Is optimism really something that can be learned, or are we born always determined to see “the glass” in a certain way? There have been myriad iterations of “put on a happy face” over the years (see below!) but is this advice really doable or helpful? Much new research seems to indicate that yes, indeed, we can change our thought patterns and forge new outlooks on life. A recent article in the New York Times points to the possibilities of learned optimism:
With the right guidance, many of the attributes of optimism also can be learned by adults, Dr. Segerstrom and other researchers have found.
Noting that it is easier to change behavior than emotions, she eschews the popular saying “Don’t worry, be happy.” Instead, she endorses a form of cognitive behavioral therapy: Act first and the right feelings will follow. As she puts it in her book, “Fake it until you make it.”
She wrote, “People can learn to be more optimistic by acting as if they were more optimistic,” which means “being more engaged with and persistent in the pursuit of goals.”
If you behave more optimistically, you will be likely to keep trying instead of giving up after an initial failure. “You might succeed more than you expected,” she wrote. Even if the additional effort is not successful, it can serve as a positive learning experience, suggesting a different way to approach a similar problem the next time.
Click here for the full article.
by Caren Swanson