sense of appreciation for what is important in life. According to one study, participants who were assigned to keep a gratitude journal demonstrated increased optimism and resilience. Set aside a few minutes each day to jot down some of the things for which you are grateful if you are trying to develop a more optimistic attitude.
Studies have shown that even something as simple as writing down positive thoughts can help you feel more optimistic. According to one study, expressive writing focused on positive emotions was associated with lower mental distress and higher mental well-being.
Restructuring of the Mind
You can help yourself and others become more optimistic by consciously challenging negative, self-limiting thinking and replacing it with more optimistic thought patterns. This is a practice known as cognitive restructuring.
A few steps are involved in the cognitive restructuring process:
- Determine the situations that are causing you to have negative thoughts or feelings.
- Consider how you are feeling right now.
- Recognize the negative thoughts you are having in response to the situation.
- Examine the evidence to see if it supports or refutes your negative thoughts.
- Concentrate on the facts at hand, and replace automatic negative thoughts with more positive, realistic ones.
The Influence of Optimism
There has been a lot of research done on optimists and pessimists. According to research, having a positive outlook on life has some advantages.
Studies consistently show that optimists have better physical health than pessimists, including a 50% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and higher cancer survival rates. A pessimistic explanatory style has also been linked to higher rates of infectious disease, poor health, and earlier mortality in some studies. The founding father of positive psychology, psychologist Martin Seligman, studied sports teams and discovered that the more optimistic teams created more positive synergy and performed better than the pessimistic ones.
Another study found that pessimistic swimmers who were led to believe they had performed worse than they had were more likely to perform poorly in the future. This vulnerability did not exist in optimistic swimmers. Optimists do not give up as easily as pessimists, and as a result, they are more likely to succeed. People with positive attitudes are more likely to stick with their goals in the face of obstacles, challenges, and setbacks. As a result of their perseverance, they are more likely to achieve their objectives.
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