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The Power of Optimism
Kris Boulton Phone: (501) 303-5672Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect with Saline County FCS agent Kris Boulton.
It is common to believe that the people who are mentally healthy are those who are
realistic, who judge accurately what they can do and what they can't do. We sometimes
chide people who try to do too much: "Be realistic."
That might not be good advice. Research shows that people who are realistic are more
likely to be depressed. People who think they can do more than they actually can,
tend to be healthier mentally and physically; optimism is a healthy frame of mind.
But there are several habits that can keep us from enjoying optimism.
When we make mistakes, it is easy to think: "I am so stupid! I keep making the same
mistakes! When am I going to learn?" Such blame can keep us trapped in a negative
pattern of thinking and acting. There is a better way.
For example, when we make a mistake, it is helpful to say: "I've made a mistake similar
to mistakes I've made in the past. But I keep learning something new every time. I'm
glad I can keep learning and trying."
None of us can solve all our problems at once. But there are little things we can
do that help. We can keep trying. We can try new ways. We can get ideas from books
and other people.
Rather than dwell on feelings of failure, get busy helping or building or learning.
Rather than trying to talk yourself into being happy, find a way you can be productive.
Sometimes we think we must start feeling better before we can move forward. The opposite
is more often the case: We must start doing something in order to start feeling better.
Train yourself to notice when you are beating up on yourself. When you notice it,
challenge the negative thoughts in the same way you would if a good friend were saying
the same things about herself that you are saying about yourself. See yourself as
a person who tries hard and does your best. Get busy. Be patient with yourself. Be
hopeful about the future.
Every day there are things that might go wrong. We have a choice; we can worry about
them and dread what may happen or enjoy the present and look forward to the future. Whatever problems tomorrow brings, we can deal with them. Look forward to the good
things you have planned. Enjoy your opportunities to work and be productive now.
Seize the day and all its opportunities and tomorrow will take care of itself.
Try to recall a time when you were upset with yourself. Consider whether you used
the following three unhelpful ways of thinking:
Most of us have had thoughts like those at times. But the healthiest people are those
who learn to challenge the thoughts and replace them with more helpful thoughts. See
if you can apply the following more optimistic thoughts to a situation where you have
felt like a failure.
Sometimes when we feel pessimistic or downhearted, we can push ourselves to move on
to something that needs to be done. Other times we find it almost impossible to get
started. At such times it can be helpful to have a list of things you find satisfaction
in doing. Maybe you like to listen to music, organize your desk, take a walk . . .
What are some of the active things you can be prepared to do at times when you find
it hard to get started?
If you enjoy reading books about psychology, you would probably enjoy "Learned Optimism"
by Martin E. P. Seligman. He describes the finding that people can be trained to feel
and act helpless; they do not do what they can do to solve their problems. He provides
examples of the many areas of life in which optimism makes people successful. He also
shows how to challenge our negative thoughts.