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The Slippery Slope of Optimism

Optimism is the single most frequently cited attribute of healthy and happy people. But who is truly optimistic?

Research psychologist Martin Seligman

Dr. Martin Seligman

found that, to be effective, optimism must be embodied. Putting up a false front of optimism isn’t enough. In fact, trying to be optimistic can create emotional distress, which can then negatively impact health.

By contrast, people who naturally tend toward optimism are more likely to have far less distress, better health, and greater success in all endeavors as compared to people who are filled with doubt or who have pessimistic expectations.

The big question is, for those of us who naturally tend toward pessimism, how can we develop optimism and environmental mastery?

The first step involves developing the awareness that we are practicing pessimism, and this is quite difficult. The most evidence-based method of developing this awareness is mindfulness practice, which can be learned at meditation centers or an MBSR class.

The second step is to be clear on our intentions and to consciously engage in a number of practices, one of which is gratitude.

Cave paintings dating back forty thousand years reveal that prehistoric humans knew that by imagining the results they wanted to achieve (in their case—successful hunting) that they could improve the outcome.

There are many practices that will be described over time in this blog that serve to increase natural optimism. For example, consciously and intentionally thinking of 3 things each day for which we feel authentic gratitude tends to increase natural optimism.

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