The state of the world at present can often make it difficult to feel positive about the future. With the potential for a hard landing, ongoing conflicts, and a series of extreme weather events, it is understandable to feel a sense of pessimism.
The relationship between optimism and wellbeing is a complex one that has been studied for over 30 years. While optimism has been linked to a range of positive outcomes for both mental and physical health, it is not as simple as seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses or always having a half-full perspective. This can sometimes be considered toxic positivity but that is for another day.
Optimism is a multifaceted construct, and different forms of optimism have different effects on wellbeing. Scientists agree that optimism can be beneficial, but it is not just about having an unrelenting upbeat outlook. In recent years, psychologists have shifted their understanding of optimism to view it as a pattern of responses that can indicate how individuals view their prospects. The stories we tell ourselves after our successes and failures play a crucial role in shaping our outlook.
If we take this perspective, focusing on what we can control and persistently pursuing solutions, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems like war or climate change, is an optimistic outlook. On the other hand, giving up and losing hope are signs of a pessimistic outlook.
Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, sums it up best: “Optimists try harder.” This statement highlights the importance of persistence in pursuing solutions and improvement, even in the face of setbacks. By focusing on what we can control, we can increase our individual wellbeing.
It is important to note that optimism and pessimism are not permanent states. They can change based on our experiences and the stories we tell ourselves. Therefore, it is possible to cultivate a more optimistic outlook by focusing on what we can control, seeking solutions, and persisting in our efforts to improve. This can lead to a greater sense of subjective wellbeing and improve our overall health and happiness.
In conclusion, the relationship between optimism, pessimism and wellbeing is complex and multifaceted. While optimism has been linked to a range of positive outcomes, it is not just about having a relentlessly positive outlook. It is about the stories we tell ourselves after our successes and failures and the pattern of responses that result from those experiences. By focusing on what we can control and persistently pursuing solutions, we can cultivate a more optimistic outlook and improve our individual wellbeing.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information only, and does not constitute health or medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your physical or mental health, seek immediate medical attention.