You can learn to be an optimist! True!

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Do you know people who always look on the bright side of everything? And do you know others who always see the bad? There are those who DON’T win the lottery and say, “Oh well, next time, gotta be in it to win it!” and there are those who DO win the lottery and say, “What am I going to do with all that money? I’m gonna have people hanging around wanting to be my friend now!” Bit far-fetched, but you get my meaning. 

In Martin Seligman’s book ‘Learned Optimism’, he says that optimism is “a tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation” and we can learn how to be fully practicing optimists! Yes, it’s true! We can choose to be positive about situations or we can be negative about it.  Pessimism tends to believe that we don’t have control – it’s learned helplessness. Well, we can turn that around.

Being an optimist or being a pessimist is not so much something that you are or are not, it’s more about your approach to situations. In reality, we are all, in any given time, on the optimism – pessimism continuum and the approach we take to a situation, can move us along that line, in either direction.  Seligman believes that we see the world in  three dimensions – Permanence , Pervasiveness and Personalisation. 

Taking a pessimistic approach will have you believing and telling yourself that bad events are persistent, are universal and you will blame yourself. (eg This always happens to me, wherever I go, bad things happen, I’m hopeless! why do I let this happen?)

An optimistic approach will have you telling yourself and believing that bad things are temporary, they are specific and you may blame the circumstance or accept responsibility as a one off or learning experience. (eg Oh well, this happened this time, but next time it will be ok, this happened here, it probably won’t happen elsewhere, and it’s probably because of the weather that this happened today.)

So next time you find yourself in a stressful situation and you hear yourself saying things like “Why does this always happen to me?”, or “I’m so useless”, remind yourself that you can turn that around with telling yourself that it is NOT your fault, that this is NOT permanent, and it will be different next time. Try it! Listen to your self-talk at these times and actively change your thinking.  You will find that your positivity becomes infectious, for you and those around you.  Give it a try! 

Emma Hackett