Trick negative thoughts and think like an optimist
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” One of the most famous quotes by Winston Churchill suggests that optimists and pessimists have fundamentally different ways of interpreting the world. Each of us sometimes faces disappointments, failures and missed opportunities. Why do some of us seem able to overcome these experiences and learn something from them, while others fail to get over a negative event and go on living a life full of disappointments and frustrations?“
Accordingly, recent research indicates that the optimist and the pessimist approach problems in different ways and, consequently, their ability to cope with problems differs from one to another. Martin Seligman, father of positive psychology, defined optimism as a sense of confidence and high personal skills. The optimists believe that negative events are temporary, limited to a scope and manageable.
In his studies, Martin Seligman shows that anyone can learn to create an optimistic perspective on life challenges. So, you can learn to adjust your reactions to events in an appropriate manner. You can make choices and create options for maximizing your inner peace and serenity, health and sense of self-esteem.
Trick negative thoughts
Many researchers support the idea that happiness is not something resulting exclusively from the number of positive events in your life, but rather from the ratio of positive and negative events. Therefore, our goal should not be to engage in as many positive events as possible, but rather to ensure that positive activities are more numerous than negative ones. You should also change the way you look or think about negative events, so that they no longer seem quite so black as they are painted.
Think like an optimist
Specialized studies show that optimists have better achievements and also a better overall health. Pessimists, on the other hand, are more common: they tend to give up when facing difficulties and suffer from depression. In his book, Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman advise pessimists to learn to be optimistic by starting to think on how to respond to difficulties in a new way. The optimist’s outlook on failure can thus be summarized as “What happened was an unlucky situation (not personal), and really just a setback (not permanent) for this one, of many, goals (not pervasive)”. Other differences between optimists and pessimists reside in their way to explain events and experiences, based on three key points:
- Permanence: optimistic people believe that negative events are temporary rather than permanent and recover immediately after failure, while pessimists may take longer to recover or do not recover at all. Optimists believe that good things happen for reasons that are permanent, unlike the pessimists who see positive things as something temporary. Optimists view the causes of negative events as something temporary, while pessimists perceive them as permanent.
- Pervasiveness: Optimists compartmentalize helplessness, while pessimists assume that a failure in one area of life means a failure in life in general. Optimistic people also leave positive events rather to illuminate every area of life than just that compartment in which the event occurred.
- Personalization: Optimists consider that the cause of a negative event is of exterior origin, while pessimists are blame themselves for any adverse event. Optimists therefore are more confident and quickly internalize positive events, while pessimists externalize them.
Next time when you explain an adverse event in a pessimistic way, have a break and take a piece of paper and a pen and try to reinterpret the fact using the optimistic explanatory style. Similarly, when something good happens, enjoy this event as much as possible, consider your contribution to it and try to understand how you can use this new interpretative ability in other areas of your life.
Timothy J. Sharp, 100 ways to happiness. A Guide for Busy People