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Optimism

Stress-resistant individuals develop the habit of perceiving and interpreting potential stressors in ways that give their life meaning and a sense of control. That is, they look for reasons to be happy and satisfied with life, imperfect as it is. They have become adept at turning lemons into lemonade and finding the proverbial silver lining in every cloud. There is a parallel between stress resistance and the quest for happiness. What makes people happy? Obviously, there is no easy answer to that question. Does money guarantee happiness? We all know of millionaires who are miserably unhappy. Does fame or success ensure satisfaction? What about all the movie stars who loathe their celebrity and yearn for obscurity? Does beauty make us happy? What about all the beautiful people who worry that they are appreciated only for their looks? Does getting a great job mean you will be content? What about all those stressed-out “success stories”? Clearly, your objective life circumstances do not define or ensure happiness or lack of stress. This is determined by your perceptions.

Happy people are optimists. Optimists tend to have lower stress levels and better coping skills because of how they perceive the world and their positive outlook. Optimists are not necessarily unrealistic or unwilling to accept or face negative circumstances; rather, they choose to focus on what is right rather than bemoaning all that is wrong. It is a matter of focus. They look for evidence that life is good and that they are doing all right. When misfortune strikes, as it does in everyone's life at some point, optimists recover more quickly because they find lessons in adversity that continue to give their life meaning. An optimistic world view naturally incorporates the stress hardiness attitudes of control, commitment, and challenge. In fact, one could define optimism as habitual reliance on the three C's, combined with positive expectations. Just as irrational or negative self-statements can create depression, anxiety, or other negative emotions, positive or optimistic self-statements can create and reinforce happiness and relaxation.


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