– PRAKRITI PRAKASH
Optimism is both underrated and misunderstood. Generally, it is believed that being optimistic involves being positive all the time regardless of anything. People think that it’s a superpower that only a few people are endowed with. After all, how can one stay happy and jolly all the time? Well, this is how the concept of optimism has been misunderstood for a very long time. It is not about forcing yourself to be positive all the time but setting a hopeful mindset. It is about inculcating an attitude towards life that seeks to look for the light at the end of the tunnel whenever things get grim. And in this time of the pandemic, optimism has become more relevant than ever.
What does it mean to be optimistic?
If you are someone who always tends to look at the brighter side, if you hold the notion of ‘tomorrow will bring something better’ very dearly and if you label your bad days as the days which gave you ‘lessons for life’ then congratulations! You are an optimistic person. Simply put, optimism is an attitude towards life and its daily events characterized by a sense of hopefulness for a positive future. Optimists, as opposed to pessimists, approach situations in a more productive way. They tend to seek learning experiences from hardships instead of surrendering in the face of adversity. They keep hope alive in themselves and avoid getting stuck in mistakes they made in the past. They let it go. They tend to move on with the lessons they have received with positive expectations for the future.
Optimism = Happiness? Not really!
However, it is wrong to equate optimism with happiness. Though optimistic people tend to stay happier, it is not true that they never feel the emotion of sadness. Being stressed and experiencing negativity is an inevitable part of life. This cannot be ignored. But being optimistic gives you the power to push through adversity. It has been scientifically proven that being optimistic helps maintain good mental health, and such individuals are less likely to fall into depression and anxiety. It teaches you how to be happy with what you have.
Optimism and Physical well-being
The benefits of optimism are wide-ranging. Not only does being optimistic ensures a healthy mental state, but it also plays a significant role in shaping our physical well-being. Multiple studies have proven that maintaining an optimistic state of mind helps in coping with many diseases including cardiovascular diseases and cancer along with recovering at a faster rate. Those who possess and practice optimism tend to live longer as opposed to pessimists. According to a study by the Association for Psychological Science, optimistic people tend to have a stronger immune response. The reason behind this is simple. Body and mind are interconnected. What affects one, affects the other. Therefore, having a positive mindset fosters a better recovery rate, strengthens immunity, and helps the body to cope in a better way when it encounters any sort of functional problem.
Mental and physical health in the times of COVID-19 Pandemic
In these times of pandemic, staying optimistic has become more important than ever. The plight of India is not unknown and people, especially paramedical staff and other frontline workers are experiencing excessive fatigue due to the overload of work. On the other hand, people are tired of being confined to their homes and it has become difficult to be positive. Pandemic has affected our mental and physical well-being equally and severely. Cases of mental and physical distress are skyrocketing. Needless to say, staying optimistic is the need of the hour. But how?
How to develop optimism?
Amid a pandemic, it might seem difficult and even ridiculous to try and be positive and optimistic. But no, it is neither ridiculous nor impossible. One can try to be more lively in these trying times which will surely end up cheering others in our social circle. After all, happiness is contagious!
Following are a few ways in which one can develop a sense of optimism. A note of caution: Be patient, good things take time to happen.
- Try on the ‘positivity lens’
The first step towards inculcating the sense of optimism involves forcefully finding the positive aspects in tough situations. Stuck in traffic (or in your house)? Try and find the things you always wanted to do in your free time but never got a chance due to your busy schedule. Listen to that podcast that you saved to your playlist long ago. Make new habits and spend more time with your family instead of with your dear smartphones. Try to look for opportunities in every situation. This will be tough at the beginning because you are rewiring the way you analyse every event. However, gradually, with persistence and effort, this will become a habit of yours.
- Acknowledge negative experiences
As mentioned before, being optimistic does not amount to having no negative experiences. There will be times when you will be unable to find any positive aspect. Acknowledge it. Admit that things went wrong and feel the pain. It’s okay when things do not go the way you wanted them to be. positive filled with uncertainty and you have got to deal with it. However, one must not stop putting effort. The pandemic has thrown multiple negative experiences to different classes of our society. Students, doctors, daily wage laborers, housewives, elders – no one has been left untouched (Not even our NGO which had to transition to full online mode in the wake of last year’s lockdown). However, one must not stop, neither has doctors nor has SKCF. Remember, persistence is the key!
- Let it go
Once you feel the pain, learn to let it go. Do not hold on to your negative experiences for long because holding on turns them into scars that sometimes last lifelong. It is in our hands to feel the pain and move on. Avoiding pain, as mentioned earlier, is not the solution. By acknowledging that you got hurt and then letting it go, you complete the process. And that’s how one can rejuvenate the hope for the future. Whatever happened, happened. Breathe and let it go. Hold your head high with the hope of a better future.
So let’s try to be optimistic as much as possible. Let’s learn to acknowledge the pain and let it go. Let’s inculcate a positive attitude towards life. Let’s spread smiles as SK Children Foundation does. We are spreading smiles and happiness by educating hundreds of students around 10 cities of India along with our food distribution drive in Delhi to ensure no one sleeps hungry in the capital. We didn’t stop in the wake of the pandemic nor should you.