Why Can I Never Manage To Be Optimistic And Positive?

You know, the metaphor of the glass half full and half empty. Well, it’s meant to determine our levels of optimism. If you consider that the glass is half empty, you're a pessimist, whereas if you view it as being half full, you are a natural optimist. I, unfortunately, fall into the first category of people and have a hard time looking on the bright side of life. No matter what life throws at me; good or bad, I can never seem to be upbeat about anything. But, that's not to say that all hope is lost, indeed there are many tips and techniques when it comes to being an idealist.

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I only see the worst in situations, and it's because my brain is wired this way

…or because I’m depressed! But, it’s primarily my brain’s fault. Over the course of a day, if I receive lots of news, I would tend to remember the bad points rather than the good ones. It’s a cognitive bias towards negativity. In short, being positive requires effort, but because my brain is programmed to prepare me for the worst, I therefore concentrate on negativity.

The other day, my manager congratulated me for my good work, but also mentioned that I should pay attention to my communication with other members of staff. You can bet that I only retained the negative and need for approval pointer despite the compliments. I left that day feeling angry and sad, having forgotten all the encouragement he'd offered. It was as if the negative managed to totally cancel out the positive.

When I have nothing to do, I constantly dwell on detrimental thoughts

This tendency to only pick out flaws and faults allowed our ancestors to survive when they had to avoid attacks from wild animals. This psychological state; this propensity for pessimism, still remains within us. Pessimism is ingrained within our genes.

>>> Discover the things you need to start saying to be more optimistic

Depression also means we only see the worst

I guess you’re thinking to yourself that I’ve not come up with anything new. Someone who is depressed sees the worst in everything, wow, what an insight! What you might not know is that a few years ago Dr Philippe Fossati, psychiatrist and researcher at Salpêtrière hospital, conducted an experiment with his team looking at how the brain functions in people with depression.

Words describing qualities (generous, intelligent, kind) and words describing flaws (greedy, hypocritical, spiteful) were presented to two groups of individuals. One group contained people with depression and the other group contained people without depression.

Participants had to first read the words in general terms (What do you think of generosity? What do you think of greed?), then from a more personal perspective (Are you generous? Are you greedy?) Whilst the minds of the people without depression clearly managed to distinguish between thinking of a flaw and attributing this to themselves, the people with depression didn’t always do this.

Indeed, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activates when we make information personal to ourselves (Are you generous?). For a person with depression, it activates at any given opportunity. So, when mentioning a negative word, even in general terms, they tend to make it apply to them. The “what do you think of greed?” becomes “are you greedy?). That explains where this tendency to see the worst in everything comes from. *

>>> Read about 10 signs to recognize passive aggressive behavior

Is there a cure for pessimism?

Being cynical comes naturally to us and doesn’t require any effort; the brain does it all on its own. We could easily settle for it, except, over time, it’s a bit stressful, it’s belittling, it’s an obstacle to self-confidence, and it prevents you from moving on. It’s true, why make plans if the world is doomed to fail? That’s how you get trapped in a vicious cycle, where negativity leads to depression… do you get the logic? And depression is an illness, a serious illness.

For our mental health and general wellbeing you have to make sure good moments prevail over others. Check out the symptoms and causes of an anxiety attack.

How to go from “I only see the worst” to “I see life positively”?

1. Make the most of good times

5 to 30 seconds is the time it takes for a positive moment to be emotionally digested. In contrast, a negative event is instantly embedded. How can we fight this? By simply stopping and taking full advantage of the nice moment that has just taken place. Analyzing in detail everything you feel at that very moment. Be fully aware.

2. Express your happiness

When something nice happens to us, we don’t hesitate over sharing it. We tell someone about it, or even better, we write it down. Writing is what helps us make the most of a positive moment for even longer.

3. Switch off and take time out

Nowadays, we are aware more than ever that sad or harrowing information goes around in a loop. I have always believed that staying informed was very important. Spending days or weeks listening and dwelling on miserable information, on the other hand, is extremely harmful. So, from time to time, we should allow ourselves days without information or concentrate on good news.

4. Stay realistic

We have seen how it’s easier for human beings to think negatively in order to avoid threats. But when we feel threatened let’s try to analyze the moment in order to cancel out our pessimistic tendency. Let’s take a step back and stay realistic when facing the event in hand. Let’s carefully evaluate what has just happened to us, let’s think about the positive and negative aspects and judge the situation, honestly.

Advice – The joy of pessimism

Go against the current of pleasant positive thinking and advice telling you to be happy. Nurturing pessimism might do you some good. By forgetting ideals and focusing a bit more on what frustrates us, we stop chasing something that doesn’t exist. So letting go a bit will do us the world of good. Then, feeling a bit anxious, we can anticipate things better, we are better prepared, we can think of a plan B, and we already know that this is the secret to happiness!

Don’t forget that constantly anticipating the worst is tiring, so stop moping around and do your best to look for the positives.

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