There’s a great Zig Zigler joke about a young boy who comes home from school sad and dejected. He goes over to his father and says, “Dad, I’m afraid I have bad news.”
“What’s that son?” says his Dad.
“Dad, I’m afraid I failed my math test today,” says the boy.
To which his father replies, “Son, that’s no way to think. You have to be positive.”
The boy thinks about it for a while and then his face lights up and he says to his Dad, “You know what Dad. You’re right. I’m positive I failed my math test!”
All kidding aside, optimism and positive emotions are strongly associated with good mental and physical health. Why? According to psychologist Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, postivie emotions “reduce arousal and broaden our focus” leading to more flexible responses to life’s traumas.
That being said, there are two kinds of optimism: 1) unrealistic optimism (also called rose-colored optimism, pie-in-the-sky optimism, Polyannish optimism or just plain naivete) and 2) realistic optimism, which filters out extraneous negativity but is mindful and aware of relevant negative people and circumstances.
Scientifically speaking, naive optimism is of no value to anyone, and may in fact be dangerous.
Realistic or measured optimism, however, is associated with a robustly health-conferring quality called resilience, that is — the ability to bounce back from adversity.
And resilience, which you will learn much more about throughout these posts, confers powerful health benefits.
So the next time you are pile high in stress and negativity, try to be more positive by asking yourself these questions:
1) Is there a less disturbing way I can interpret this bad situation?
2) Is there any chance I am exaggerating the negative consequences of this bad situation?
3) Is there something I can learn from this situation that can: 1) be a blessing in my life or 2) help make me stronger.
Do you see how easy it is to reframe the adversity in your life and make it a bit more positive? I think by now you do. In fact, I’m really quite positive you do! Till next time, in body and soul . . .