Adversity, pain, grief can strike us at any moment from left field, this when we’re least expecting it. Although many claim that there’s order in the Universe and our lives, that everything happens for a reason, once tragedy does occur, it can be devastating. To help us through these times, what’s needed is an optimistic mindset.
Optimism is the core belief that things, particularly our future will turn out well. That we’ll have positive experiences, rather than negative ones. Although our brains are set to think on a negative bias, optimism is also part of our make-up. What optimism requires, is more mindfulness and effort.
What optimism does, is influences our overall worldview. It affects how we experience every aspect of our existence. What’s known is optimism is the key driver, that effects our physical health and mental wellness.
Not only does being an eternal optimist promote better health, entrepreneurs claim it’s the key to their success.
Dealing With Life Setbacks
What every setback requires, is some type of response. Doing nothing is a response. How we cognitively respond to any type of setback, is referred to as “coping strategies.” Everyone responds to setbacks in two distinct ways.
The first is what’s known as problem focused coping. What the person attempts is to find what the main cause of the setbacks are, and will then deal with it directly and forcefully, this attempting to eliminate or change it. To analyze the hardship then determine solutions.
The other is emotion focused coping, where the individual will find ways of reducing or managing the emotional aftermath of adversity.
So the person might attempt to distract themselves, this to avoid pondering about the event. They may also seek emotional support from their family or friends, or even turn to religion or vices for solace.
How Optimists Deal With Setbacks
Those who are optimists, will view setbacks in their life positively, and thus their coping strategies are different. All they think of are favorable outcomes, while remaining more strategic in their actions.
If the distress is something that can be controlled, such as an impending job lay-off, what optimists will do is take charge, this by finding out ways to solve the problem, this both cognitively and emotionally.
They’ll immediately start looking for a new job, tightened their budget, while asking their social network of friends for help.
For sudden uncontrollable setbacks, such as a serious health issue, they’ll use problem focused coping, while keeping their negative emotional responses in check.
What they’ll do is seek out emotional support. Some may turn to faith if they’re spiritual, when attempting to accept their altered state of life. What they’ll do is face their challenge head on, while not attempting to run away or avoid the problem.
Optimists Focus On The Future
Once there’s any type of adversity, what’s needed is controlling which areas to focus on, this when working through the issue. What’s found is that what optimists will do, is display distinctive “attentional bias.”
They’ll focus more on the positive aspects of the bad situation, while avoiding the negative outcomes, even if it’s affecting them directly, such as the physical pain from a bone fracture, or the fear after a failed relationship.
The Eternal Optimist
If the optimist happens to have a chronic illness such as asthma, they won’t focus on the gloom of their illness, even if the symptoms worsen.
They’ll display diminished attentional bias on the issue, even if things go bad or an unexpected setback occurs. This is an adaptive stress response, that’s associated with being optimistic.
This also extends to the dynamics of daily life, where the thought is that optimists are more lucky, this because of their reluctance to dwell on their problems, or become stressed by them.
To Think Positive Thoughts
The biased attention that the optimists gives, the positive spin to the situation or quandary has two benefits, which are “sense making” and “benefit finding.”
What they allow for, is themselves to make complete sense of the misfortune which has occurred, and to form an understanding on why it happened to them.
For instance, after the sudden loss of a beloved parent, the optimist will think “that’s life,” or might ascribe it to faith or fate.
The other benefit is that it enables optimists to find something that’s positive and meaningful, this even within the negative experience, which will allow for personal growth, that can be somehow useful in the future.
After their parent’s demise, what they’ll become is more mature and insightful, while having a better more nuanced perspective about life.
Optimists Aren’t Dependent
Once faced with any type of hardship, whether it be a social relationship,, or from interaction which occurs from others, does is gives them peace, while realizing tangible sense on dealing with the setback. What this social support can become, is extremely powerful.
What research also shows, is that if the misfortune happens to be permanent or long-term, what optimistic people will continue to do, is adjust better towards their worsened or changed circumstances.
Those who aren’t as optimistic, need constant ongoing social support from friends or family, or professionally. They can’t handle it that well, even if the event happens to dissolve.
One study for those who’s been treated with a major illness, what was found was that social support only benefited those who had poor optimism, this to improve or adjust their outlook.
For those who were more optimistic, the additional social support didn’t have any effect or influence.
For those who have low optimism levels, receiving social support was associated with lowered anxiety, while those who were eternally optimistic, it didn’t matter if they received any type of support whatsoever.