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Alix Bradfield on Optimism

by Alix Bradfield

Every week the news seems to more alarming and more depressing so how can optimism be an appropriate response?  

Last week, I participated in a Zoom seminar led by Victor Perton of the Centre for Optimism, ordered two books on the subject and have been thinking about it ever since.

If I asked each of you for a definition of optimism, I imagine I’d hear many different explanations and some queries about how being how a cheerful, rose-colored glasses perspective makes any sense when people are suffering.

Those are the questions I ask myself as I grapple with my own interpretation of the word.  I’d like to share some of the seminar quotes:

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” 
Helen Keller, author

“Optimism does not mean being blind to the actual reality of a situation.  It means maintaining a positive spirit to continue to seek a solution to any given problem.  And it means recognising that any given situation has many different aspects – positive as well as problematic.”
The Dalai Lama

“When you couple optimism with the courage to confront reality, it is a powerful force for change. “
Megumi Miki , Author of ‘Quietly Powerful’.

So I am pondering the idea that each of us radiating trust and hope may be a strong influence in others developing positive energy, confidence and purpose during this challenging time.   

I am considering how I might become a more realistic and infectiously optimistic individual.

In my decades of counselling, I had a perennial question: what mysterious ingredient is involved  when two people have experienced a similar catastrophic accident resulting in the loss of their legs, where one gave up any desire to live while the other went on to join a paralympic team playing basketball in a wheelchair. 

 A dismal, hopeless view of the future leads to our feeling increasingly disabled so I was interested in the suggestions gleaned in the seminar about how to be more optimistic, no matter what the circumstances, if that is a choice we want to make and if we separate what must be accepted and what is in our control and therefore what we can work out how to change.   

This was after the citing of much research on the better health and longevity of optimists. Some things we can do:

  1. Surround ourselves with optimists;
  2. Limit the amount of daily news we choose to absorb;
  3. Remember the Gratitude Journal, writing down 3 things each night before bedtime and then making sure to read these in the morning.  These do not have to be major!  We may have enjoyed a walk in the sunshine or smiled with a grandchild showing us a present on Zoom, or been grateful for the ability to buy fresh produce.
  4. Practice smiling like an Optimist.  This is infectious.
  5.  Remember quiet, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, gentle background music , singing to ourselves– whatever lifts our mood.

Fear and fatalism in these dark times are as transmissible as the virus itself. 

Each one of us has the power to energise others, even with smiling eyes over a mask to a stranger in the street. 

I hope something in these words might add to our energy. 

August 2020

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