The benefits of Optimism

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What is optimism?
It is a mental attitude, a happy belief that the outcome of a situation or events in general will be good – the “glass is half full”. It is defined as expecting the best possible outcome from any given situation. The opposite of optimism is pessimism.

What is pessimism?
Again, it is a mental attitude, in which undesirable outcomes are believed to be the most likely result from a situation – the “glass is half empty”. People who are pessimistic are more likely to focus on the negatives in life or in a general situation.

The 3 P’s of pessimism
In the field of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman describes explanatory style as “the manner in which you habitually explain to yourself why events happen” – the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our lives.
The 3 Ps of explanatory style are:
– Permanence – relates to the perception of time, with events perceived as either permanent (will always be so, things will never change) or temporary (“this too shall pass”, tomorrow is another day)
– Pervasiveness – relates to the perception of space, with events perceived as global (“this always happens to me!”) or specific (this is only for this specific situation)
– Personalisation – relates to the perception of causality, with events perceived as internally (“it’s all my fault!”, it is because of me, or some quality that I cannot change) or externally (“this was not caused by
something within me”)

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Optimism assumes that good things are permanent, pervasive and internal, whereas pessimism assumes that good things are temporary, specific and external.

           Good situation

           Bad situation

Optimist

  • Permanent

  • Pervasive

  • Personal/internal

 

  • Temporary

  • Specific

  • Externally caused

 

Pessimist

  • Temporary

  • Specific

  • Externally caused

  • Permanent

  • Pervasive

  • Personal/internal

In general, people who are pessimistic are less persistent in dealing with setbacks and overcoming obstacles, because of the belief that everything is an obstacle, it will always be an obstacle, and it will never change.

The 3 O’s of optimism

These are:

 

Generally, optimists are happier, healthier and are more likely to emerge from difficult circumstances with less distress than pessimists. Optimists are more likely to face their problems and take active steps towards solving those problems than pessimists who are more likely to abandon their goals at the first sign of things “not working”.  Pessimists are generally less accepted by the rest of society – perhaps a bias towards creating a belief that “all is well”!