Expert Speak: Mitali Srivastava, Senior Clinical Psychologist at CIMBS
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
Optimism is a way of life. It is the tendency to expect the best and see the best in all things. The word is originally derived from the Latin word “OPTIMUM”, which means “BEST”. Thus, an optimistic person perceives the best and expects the best possible outcome from any given situation. Whatever the circumstances, an optimistic person believes that the situation has an underlying positive meaning and that things are going to turn out well. So, a person with optimism, or in other words positive thinking, approaches life’s challenges with a positive demeanour.
Optimism does not mean avoiding or ignoring the bad things, rather it means making most out of the potentially bad situation. Positive psychologist Martin Seligman describes optimism in terms of explanatory style. “One’s explanatory style is how one explains why events happened”. People with an optimistic explanatory style tend to give themselves credit when good things happen, but typically blame outside forces for bad outcomes. They also tend to see negative events as temporary and atypical. On the other hand, individuals with a pessimistic explanatory style often blame themselves when bad things happen, but fail to give themselves adequate credit for successful outcomes. They also have a tendency to view negative events as expected and lasting”.
Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer opines that optimists tend to share several positive characteristics that increase overall happiness and promote health, while reducing depression and chronic stress:
- They think about, reflect on, and emphasize the good things in life.
- They are grateful and thankful for all their blessings.
- They don’t complain when something bad happens.
- They feel that nothing can hold them back from achieving success and reaching their goals.
- They believe in abundance.
- They are confident that the world offers plenty of opportunities for everyone to succeed.
Benefits of Optimism
The concept of Positive Thinking has gained a lot of attention from researchers in recent years.
According to positive psychology researcher Suzanne Segerstrom, “Setbacks are inherent to almost every worthwhile human activity, and a number of studies show that optimists are in general both psychologically and physiologically healthier”, which has been well proven by empirical researches. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking is linked to a wide range of health benefits including:
- Longer life span
- Strong immune system
- Less stress
- Lower rates of depression
- Increased resistance to the common cold
- Better stress management and coping skills
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease-related death
- Increased physical well-being
- Better psychological health
Even if you are not a natural positive thinker, with some attitudinal change and persistence you can surely develop it.
- Become aware of your thinking pattern. If you are somebody who is more prone to have frequent negative thoughts,just STOP for a while,take a deep breath and think about the POSITIVE alternative.
- Expect good things to happen. Do things that make you happy.
- Avoid company of negative people and look forward to being with positive ones. Stop letting other people’s negative attitudes influence yours.
- Optimism is contagious. If you are a source of positive thought, you are also a source of positive energy to the environment and people that you interact with.
- Use positive words in your inner dialogues, or when talking with others
- Use your imagination to visualize only favorable and beneficial situations. Before starting on any new project or activity, visualize the positive outcome. Our actions are guided by our thinking and hence Thinking holds the power of determining the final outcome..
- Smile a little more, as this helps to think positively.
- Avoid using negative self statements, such as I can’t, rather say, “I KNOW I CAN”
- Maintain good body posture. It enhances optimism. Walk and sit with straight.
- Regular physical exercise is another key. Any form of physical activity results in release of endorphins, the positive hormone. It is well known for generation of positive thinking and feelings.
- Use positive affirmations.