With all of the stressors in today's society, it is easy to become discouraged and see the glass as half-empty; however, a positive attitude is associated with increased quality of life, including higher academic or work performance, better emotional adjustment and better health.
Those who are more optimistic tend to have different patterns of thinking compared to pessimistic people. Optimistic people believe that bad events are temporary, are not one's own fault and are confined to the present circumstance. Optimists see new opportunities as an interesting challenge that is manageable.
Pessimists, on the other hand, think globally and think that one failure will have a negative impact on their lives forever, will affect all areas of their lives and always is their fault (i.e., not related to circumstances outside of themselves). As a result, they see new opportunities as challenges that are insurmountable and nuisances, a new chance for failure.
People can be naturally optimistic, but early negative life circumstances can lead a person to be more pessimistic. However, a person can change their pattern of thinking. There are a number of strategies that can be used to be more optimistic.
For people who are naturally optimistic, these strategies usually come naturally. For people who tend to be more pessimistic, they may have to work hard to ward off the negative beliefs, but they can learn to be more positive.
The first step is becoming aware of the negative thoughts. Once this is accomplished, then the following strategies can be used:
Distraction - Replacing the negative thoughts with something other than the pessimistic belief. One can work to shift attention to another positive or neutral thought. Singing a song instead of thinking the negative thought is an example. Also, one can frame the thought differently. For instance, a new opportunity can be seen as a challenge and not a stressor.
Disputation - Arguing with oneself about pessimistic beliefs through the following:
Distancing - Reminding oneself that the pessimistic belief usually is unfounded. A person can work to separate from the thought because it is meaningless.
Evidence - Check for evidence that disproves the negative belief. Since the thought is meaningless, one surely can find evidence that it is not true.
Alternatives - Look for all possible reasons for the situation. Pessimists tend to focus on the most harmful and defeating reason for the situation. Looking for a less harmful or personally defeating reason can help a person develop a more positive attitude.
Decatrastophizing - Regardless of the situation or the cause for the situation, recognizing that the situation is not the end of the world can help ease the suffering. It may be helpful to remind oneself of the worst possible outcome of the situation, as it rarely is earth-shattering.
For those who may struggle with being positive, engaging these exercises can be challenging at first. The good news is that practice makes perfect. So, the more a person engages in optimistic thinking, the easier it will become.
Eventually, the pessimistic attitude will be distant memory and a person will find themselves working through difficult situations very easily.
For more information, visit the website www.lycominghealthyliving.com.
Seiler is a licensed psychologist and neuropsychologist and sees clients through Associates in Neuropsychology and Collaborative Healthcare, PC.