Observing pessimists optimistically
I’m surprised that; humans (supposedly) have an inbuilt tendency to ♫ always look on the bright side of life ♫, according to recent scientific research. However, even if the researchers have identified an ‘optimism bias’ in the brain, that naturally rejects negative thoughts and resists accurate but unpleasant information about the world, why the hell are there so many pessimistic moaning gits about?
I’ve always had great difficulty understanding those who constantly live their life with half-empty glasses. They shuffle around with a furrowed brow and grey downtrodden looks across their faces. The weight of world problems fight for limited space, on their already overburdened shoulders attempting to support a myriad of personal issues. Put simply, they’re mostly unhappy being happy!
I believe the prominence for eternal pessimism in so many does little more than make us ill… According to the Institute of Mental Health… One in four people will develop a mental health problem at some point during their lives. Mental distress can range from mild depression or anxiety to conditions such as bipolar disorder (manic depression) or schizophrenia where individuals may experience psychosis.
Note to self: As Mental Health Awareness Week begins, and campaigners are targeting those who increasingly use clinical diagnosis terms to describe everyday personality traits (see here) – try to be guarded against cynicism or flippant metaphors and analogies.
Back to the topic at hand; science continues to back up the futility of our inherent pessimism in society. In 2006 the Delfland Institute of Mental Health, in the Netherlands, published the results of a study which showed; optimistic men were around 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease (see here). And, in 2009 an American study showed; women who are optimistic have a lower risk of heart disease and death (see here). What makes our pessimism even harder to comprehend is; Scientists at University College London have said that about 80% of people are actually natural optimists, even if they wouldn’t consciously label themselves as such (see here).
Science aside, and based upon my numerous years of social observation, I remain (mostly) sceptical of our propensity for the increasing mental health issues we (apparently) face in our society today. I would humbly suggest a route cause of our profound pessimism is actually fairly simplistic. It revolves around those nasty but unfortunately often inherent traits of greed and jealousy. All ably assisted by the constant media fuelled hype giving us unrealistic life expectations, along with those personal aspirations often inherited via peer pressure. This is all compounded by our usual failure to have any cognisance or real understanding of historical facts, ones that continually repeat themselves. With these impacting factors in place, is it really any wonder we are turning into even more of a manic depressive society?
Many would ask; how can I realistically look at things in a positive manner, especially given the crap sate of affairs we currently face? You can and should… During the recession of the 1980’s, the entrepreneur Sir David Tang suggested that Pessimism is the most serious cause for the global economic tsunami. A factor that is as true today as it was then…
It is only with a sense of optimism, preferably accompanied by a sense of energy and laughter, that we will ever be able to pick ourselves up from a broken Humpty Dumpty (Sir David Tang)
That said, the pessimism of one can be the optimism of another and, as the educated amongst you will know, Humpty appeared in Lewis Carroll‘s Through the Looking-Glass, where he discussed semantics and pragmatics with Alice. The word “semantics” itself denotes a range of ideas, from the popular to the highly technical. It is often used in ordinary language to denote a problem of understanding that comes down to word selection or connotation. The above happens to be my pragmatic idea about some of the problems we face.
Far too much of that which people are despondent about actually pales into insignificance in the bigger scheme of things. Make the most of what you have because you’re a long time dead and, irrespective of how pessimistically you view your life, I’ll continue observing mine optimistically!
- Brain ‘rejects negative thoughts’ (bbc.co.uk)
- You: Looking on bright side may not be such a bright idea (france24.com)
- Brain imaging reveals why we remain optimistic in the face of reality (eurekalert.org)
- Looking on bright side may not be such a bright idea – Big Hollywood (breitbart.com)
- Richard C. Senelick, M.D.: Is The Glass Half Full? Saying Yes Might Make You Healthier (huffingtonpost.com)
- Optimistic-ly Pessimist? (junezmusing.wordpress.com)