Hopefulness and confidence about the future is called Optimism. It is a quality that that brings has benefits such as increasing altruism, increasing our ability to postpone gratification, increase humor. Optimism has also been proven to be a great indicator of future happiness and success.
“To see if optimism predicts longevity, scientists at the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, selected 839 consecutive patients who referred themselves for medical care forty years ago… Of these patients, 200 had died by 2000, and optimists had 19 percent greater longevity, in terms of their expected life span, compared to that of pessimists” – Authentic Happiness
The Key to Becoming an Optimist
In the book, Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman describes how we can become happier about our future by being optimistic. According to Seligman we can become more happy and optimistic by
Recognizing and disputing our pessimistic thoughts.
Defeating Pessimistic Thoughts
We must first recognize our pessimistic thoughts when they occur and then argue them. Recognizing pessimistic thoughts might take some effort at first but it can be done if we try to be aware of the thoughts that cross our minds.
In order to dispute our negative pessimistic thoughts we can use the ABCDE model.
Beliefs we have when the adversity occurs
Casual consequence of the belief
Dispute routine belief
Energization occurs after we dispute our belief
Here is an example of disputing a pessimistic thought:
I did bad on a test and now I think I might have to drop out.
I’m incompetent and not intelligent to get through university.
I feel anxious and depressed. I feel sad and I start skipping classes.
I may have got a bad mark on one test but I have done good on many other tests. I may have done bad because I didn’t study enough. If I study more I can get better grades.
I feel better about myself. I feel more motivated to study and work on my academic goals.
Leading an Optimistic Life
In our lives, we will encounter many pessimistic thoughts that will bring us down. We will think up many exaggerated lies and end up believing them. If we do not fight these negative thoughts, they can sabotage our lives.
To be an optimist means to see obstacles as challenges that we can overcome. Being an optimist has many proven benefits, and we can be more optimistic if we recognize and dispute the negative thoughts.
So the next time you think you’re not strong, or good enough to face your problems identify the negative belief that is pulling you down. Then take a minute to think through the problem using the ABCDE method and dispute the belief that is holding you back. This can lead you to becoming an optimist and living a better life.
Read Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman to learn more about optimism and happiness