Striving to become a realistic optimist by Lise Ribeiro
We always have a choice in the way that we view our circumstances — it is the one about the glass is either half empty or half full. I certainly was not brought up by two optimistic people. My dad is the pessimist and my mum the optimist. I like to think I take after my mum of course! Most often I strive to be a realistic optimist although this has been tested a lot recently with COVID19. However, it is always useful to be reminded that optimism is good for you, especially in tough times like these.
Optimism can increase “happy” chemicals in the brain (endorphins), which are natural mood enhancers and pain relievers, while pessimism tends to lead to more social isolation, which can lead to an increased depressed mood. Optimism can also add to better resiliency following negative life events and it can help our problem-solving ability.
It is also true that we have to watch out for being overly optimistic or being toxically positive. Believing that challenges magically disappear is not productive. However, being a realistic optimist means that we can be aware of the challenges, or we know that action needs to be taken in order to get to what we want. If we focus on the best actions to take or work at accepting those things that cannot be changed, we are better equipped to manage those challenges. An optimistic attitude helps us handle a lot of situations if things don’t work out the way that we wish.
If we can learn how not to obsess about unpleasant or difficult events by doing something we enjoy, to take our minds off of the situation, we can get ourselves back into a better feeling state. We can then come back to the situation with a problem-solving attitude. With this approach, we will be more likely to think of better, more creative solutions.
Humour is one of my favourite ways of completely changing a negative, pessimistic, view into a more positive view. Humour can immediately change your mood and can produce a feeling of confidence.
If you can combine a positive attitude with a real and honest evaluation of the challenges you meet in life, along with imagining what it is you would like the outcome to be, to me, that is realistic optimism.