This article is in our series about increasing happiness and life satisfaction. Many people with chronic pain can’t decrease their pain. So another way to live a more enjoyable and fulfilling life – perhaps even more important – is to increase the positive. That’s what we’ll look at in this series.
Let’s look at optimism.
Optimism about the future hinges on what’s called our “explanatory style” – what we believe the causes are of good and bad events.
Optimists believe there are permanent and universal causes for positive events. Optimists generalize positive causes and expect them to continue.
- The teacher liked my answer. It’s because I always work hard on my homework (permanent), and I always work hard in general (universal).
Optimists believe there are temporary and specific causes for negative events. These causes can be changed and they only apply to this one specific negative event.
- I failed the exam. It’s because I didn’t prepare well this time (temporary), or I had a hard time with just this section (specific).
Pessimists are the reverse – they believe there are temporary and specific causes for positive events, (The teacher liked my answer because he was having a good day today). And there are permanent and universal causes for negative events, (I failed the exam because I’m not very smart).
So first I’d like you to investigate your own explanatory style. Each day, take 2 events, 1 positive and 1 negative – and see what you’re thinking about the cause of the event. Look at both permanence (is the cause permanent or temporary?) and pervasiveness (is the cause universal or specific?). Next week we’ll look at how to change our style is we’re more pessimistic.
Your assignment: Evaluate your explanatory style for 1 positive and 1 negative event each day.