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Being Optimistic through Adversity

Updated on April 24, 2016
Creative Commons License
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People who are optimists manage to maintain a positive outlook, even during the most difficult times. This does not mean that they avoid facing the problem and falsely believe in an unrealistic outcome, but rather they can view the situation while recognizing life's realities and limitations. Those who are optimistic are more likely than pessimists to be active problem solvers and to seek information that can help them through such difficulties. They do not give up at the first sign of a setback or escape into defeatist thinking; instead they view obstacles as a message to try something different and learn even more about the situation. Optimists keep their sense of humor, plan for the future, and reinterpret any negative situation into a positive light. They are able to do this with the help of methods like these mentioned below.

1. Reappraise the situation.
There are just some things we can not control; we can not control things such as the thoughts or behaviors of other people, weather conditions or even a job loss due to downsizing. But you can control how you choose to view the situation.

The way you think about a situation provokes how you are emotionally affected by it. If you tend to believe that bad things always happen to you, that someone is out to get you, that you have bad luck. Then you may end up feeling victimized, helpless, angry, or defeated by the situation. These usually result in negative actions that further create negative reactions and situations.

Reappraisal of a situation by thinking the situation through at every possible angle can turn anger towards others into understanding, worry and fear into determination, and feelings of loss into views of opportunity. Gaining a more positive perspective can drive you to create positive steps, which in turn creates positive reactions and situations.

To sum it up, being negative creates negative situations that serve to hold you back, while being positive creates positive situations that serve to move you forward.

2. See the experience as a learning opportunity.
People who experience traumatic events or life-threatening illnesses may report that the experience made them stronger, more resilient, even better human beings who grew and learned from the event. It’s having this kind of attitude where the saying “what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger” is very well fitting.

Those who draw lessons from the inescapable tragedies of life and find meaning in them are far better off emotionally and physically than people who dwell on the negative aspects of the situation. They are the ones who thrive as a result of adversity instead of simply surviving and being pulled down by it.

The ability to find positive meaning and benefits even during the worst adversity seems crucial to the psychological recovery. This positive outlook can even slow down the course of serious diseases.

Some people emerge from adversity with newly acquired skills as they became confronted with perspectives (from the reappraisal of their position) from the situation that allowed them to learn something they had not known or even considered before. Others may even discover sources of courage and strength that they did not know they had.

3. Making social comparisons.
During difficult times, those who are successful at coping in difficult situations tend to compare themselves to others who they feel have it even worse than they do. This serves to make them grateful that things are not THAT BAD for them.

Others who are successful at coping may take an opposite approach and seek out the advice and support of others who have overcome their own misfortune, or join a support network with others who have overcome a similar situation. Doing so, is a way to gather knowledge and strength for coping, managing, or improving a stressful situation. If you have overcome or are working through a difficult situation yourself, sharing your own experiences of overcoming adversity to provide support to others during their own difficult times can also help you view your own situation in a more positive light.

4. Find the humor in the situation.
Humor does have benefits as a style of coping with stressful situations, as long as it is the kind of humor that allows you to see the silly aspects of the problem in order to gain a lightened sense or to gain better control over the situation. However, sarcastic, dark or hostile humor just tends to make matters worse as this is a negative form of humor. Remember that negative thoughts and behaviors result in more negatives, while positive thoughts and behaviors result in more positives. Therefore, people who can see the absurd or whimsical aspects of a bad situation will end up overcoming the problem better than people who give in to gloom, moping and tears.

5. Regulate your negative emotions.
Confess your deepest thoughts and feelings by writing them down; speaking into a recorder; or talking with a trusted friend, family member or therapist who will provide you with support. By getting your negative emotions out there, it allows you the chance to see the experience in a new perspective and to gain insight into the origins of your problems, as well as to let go of resentment, grudges, anger, and blame. But do not dwell on these negative thoughts as they will pull you down. Practice getting those negative feelings out, and then letting them go.

6. Take control of what you can.
Even if you are suffering from a medical or psychological condition, you can control what kind of treatment you gain. You are in charge of your well-being. So let the final say in these decisions be something that you feel will better your situation.

7. Practice Good Health Habits.
When people get overly stressed or ill they often stop taking care of themselves. Some of these ways are drinking alcohol or self medicating too much, not getting enough exercise, and not eating well. Taking care of you now is not only important for prevention of illness but also for your emotional recovery and physical well being. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you are more apt to physically feel worse, which leads to lower emotional stability. Be sure that taking care of your health, in the best way you can, is your top priority.

Realize that coping with stress does not mean trying to live without pain, problems, or losses, as these are simply inevitable processes of life. However, it does mean to learn how to live with the problems, work through them and make the best of the situation which allows us to grow and expand in life.

Slideshow - Defines being Optimistic


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