Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Keeping a Positive Outlook on Life

In my last post, I mentioned Richard Davidson’s how we use the six emotional styles in reacting to life changing events. I discussed resiliency, and explained how we can build our resilience for a happier life.
This time I’d like to discuss outlook, which is number two on Davidson’s list.
You’ve heard the old clichĂ© about some people seeing the glass as half full, others seeing it as half empty. That is our emotional outlook simplified. Some of us see the positive while others dwell on the negative. This is guided by our hormones, our upbringing, even our lifestyle.
A positive outlook is essential to our well-being. Negative people attract more negativity. It’s difficult to be around someone who is constantly bemoaning his situation. Negative people tend to avoid change and refuse help. Many people with a negative outlook on life believe they are powerless and that no matter what they do nothing will make them happy.
Someone with a positive outlook on life accepts change and finds a reason to accept it. They understand that with change comes growth, and that the situation will rectify itself once they can get a handle on it. They feel that the power is either in their own hands, or in the power of a higher being.
I have met both types of people, and it is tough being around a constant pessimist. The pessimist would rather complain then make a drastic change. Perhaps because he is fearful of making a wrong choice. Or maybe she feels no matter what she does, things won’t change (powerlessness). But the change must come from within, especially when a circumstance beyond our control presents itself.
I found a lovely site that explains much more than I can here about negative outlook. Please check out the “Types of Negative Attitude” section, as you will either see yourself or someone you know on this list:
So, how do we change our outlook if we see our world as a cup half empty? According to author Lizette Balsdon in her list of “Ten Steps to a More Positive Life,” we need to stop dwelling in the past, learn to forgive, and stop criticizing others. (
Easier said then done, obviously. When we are hurt by someone else’s actions, that pain stays with us for a long time. Oftentimes until the day we die. Betrayal is a difficult situation to overcome, and anyone who says that they have completely forgiven someone deserves a medal, because that is one of the most difficult things to do. There must be a reason to forgive someone. And that’s where the healing starts.
For example, when I was in the seventh grade, others picked me on so badly that I was physically ill every day, and I had two breakdowns in the middle of school and was sent to the school psychologist for evaluation.
Twenty years later, I forgave the kids who did this to me. Yes, it took that long. I’ll tell you why: because I thought it shaped me as a person in a negative way. Over time I realized that although it was a negative experience for me, it helped me develop a deep empathy for others. It also taught me about social norms and expectations. It deepened my understanding of human psychology. All of which I use when I write my young adult novels.
I found the positive in the negative, and I was able to let go of the anger. I even had a dream where I told my bully, “I forgive you.” It was as if a thousand pounds of self-hatred was pulled from my heart and sent out into the universe. Because it wasn’t the bullies I hated…no. I disliked myself for allowing the situation to happen, even though at the time I felt powerless and confused.
Unhappy people blame others, point fingers, compare themselves to “lucky” people. Happy people look inside themselves for change, learn to understand and accept their limitations, and find ways to better their lives.
A positive outlook is essential to one’s well-being. If you are a naturally pessimistic person, this won’t be easy to achieve. You may need to find a trained therapist who can help you through difficult transitions in your life. If you are unhappy, you need to make a change whether it is in yourself or outside influences. But don’t sulk waiting for something to happen. Take charge of your own life in a positive way. Do it now.

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