When the going gets tough — as it does for many in times of recession — the optimist often has the edge. The optimist is more likely to be able to motivate him/herself to get up and get going. Some people seem to be naturally more optimistic than others. It can be a personality trait, perhaps ultimately with a genetic basis, but with much to do with upbringing and past experiences of adversity.
The famous best-selling book, Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking’ has been criticised by mental health professionals for its insistence that simply banishing negative thoughts is the key to success and happiness. In fact, this can sometimes be harmful. Pessimism can also be a symptom of depression that requires professional help. However, if it’s the lesser problem of life threatening to get you down, there are a variety of self-help strategies, notably those based on cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT), that you can try in order to get back on track.
Be grateful for what you have, even if you don’t feel grateful for how life is currently treating you! A gratitude diary may sound schmaltzy, but its purpose is to train yourself to recognise that there’s an up-side. Each day for a week, note down five things you’re grateful for, no matter how small or trivial. It’s about counter-balancing tough circumstances by directing your thoughts along positive channels
Think about dark times in the past and how you got through them. Time may not heal all but it usually helps. Tell yourself that if you do the right things, chances are that matters will improve. Sometimes a pessimistic mood arises from impatience and the frustration of not being able to get out of a situation as fast as one would like.
Take a reality check. How appropriate is this prevailing failure of optimism? Are you doing everything you can to make matters improve? Sometimes pessimism is justified, not fust a negative attitude, and it can itself be a spur to vital action. Unrealistic optimism can obscure reality, whereas healthy pessimism can point you in the right direction. If your house is about to fall down, no amount of positive thinking will stop it; healthy pessimism may spur you on to make the necessary decisions (In other words, look on the bright side of pessimism!)