Wellness Wednesday, 1.13, 2020

Is Positivity Possible to Learn?

Philosophically, if your nature is to be negative or critical, can you really change to look at things more positively?  This will not be a scientific debate.  I’ve got some science to quote, some insight to share and an opinion or two along the way. (Story by Lisa Hoogesteger)

The research says –

In surveys, psychologists have found that hope and optimism are related—more hopeful people also tend to be more optimistic—but the two concepts also have important differences.

Optimism doesn’t need to mean denying or avoiding negative events.  Optimism is a mindset that we can cultivate and empower us to cope with life’s challenges.  (healthpsych.com/the-science-of optimism)

The major difference between hope and optimism is hope’s focus on agency. As professor Utpal Dholakia explains in a blog post for Psychology Today, “hopeful people believe that their actions can bring about their desired goals. Because of this, hope may be especially beneficial for people in stressful or challenging situations—in situations where a good outcome doesn’t necessarily seem like a given.”  (healthpsych.com/psychology-of-hope)

Hope has two components: pathways thinking and agency. Pathways thinking involves being able to think of many different ways of achieving something. Agency involves being motivated and feeling confident that one can achieve their goals.

“Hope is not Pollyannaish optimism – the assumption that a positive outcome is inevitable. Instead, hope is a motivation to persevere toward a goal or end state, even if we’re skeptical that a positive outcome is likely.” – Professor Everett Worthington

You CAN cultivate optimism.  A quote that I heard long ago that is part of my internal mantra is “hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and accept whatever happens”.   It works for me because I have decided I want to hope.  I want to believe things are possible.  I want to see the sunny side and the silver linings.  I know (the realist side of me) that things don’t always work out, but I found myself in a real funk one year in always expecting doom and gloom.  I realized I was avoiding feeling bad if things didn’t happen, however I also immediately dampened any joy because of always expecting things would soon fall apart.  So I chose hope, knowing that I’d be often disappointed yet wanting to allow for joy.  I would rather deeply feel things, even if it was hurtful, than not feel things and stay sheltered.  

I still prepare for the “what if’s” of things going awry (daily occurrence during COVID, have several back up plans and go light on expectation that things will work as you think); I just also try not to “dread ahead” of what could happen.   We, I can only control the process.  What I put into it, what I plan and prepare for, what I am thinking or saying.  The outcomes?  Not up to me.  But when I manage my piece of something and let go, I can feel good about my effort. Period.

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