Why Focus on Optimism & Happiness?
Besides the simple fact that we all have a basic desire to be happy, there has been important medical research of why staying optimistic and being happier is also good for you, more than just the feeling.
The benefits of happiness and optimism:
- Greater mental health resilience to deal with adversity
- Larger social community with deeper emotional ties
- In general, earn more money at work
- Live longer due to reduce stress factors
- Defend against illness better due to stronger immune system
- Are more curious and less judgemental
- Less chance of depression
- Overall improved physical & psychological well-being
All of this simply by focusing on being more happy and staying optimisitc, and without contributing to Big Pharm and the AMA
3 Factors for Optimism
Dr. Martin Seligman teaches, in his book, Learned Optimism, that there are 3 elements to your explanatory style as events happen in your life. Your explanatory style is the internal dialogue that runs in your head as you go through your day to day experiences.
In Dr. Seligman's research he found that your ability to shift how you perceive the events that occur in your life, in large part, determine your level of optimism and happiness, which has a huge impact on your mental health.
The 3 elements for your perception of reality are:
- Permanance - how often an event occurs
- Pevasiveness- where an event occurs
- Personal - do events always happen just to you
Whether your outlook at an event is viewed as temporary or permanent will determine the how much influence you have on creating new outcomes. There is a very simple formula you can follow to develop a temporary outlook for future events.
E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome)
With a permanent outlook of how events will "always" lead to an outcome, it diminishes your ability to create a new response. With a temporary outlook on events, it allows you to evaluate how your response to an event contributed to the outcome, therefore when you choose to respond differently in a similar event, you can create a new outcome.
For example, if you have had difficulty maintaining a healthy weight and have tried a number of different diet programs. A permanent pessimistic statement might be, "Diets never work!"
On the other hand, taking a temporary outlook to outcome can create for you the awareness, "The diet programs I have tried so far have not worked for me, I will continue to educate myself about healthier eating and exercise until I find a program that helps me achieve the results I desire!"
The second statement is much more empowering and helps to create a more optimistic explanatory self dialogue.
The second element for developing a optimistic outlook is pervasiveness. Whether you believe that a condition is universal or specific will strongly influence how much effort you believe will be necessary to create change.
The previous element of permanance is about time, how often you will have to deal with a challenging issue. This element deals with space, where do difficult situtions occur.
If you feel that a negative experience is a universal occurence, it will quickly sap your desire to reach out and extend yourself. Your explanatory style of a universal pervasiveness will create an overwhelming feeling of a tsunami wave of negativity when thinking about challenging situations.
The ability to switch the outlook from a universal quality of the world to a specific event that happened with a specific individual at a particular time. This will break it down to just that one event and not a huge overwhelming condition of the world.
As an example, "Self-help aritcles are useless!" will create the desire to stop reading anything that might have some value for you to develop and grow, stagnating any futher development.
On the other hand, "This self-help article is worthless!" (well, hopefully this is not the case
The third element for maintaining optimism and happiness. Individuals who have a habit of blaming themselves for negative situations in life tend to develop a low self-esteem. This does not serve anyone.
There is a difference between acknowledging your participation in creating an outcome and an over-identification with negative events that happens around you. This can often happen due to stressful upbringing and less-than-supportive care takers from your past, but it doesn't have to continue for your future.
Individuals with high self esteem tend to regard their abilities and influence in a very optimistic way, pragmatists (pessimists) would say in an unrealistic way
Pragmatist who have a realistic view of the world are basing on the past and present, what is already in existence. Optimistic dreamers with high self esteem (do not personalize negative events) are the leaders seeking the future of possibility.
One last note
Each day you have a choice, you can either view the world from a fear-based perception that it is hostile, dangerous and out to get you; or from a place of love and faith, that this is a world of opportunity and that there are forces out there (Providence) wanting to help you achieve and have whatever your heart desires.
You can use the 3 P's of Permanance, Pervasiveness and Personalization to support you or to hamstring you. The choice is yours.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” - W. H. Murray