On the one-year anniversary of when most of the country went into lockdown, I thought optimism would be a good topic. Last week, I was invited to attend An Hour of Optimism hosted by the University College Dublin Alumni Group and was led by Noirin Mosely who got her degree from the University. Noirin is director at a non-profit organization based in Melbourne, Australia called Project Optimism.
Noirin started by discussing the difference between what we may be optimistic about versus what makes a person optimistic. The difference is external factors versus internal factors. I can be optimistic that the weather will start to warm because spring is coming but what makes me optimistic is a belief that good things will happen and that things will work out in the end. Noirin added that if things hadn’t worked out yet, you must not be at the end. I like that attitude.
In a number of studies on longevity, one trait that predicts life span was optimism and that those who are the most resilient tend to be optimistic. On the Project Optimism website, they advertise a course on the habits of an optimist and on that webpage, they note that “learning to think optimistically could help us experience life in a more positive and uplifting way.” The page includes a quote from the Dalia Lama “Choose optimism, it feels better.” There are a number of habits such as smiling and laughing more but the habit that made the biggest impression on me was an exercise noted by Martin Seligman, a psychologist who heads the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The exercise is called the three blessings and involves taking 10 minutes before bed to write down three things that went well for you that day and why you think they happened. They can be small blessings or big ones or just gratitude for something that happened. When you wake up the next morning, before you grab your phone and see the news of the day, read those blessings from the day before. It will set you in a good frame of mind for the day to come.
We can all find reasons to be pessimistic. Just read the paper or watch the news; but we can choose to be optimistic instead. We’ll feel better and it might just improve our health and hopefully the way we behave toward each other. Remember that if things have not worked out yet, it must not be the end.
This week’s selection is:
Dream of Italy (PBS or Prime Video)
With its mesmerizing landscapes, rich artistic treasures, deep ties to the past and warm people, it is no wonder that Americans dream of Italy more than any other destination in the world. Join Italian travel expert Kathy McCabe as she explores Italy. Meet the country’s colorful locals — chefs, artisans, historians — who are deeply connected to their land, celebrating its traditions and future.