How to Stay Optimistic When Everything Seems Wrong

How to Stay Optimistic When Everything Seems Wrong

Optimism isn’t about ignoring negative feelings. It’s about being hopeful about the future, even when the present seems wholly negative.

via the NY Times by Kristin Wong

With the endless stream of urgent news pushing the boundaries of our mental health, it seems laughable to suggest optimism right now. Maybe you’re worried about losing your job, losing your home or losing a loved one. Maybe you already have. Maybe you’re worried about your own health, and maybe you feel helpless or doomed. Whatever it is, optimism feels like a luxury that few of us can afford.

But at its core, optimism doesn’t require you to sweep those anxious, negative feelings under the rug. It’s not about smiling when you don’t feel like it. Optimism is simply being hopeful about the future, even when the present feels wholly negative. Cognitively, this is a challenge, because it requires you to acknowledge your positive and negative emotions at once and to allow them to exist simultaneously. As hard as it may be to make the case for optimism during a time of crisis, that’s when it happens to be the most useful.

“There is an extraordinary level of uncertainty right now, and that produces fear, despair, helplessness and anxiety, which are all understandable and appropriate under these circumstances,” said Stephanie Marston, a psychotherapist and a co-author, with her daughter Ama Marston, of the book “Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World.”

“Especially during a crisis,” Stephanie Marston said, “we just have to be even more attentive to our emotional state. When we do that, we’re able to more quickly move beyond our stress, discomfort or pain.”

Optimism can soften the negative effects of stress, allowing us to cope with and recover from trauma more easily. With all of this in mind, there is a handful of research-backed evidence for embracing optimism as a tool for dealing with the stress and anxiety you’re most likely experiencing right now.

“One of the keys to becoming more resilient is to practice compassion both toward ourselves as well as toward others,” Ms. Marston said. “One of the keys to doing so is to interrupt recurring cycles of negative inner dialogue.”

When we find ourselves cycling through negative thoughts that don’t go anywhere, it’s important to take a step back to disrupt the cycle of anxiety, Ms. Marston said. “This can include stopping and focusing on our breath rather than on our thoughts, changing our physical environment to help create distance from our initial mental space, or having a conversation with someone we trust to get a fresh perspective.”

Dr. Sarah Kate McGowan, an assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggested coming up with coping statements to help you get through dark moments. This might be something like, “I can take this one day at a time” or “This is frightening, and I can handle it.” You can even write these statements on index cards to refer to when you find yourself back in the negativity loop, she said.

The bottom line: It’s important to recognize that, under extreme conditions, we’re all doing the best we can, “and we need extra understanding, care and nurturing,” Ms. Marston said, adding: “What words do you need to hear to comfort or reassure yourself about the virus right now? Are they realistic? What actions do you need to take to protect yourself, or to provide for yourself?”

… keep reading the full & original article HERE

#happiness #positivepsychology #resilience #optimism