Why Opt for Optimism?

Another year, another opportunity to get things right — and perhaps get a better chance to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise.

There will be hurdles, for sure; but after the annus horribilis that was 2020, and the uncertain prospects for 2021, my inner voice dictates that I request Messrs. Benjamin Franklin and Daniel Defoe to move over. No offense meant. But, gentlemen/sirs, as you scoot, please take with you your dictum that death and taxes are the only certainties in this world.

I’d rather take a different stance and latch onto that bright North Star for direction, inspiration, and overall well-being. That star has a name: it is called Optimism. And its brilliance tells me that there is more to this coming year and beyond than just health scares, bills to pay, and other not-so-rosy circumstances.

In its simplest form, optimism is the belief that the outcomes of events and experiences will generally be good and positive. It is a dear cousin to hope and resilience, and is the counterpoint of pessimism. But optimism is not just about butterflies and rainbows. It has scientific basis; thus, it can be learned and nurtured. In the field of positive psychology, “learned optimism” is the process of recognizing and challenging otherwise pessimistic thoughts in order to develop more positive behaviors. As an individual learns to handle tough situations, he is able to manage and improve his overall well-being.

So, why indeed, should we choose to view the glass as half full rather than half empty?

1 Because it helps keep us healthy

One may argue that optimism is a result rather than one cause of good health. We are healthy, therefore we’re upbeat. But the reverse is also true. Optimists tend to lead healthier lifestyles, have strong social support groups –and because of their proactive outlook—tend to get better medical care and are more apt to follow medical advice compared to pessimists. And this should not be dismissed as an empty claim. There are scientific studies showing that optimism helps boost our immune system, protects us from infectious diseases, and decreases instances of relapse. From the point of view of proactivity, optimists are less likely to be involved in accidents because they take careful steps to protect themselves.

2 Because it promotes better relationships

This one’s a no-brainer, I think. Optimists tend to be better liked by others because they radiate positivity in what they think, feel, and do. They tend to be more energetic, confident, and in control. Optimists are nice to be with and are highly valued, whether as friends, work colleagues, romantic partners, business executives, or as world leaders.

3 Because it keeps us in control

Depression, anxiety, helplessness are feelings associated with loss of control over certain circumstances. Exactly how pessimists behave as they tend to blame themselves or others for things that go wrong. They also believe that certain unfortunate events are permanent and adversely affect other areas of their lives. Consequently, they are often paralyzed by such beliefs. Optimists, on the other hand, are more able to see that misfortunes are fleeting and can be overcome by well-thought-out plans and actions. They tend to view these temporary setbacks as opportunities to bring out their character strengths.  Thus, they are more likely to resolve issues with less despair.

Hollywood actor Michael J. Fox sets a very good example. Then only 29, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991. After a long break from acting, he started the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in 2000. He has since written four inspirational books, including Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, published in April 2009, and his most recent memoir, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, published in November 2020.

“Optimism is a choice, but in a way, it isn’t,” he says. “There’s no other choice. I don’t think there’s any other viable choice than to hope for the best and work toward it.”

In another interview, Fox said: “Optimism and hope relate to how we think and feel about the future. If we really do believe that things will work out for the best, all the setbacks become easier to deal with.”

I’ll stop at these three reasons. You are most welcome to add more.

One thought on “Why Opt for Optimism?

  1. Pingback: What are your Character Strengths? – Salt & Pepper

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