Friday, May 25, 2012

The art of optimism

When you think of the optimism inherent in "seeing the glass half full," you usually think of a sunny person who believes everything will turn out alright.

I know a couple of people who are like that and wish I had that personality type. If you are a worrier, it's hard to get out of that mold.

In a story in Tuesday's New York Times Personal Health column headlined "A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full," Jane Brody cites a different definition of optimism that opens the door wider.

She refers to Suzanne C. Segerstrom, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky and author of a book called "Breaking Murphy's Law," who believes that optimism is not about being positive so much as it is about being motivated and persistent.

By the first definition, when I was in the hospital I was a pessimist, worrying so much that my nurse friend Vytas called me "Nervous Nellie."

By the second, I was an optimist, working as hard as I could to get better, even by encouraging my donor to take hold while I walked around the nurses' station. (I.e. I said over and over, "Come on donor, come on." Obviously this did not directly affect the outcome, but it did help me feel stronger and therefor might have helped my immune system.

When you look at the second definition, I think that a lot more people can consider themselves optimists.

Brody writes that according to Segerstrom and researchers from the Mayo Clinic, optimism can be learned.

One suggestion: Avoid negative self-talk. "Instead of focusing on prospects of failure, dwell on the positive."

We can all try that one, but hey, it ain't always easy.

For example, when I make a big mistake on the computer and have to redo something, I should NOT say, "YOU IDIOT, YOU SENILE PERSON, etc, etc."

When I am losing in a tennis match, I should NOT say, "You can't do this anymore."

I do know enough to then say to myself, "No negative self-talk!"

It's a good correction to keep in mind.


Anonymous said...

Excellent Title and Article -- Spot-on!

Runder-Woman, i am also a worrier -- though try to balance that with an optimistic attitude -- since being down about diagnosis and prognosis never really makes the moment good -- just darkens it --
As a sister-worrier, i know how hard that is, but it gets easier -- you don't have to be a pollyanna to be positive and carpe diem!

mani feniger said...

Hi Ronni, I just read some of your blog and it's full of wonderful perspective...based in reality. I especially like your reference to optimism--more like being in partnership with life, not in opposition. Thank you.

Robin said...

Great blog post!