Cultivating Optimism

Featuring a special guest on the blog today! He has a honours degree in life sciences with a double minor in psychology and kinesiology, is an avid athlete, a healthy living enthusiast, and happens to be the love of my life. Can you guess who? Read on for Ryan’s tips on cultivating optimism:

Considering the current pandemic, keeping a positive and optimistic mindset may seem more challenging than ever.

Optimism is defined as a very general belief that good life outcomes are more likely than bad ones in most situations. Pessimism, the opposite of optimism, is the belief that bad life outcomes are more likely in most situations.

The phenomenon of optimism has been studied extensively in the field of positive psychology, and the potential benefits are remarkable. Before getting into the benefits of optimism, lets take a step back and think about the role of optimism in on your life. Think about how you motivate yourself to reach your goals; you probably have at one point in your life said to yourself (or something along these lines) “I will reach my goals, I will be successful”. This is an example of optimism and is commonly used to self-motivate yourself to keep yourself on track to reach your goals. Optimism is commonly used in sports and is common belief among professional athletes. If you observe the attitude of some of the most successful athletes, you will notice they share the same thing in common – they are optimistic about outcomes. Take Mark Messier for example, one of the best hockey players of all time. On May 25th, 1994, Messier and the New York Rangers were trailing 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils in a best of 7 series in the Eastern Conference Finals. Earlier that day, messier told reporters “We will win tonight”. Subsequently, Messier and the rangers won that game forcing a game 7, where they would win the series, and eventually win the Stanley cup. While you may not consciously observe optimism regularly in your daily life, chances are it plays a significant role.

An optimistic outlook on life is associated with numerous benefits including the following:

  • Better academic performance
  • Superior athletic performance
  • More productive work records
  • Greater satisfaction in interpersonal relationships
  • More effective coping with life stressors
  • Lower vulnerability to depression and anxiety
  • Superior physical health

Maintaining optimistic beliefs may help mitigate the psychological consequences experienced from any social restrictions imposed during COVID-19.

Those who attain the optimism characteristic react to failures, stressors, and negative situations differently than their pessimistic counterparts. Particularly, they commonly reason with the following attributes:

  • Attributing failures to external causes: e.g. I did bad on the test because the questions were worded poorly.
  • Unstable causes: belief that things can and do change over time (e.g. I will do better on the next test.)
  • Specific causes: relating causes to specific situations, rather than global causes (e.g. I do better in other courses.)

Put the benefits of optimism to use by maintaining a positive outlook on the future and utilizing the attributes commonly used by optimists. While we all experience stress, agony, hardship, etc. remember to seek the positives and maintain an optimistic mindset.

-Ryan

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