As the summer is coming to an end, I am thinking of back to school, back to busy work, no more long weekends, back to reality.
One of my goals in working with people is helping them feel better about themselves, exploring and adopting better coping skills in dealing with challenges of life, living as productive and full lives as possible. I cam across some material on Healthy Optimism and how it affects general well being , sense of satisfaction, self esteem and health.
The author is Tal Ben-Shahar, a Psychology Professor at Harvard, who coined a term “optimalist”. It means a healthy optimist. While most people would define optimism as being always happy, a glass half full, everything happens for a reason and for the best, healthy optimism is being in touch with reality and not deluding oneself, It is not always thinking that everything is wonderful.
An optimalist does not think everything happens for the best, but makes the best of things that happen. The urges to go through the following exercise, when making a mistake or feeling bad about something that happened. PRP. P stands for permission to be human and humans make mistakes, otherwise how would they learn? One can not always be on top of the game. R is reconstruction, which means carefully and systematically looking at what went wrong and what went right. Finally t her is “P” which is perspective, which is realization that in the grand scheme of things, this situation or mistake is not the end of the world and everyone is bound to make one at one time or another.
Being a healthy optimist does not mean shutting out or denying pain and sadness. The goal of therapy with pessimists or depressed patients is not to “get rid” of depression or sadness but to help foster good mental health through constructive skills, like PRP. The idea is to help people build on strengths rather then simply ameliorate the sadness.