hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something.
One of the key things about optimism is how we explain something that has happened to us, this is called an explanatory style.
For someone who is low in optimism will have many negative thoughts about the situation and themselves. A person who is high in optimism will look for positives or positive solutions that they can implement in the situation.
As an example, say you had lost your job recently due to layoffs. An optimistic person would consider the opportunity to find a new job even if they were sad to have lost their old job. Whereas a pessimistic person would dwell on fact such as not everyone was let go so there must be something wrong with them and these negative thoughts will most likely affect them getting future jobs.
Your explanatory style is how you explain your problems and setbacks to yourself and whether you choose a positive or negative way of solving the issue.
People can range from extreme pessimism to extreme optimism and everywhere in between.
Generally speaking, people have a tendency to be either pessimistic or optimistic. Even though they have the same life experiences the way each group of people handle and think about those experiences can be very different.
One of the things that is at the centre of pessimism is learned helplessness. This is when a person learns that events are uncontrollable to them and expects that all events will also be out of their control.
There are three main thinking patterns of this:
Internal factors: “it’s all my fault” “I am a terrible person”
Stable factors: “it’s always my fault” “I’ve always been a terrible person and it will always be the same”
Global factors: “Everyone knows it’s my fault” “no one will ever want to have any kind of relationship with me”
If you are pessimistic about an event in your life, then you are more likely to suffer negative consequences of that event. Therefore, it makes sense to teach yourself to be more optimistic!
The idea of using distraction is to put the event to one side for a bit, the benefits of this are that you can allow some of the emotion of the situation to dissipate. This means that you can come back to the issue with a fresh look and re-evaluate what you want to do about it.
The reason this works is that pessimistic people will worry about the issue, believing it is yet another problem that can’t be solved, this means that there is a lot of emotion attached to the issue. The more emotions at play in a situation, the harder it is to find a positive solution.
Ways you can distract yourself include relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, self-hypnosis, mindfulness or just doing something else for a short while.
The important thing however is that you do go back and address the problem rather than just ignoring it.
This should be done after you have calmed down and can see the situation in a more objective way. Here you start to challenge your beliefs about the situation.
Ask yourself; “Why am I thinking this about the situation?”
Then consider; “What would be a more helpful way of looking at this situation” and finally “How can I get a positive outcome from this situation?”
Research has shown that optimists are more likely to adopt a problem-solving approach to situations and will also actively seek social support strategies and focus more on the positive aspects of stressful situations.
Optimism is also linked to better mental and physical health.
People who are optimistic are much less likely to suffer from depression. This makes sense really as pessimists look at the downsides of life, which results in feelings of sadness and wanting to give up on things.
For an optimist, problems aren’t forever and so they are less discouraged when issues occur.
The way we think has a huge impact on our mental health. If you are looking to overcome your anxiety or just improve your mental health then first you need to know what thoughts are making things worse.
This download gives you a list of the most common ways we think negatively. All you need to do is see which ones you do most.
Also, keep an eye on your emails! I will be sending you a really useful video that goes with this exercise.