I’m a big fan of having an optimistic attitude. Over at the Atlantic, there’s an article titled The Benefits of Optimism Are Real.
I often encounter people who say things like: “Well, optimism is well and fine, but you gotta be realistic.” As if optimism would be somehow living in a fairy tale world.
Optimism Is A Practical Tool For Navigating The Real World
But that’s simply a wrong understanding of optimism – optimism is a useful tool for navigating in the real world and achieving real results.
Emily Esfahani Smith writes in The Atlantic:
Far from being delusional or faith-based, having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is not only an important predictor of resilience — how quickly people recover from adversity — but it is the most important predictor of it. People who are resilient tend to be more positive and optimistic compared to less-resilient folks; they are better able to regulate their emotions; and they are able to maintain their optimism through the most trying circumstances.
This is what Dr. Dennis Charney, the dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found when he examined approximately 750 Vietnam war veterans who were held as prisoners of war for six to eight years. Tortured and kept in solitary confinement, these 750 men were remarkably resilient. Unlike many fellow veterans, they did not develop depression or posttraumatic stress disorder after their release, even though they endured extreme stress. What was their secret? After extensive interviews and tests, Charney found ten characteristics that set them apart. The top one was optimism. The second was altruism. Humor and having a meaning in life — or something to live for — were also important.
Expressing Anger Or Frustration Doesn’t Help
Freud was the one who populated the idea that the best way to deal with anger is to express it. And from that forms of “therapies” developed which included things like screaming, hitting pillows with baseball bats and so on – as if you would simply have to “empty out” the anger. Recent research has shown that these methods of expressing anger or aggression do not help to reduce these negative emotions. Quite the opposite – engaging in these activities actually “trains the brain to become angrier and more aggressive”. The scientists discovered that even not doing anything at all when angry was a better way of alleviating anger than screaming, venting or hitting.
Overcoming Depressive Thoughts
Ruminating in depressive thoughts has also shown to make things worse. However, when people made some meaning out of a saddening or depressing thought or experience, it helped them to improve their well-being.
Optimism also helps to cope with stress – while most people experience stressful situations as a threat or something negative, there are some people who interprete stressful situations as challenges and opportunities for growth – and consequently think and feel about them differently, even though their initial response is just as stressed as that of other people. However, since they do frame this situation differently in their mind (as a challenge and opportunity, rather than a threat), they become more resourceful and better able to cope.
Interestingly, even people who are usually not resilient also improved their reaction and became more resilient if they were given a stressful task and told to view it as a challenge. So something as simple as telling yourself: “Ok, this is a challenge that I’ll tackle to the best of my ability, and an opportunity for growth” can help you to become more resilient.
The trick is to bounce back faster from negativity, rather than to dwell in it.
What’s interesting too: when resilient people report about stressful situations, they are just as anxious as those who are not resilient. But they involve more emotions – positive emotions and negative emotions co-exist side by side, resilient people generally experience more happiness, eagneress and interest towards a problem.
So what can you do to become more resilient and optimistic? Well, apart from practicing consciously, you can subconsciously reprogram your mind to automatically think more positively with a hypnosis audio.