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Why Your Brain is Wired for Pessimism—and What You Can Do to Fix It

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https://www.gq.com/story/how-to-be-more-optimistic

gq.com

Why Your Brain is Wired for Pessimism—and What You Can Do to Fix It
We’ve evolved to expect the worst. Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist, explains why—and what you can do to get some optimism back.

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Elements of well-being

Elements of well-being

Well-being can be broken into five elements:

  • Positive emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

If you improve ...

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Pessimism vs optimism

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Visualize your best possible self

Studies show that imagining your ideal future can increase your levels of optimism. Focusing on your dreams coming true turn your focus away from worrying about the worst possible outcome.

Imagine your ideal life in 10 years - what it would look like and how you would feel. Spend time considering family, career, romance or health. Now write it down once a week for the next two months.

Accept disappointment

When we expect the worst, we might be trying to protect ourselves from disappointment.

Disappointments are inevitable. We might as well have positive expectations that are occasionally proven wrong than negative expectations that are sometimes proven right.

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Learned Optimism in Psychology

Learned Optimism in Psychology

This is a concept that suggests that we can always change our attitude and behaviour, be aware of our thoughts and stop our negative self-talk.

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Pessimism Vs Optimism

Pessimism is defined as the anticipation of good or bad things to happen in the future, while optimism is generally considered the opposite. Optimism can be defined as the individual difference variable reflecting the extent of which we hold positive expectancies for the upcoming event.

The ways in which we think affects our health, well-being and success, even though the situations are the same.

Benefits of Optimism

  • A positive impact on many aspects of physical and mental health.
  • Provides motivation to work harder.
  • Greater career success in life.

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Educate your mind to stop being unhappy

Educate your mind to stop being unhappy

Professions like the ones in accounting and law develop a sense of pessimism in the individuals practicing them. However, being obsessed with prudence at work and continue being like this at home i...

Remember the good

In order to be happy, you must first train your brain to perceive the good that happens to you.

One way to do this is by writing down three good experiences you live on a daily basis: appreciation comes from within, just like happiness.

Social comparison

While comparing yourself to others might not be extremely helpful, comparing yourself to people who are in a less good position than you might actually lead to you feeling better.

So, if you really feel this need, try not comparing yourself but to the ones in an inferior position.

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Concerns with positive psychology

  • There are worries about its replicability and unreliable self-reports.
  • Promoting material achievement as part of happiness can make well-being seem out of reach.
  • Positive psych...

Reasons for popularity

There is no major conclusion in positive psychology that has not been challenged, modified or even rejected.

Yet the fact that positive psychology is becoming more popular means that it gives hope, optimism and perhaps happiness to millions of its consumers.

The beginning of positive psychology

The story of positive psychology started just 20 years ago with Martin Seligman, head of the American Psychological Association. The idea he considered was: What if every person was encouraged to nurture his or her character strengths, rather than being scolded into fixing their shortcomings?

He reorientated the entire discipline of psychology away from mostly treating mental illness and toward human flourishing, then used his authority to promote it.

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The "kindness pandemic"

Viruses aren’t the only things that spread through networks of people. Attitudes and behaviors do too. And we should take advantage of it. 
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Spreading connection

70% of our happiness comes from your relationships with other people. And the social distancing situation has left some with zero people around them. 
So reach out. Extended time without social contact is bad: Send a text, make that phone/video call, anything you want to let people know you care and are thinking about them.

Spreading help

Ask people if they need anything.  There are people out there in need of a little more than well wishes right now. And when people see others helping, they’re more likely to help. 

Also, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

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Habits Of Supremely Happy People

  • They surround themselves with other happy people.
  • They cultivate resilience.
  • They appreciate simple pleasures.
  • They devote some of their time to giving.
  • They get immersed in activities that bring joy.
  • They nix the small talk for deeper conversations. 
  • They make a point to listen. 
  • They look on the bright side.
  • They make exercise a priority.
  • They listen to good music.
  • They spend time in nature.
  • They laugh a lot.

Not all biases are bad

We can become side-tracked if we are too preoccupied with mental errors.
Some biases are underappreciated but can be lifesavers.

Allergic to nonsense bias

When you are confronted with financial salesmanship, you are able to spot and avoid nonsense. Nonsense can be anything from overconfident projections to accounting gymnastics to fraud. 

What is common is a belief that the level of nonsense in a proposition should be proportionate to its marketing zeal. Skepticism, up to the point of cynicism around sales, can be a useful filter that saves you countless headaches.

Enjoyment bias

The enjoyment bias states that an inefficient investing strategy that you enjoy will beat an efficient one that feels like work.

The key to a lot of things in finance is maintaining endurance when there is a downturn. Loving the companies you buy or your strategies is a bias because it doesn't align with cold, rational thinking. But that emotional attachment to your investments keeps you playing during hard times.

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Burnout is not the same as tired

Burnout is job-induced depression.

When you suffer from burnout, 

  • you become chronically exhausted
  • you become cynical and detached from...

3 Secrets to avoid burnout

  • Be Optimistic. Confronted by a bad situation, optimists perceive it as a challenge and try harder.
  • Find Meaning In What You Do. When you find true meaning in your work — when it’s not a job, it’s a calling — you don’t burn out.
  • Double Down On Relationships. Those who increase their social activity when things get hard handles stress the best.

The fear of getting out of your comfort zone

The fear of getting out of your comfort zone

We are all afraid of new experiences, especially of the ones that require us to leave the safety of our comfort zone.

The way we react whenever this occurs has a big influence on how w...

Managing your mindset

There are two types of mindset: fixed and growth.

The first one can be met at individuals who believe that both success and failure are based mainly on innate abilities, which cannot be changed throughout one's lifetime, while the second mindset describes a person who is aware of the changes and improvements that the personal actions can bring.

What shapes our mindsets

Our mindset is said to be shaped by previous experiences as well as by a reward-based learning system.

Getting the necessary motivation while facing new challenges with a positive mindset can truly change your experience.

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Be a Professional Cheerleader

Charismatic people offer encouragement instead of skeptically listening to people’s goals and ideas. Find ways to encourage people while still holding them accountable:

Charismatic People Bring People Together

Charismatic people have lots of connections and share them regularly. Highly charismatic people are not only great at meeting new people, but also sharing their talent with their connections by introducing people who they know will get along well.

This quality is part of the reason charismatic people are such sought after connections; they spread their social wealth.

Likability is Key To Your Own Charisma

Likable leaders earn the trust of their team members and treat them well, and that makes the team’s performance better.

Teams with likable leaders tend to be more stable long-term because of lower turnover rates and are also better with changes since they are more likely to have employees committing to adopting to new ways.

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