optimism is a natural habit, learning and resilience

Optimism is a natural trait for some people. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t despair! There is a lot you can do to lift your mood and adopt a more helpful outlook on life.

Come to think of it, despair is the flip-side of optimism isn’t it? So I guess the idea here is to flip your mood, just as you would flip a coin.

But please don’t share it with me. I know there’s bad news out there and a lot to be worried about. I’m not ignoring it, nor burying my head in the sand. It’s just that I’d rather choose my own daily disaster diet, so that I can protect myself from overload.

Since ‘that which we focus on becomes our reality’ I think that it’s important to choose how I think and what I think about (and how I judge and interpret events). It’s not always easy to do this because – as we all know – unnecessary and intrusive thoughts can invade at any time.

I have got pretty good at patrolling and protecting my boundaries in this area, and managing my outlook and attitude. But, it’s not something that happens by itself. Even the most resilient person needs to work at it and keep themselves in a state where they are able to bounce back.

Like anyone, I have days when I feel less upbeat, and I’ve had days, sometimes a whole series of them, when I fell into what I call a ‘life’s-a-bitch-and-then-you-die’ kind of hopelessness. I also know how to be depressed, and spent many years in and out of that state from my teenage years and the next 20 or so.

This is a divisive idea

I think of myself as happy and optimistic (I know I wear a face  that denies this and those who know me might not agree). Though this might be partly due to my natural disposition, I’ve also had to work at it. Staying on the right side of the positive/negative divide is a choice, and one that has to be maintained with care.

It has been my experience that people who have a sunny disposition are generally pretty harmless in their opinions. Though it can be annoying to be reminded that things turn out alright in the end, or that every cloud has a silver lining, it doesn’t really spoil anyone’s day to be told this, even if you don’t agree.

On the other hand, the scaremongers who proselytise their doom and gloom really can bring you down. Even if you don’t agree with their forecasts, some of it will stick and you’ll carry it away with you.

What’s more, if you choose not to agree with an optimist they tend to go off and find someone else to bother, but contradict a pessimist and they can get quite shirty, even accusing of things like ‘denial’ or ‘ignorance’. It’s a divisive area.

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There are compelling reasons to consider optimism as a key factor in wellbeing. I have published a 10 page self-training guide How To Practice Optimism in my LifeHack series.

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I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.


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