Date of the last update: 21.03.2022
People have different views and attitudes to reality. They are often divided into three groups: pessimists, realists and optimists. For years, philosophers, scientists, and psychologists have discussed these attitudes, including their advantages and disadvantages. At first glance, it would seem that optimism is a desirable attitude. Yet, on further reflection, it is not always a good idea to wear rose-tinted glasses because they distort reality. So is it worth being optimistic?
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Is it worth being optimistic? Yes. The facts confirm it. Martin Seligman’s psychological research shows that people with an optimistic attitude are more productive and motivated at work. They experience less stress while highly rating their quality of life. A retrospective study of Hall of Fame basketball players who played between 1900 and 1950 showed that optimistic players enjoyed a longer life. Apparently, optimism also promotes physical wellbeing. Regularly published research papers prove that optimists have a 50% lower risk of cancer and heart disease. Some studies say that pessimists are more prone to infectious diseases and are more likely to have poor health. As you can see, there is a lot to be said for optimism. But how to define it? First of all, it is worth stressing that optimism is not the same as positive thinking but a mature attitude towards oneself and the world.
You can be optimistic in many ways. Unfortunately, not all are mature and functional, especially if they rely on unrealistic beliefs. Sometimes it has more in common with wishful thinking or even magical thinking. One remains passive instead of taking matters into their own hands. Optimism can also be a form of defence mechanism that prevents one from confronting fear, pain or failure. On the other hand, excessive optimism can make you stop thinking critically, seeing your own mistakes, and failing to listen to advice. You can still come across advertisements of motivational speakers who try to arouse the need for constant enthusiasm in people and assure positive thinking. However, equating optimism with continual energy for action and good humour is a mistake. This attitude will not bring you many benefits.
It is extremely important to strive for balance in your life. Going to extremes is never good in the long run. The same applies to optimism. It needs to be nurtured but in a moderate way. Remember to stay critical and realistic about yourself and reality. Mature optimists believe in their abilities and skills but know their limitations, too. They set realistic goals and can accurately assess their capabilities and opportunities. With a mature attitude, you can distance yourself from many situations and problems and learn from your experience. Without falling into euphoria, you will not give in to hopelessness either. While nurturing a belief in a good tomorrow, you will not run away from difficult emotions or painful conclusions. A mature optimist values a sense of humour and celebrates everyday moments of happiness. It is better to look at optimism as an attitude rather than a collection of individual emotions and feelings. It is a lifestyle, or more precise, a style of thinking and acting in difficult situations. Life-long optimism is combined with high mental resilience, making it easier to cope with problems and perform under pressure.
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“Many days, many years, time teaches us the weather…” sings Grażyna Łobaszewska in one of her most famous songs. Although some people seem to have an inherently optimistic nature and ease in dealing with difficulties, optimism should be seen as an attitude that generally ripens in you over the years. The experience we gain, the self-confidence we acquire, the ability to take a critical approach to reality and remain hopeful are all elements that make up mature optimism.
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Scott E., What Is Optimism?, [in:] Verywell Mind [online]. Available online: https://verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-optimism-3144811 (26.08.2021).