Optimism: Can we learn to be 'Sunny'?
As you may have read in my previous blog post, defensive pessimism is a strategy with a lot of potential for those prone to certain levels of anxiety. However, dispositional optimism still holds a lot more traditional advantages to its name; lower rates of depression, reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and protection from the common cold to name a few. Companies want to employ positive workers who'll increase efficiency and add to a healthy work environment over more downcast ones. The benefits of being an optimist in today's world are ubiquitous. They might as well sell it in a bottle. Profits would be astronomical. 'The B Positive Serum, the smallest dose will do'.
It doesn't seem fair that pessimists are more liable to a plethora of mental and physical illnesses. So why are some people predisposed to think in a positive fashion while others think in a negative one? Can we change our tendencies to those of an optimist's rather than a pessimist's?
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman explains and highlights the differences between optimists and pessimists by way of Explanatory Style. This rationale can be used to give some insight into the learned helplessness model (Overmier & Seligman, 1967). Some throw their hands in the air and accept defeat easily when faced with an insurmountable challenge while others choose to persist nevertheless. Those who bow out would be labelled as pessimists while those who endure are likely optimists. Our explanatory style is second nature, a default influenced by past experiences that brings us to anticipate similar events in the future a certain way.
Seligman nicely outlines the differences between the two outlooks in his bestselling publication, 'Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life'.