I have a confession. Every time I broke eggs into the frying pan I just knew they were going to be too runny. I always gave up on challenges early on because I just knew I'd fail. I automatically assumed other people had ulterior motives when they were nice to me.
Does this sound familiar? Do things sound hopeless more often than hopeful?
I'd like to let you in on a little secret. Don't worry! I'm a recovering pessimist and you can be too. Pessimism is largely a learned behavior, which means you can turn things around, become an optimist and discover your "happily ever after"!
How Pessimism and Optimism Affect Your Health
Pessimistic characters like Eeyore, Grumpy and Oscar The Grouch are surprisingly adorable, but no one talks about the various maladies they probably suffer from as a result of their negative mindset. According to The New York Times, pessimism is hazardous to your health and can cause an increased risk of sickness, depression, disease and even death.
On the flipside, optimism may be better than medication when it comes to your physical and mental health. Simply adopting a positive mental attitude can potentially lead to the following health benefits:
- Lower mortality rates
- Decreased stress
- Stronger coping strategies
- Better overall health
- Quicker recovery times
Who doesn't want to live longer, feel happier and be healthier? People usually want to be around happy individuals, so you're more likely to make friends and positively impact others' lives if you're an optimistic person.
If you're a pessimist, you might think optimism is achievable for everyone else, but not for you. Here's why you're wrong: Anyone with a brain has the ability to turn negative thought patterns into positive thought patterns. Sound too good to be true? Learn how to test this statement for yourself.
How to Become an Optimist
According to Dr. Martin Seligman and a brilliant team of University of Pennsylvania researchers, pessimism levels can be changed by simply becoming aware of negative thought patterns and changing them. Instead of hyper-focusing on negative events, learn to accept failures as a normal part of life. If you tend to think "I don't deserve good outcomes" anytime you fail or experience something unpleasant, look for alternative explanations.
Dr. Seligman states that people can change their own attitudes by simply having better conversations with themselves when faced with negative events. While the pessimist is convinced that negative outcomes are an inevitable part of his or her life, the optimist believes there are specific causes behind every negative event that happens. Optimists also tend to focus more on positive events than on negative setbacks, while pessimists rarely see any positive outcomes in their lives.
Ready to become an optimist? It's time to take control of the way you think. Here are some step-by-step suggestions for becoming a more optimistic person:
- Recognize the positive and downplay the negative events in your life
- Notice when negative thoughts creep in and examine them critically to identify their source
- Learn to accept failures as a natural part of life.
- Recognize bad things happen to everyone, and those disappointing occurrences will inevitably pass
- Don't blame yourself when things don't go as planned
- Give yourself realistic expectations so your chances of failure are minimized
- Receive behavioral therapy to help change your mindset, if necessary
Don't get discouraged if it takes you a while to become an optimist. Just like any other skill, you have to work hard and be consistent in order to make optimism a regular part of your life. The immediate and long-term benefits to your mental and physical health are well worth the effort though, so don't give up!
If I can do it, anyone can.
Have you recently discovered the joy of optimism? Or maybe you're a pessimist who wants to come clean and change your life around. Whatever your story is, we want to hear about it in the comments section below!