Five Ways Pessimism Can Harm You, And Five Ways To Cultivate Optimism
Pessimism is a tendency to assume the worst and focus on the most negative outcomes of situations. A pessimistic person may lack hope and confidence and retain doubts about the future, even if there isn't a reason to have these doubts. In some cases, they may struggle to see positivity in others, themselves, or the world.
Some may defend their pessimistic personality traits by speaking about incidents in the past where they perceived that these traits helped them. They might say, "Expecting the worst made me pleasantly surprised when it didn't happen." While this outlook may apply to some situations, some situations can be worsened by a negative mindset or a lack of motivation. For example, you might expect to hate an activity and refuse to put the effort in, not immersing yourself in the possibility of enjoyment.
Understanding how pessimism can harm mental and physical health can be the first step to deciding to opt for a more optimistic mindset.
Five ways pessimism can be damaging
Pessimism can negatively impact different areas of life, including relationships, work, social situations, and self-fulfillment. If you think you may be a pessimist or are close to someone who is, below are five ways this mindset may damage your mental and physical health.
A pessimistic attitude can hurt your relationships
It can be challenging for optimistic people to maintain a relationship with a pessimistic person. Chronically pessimistic people may struggle to trust their partners. As a result, pessimists assume the worst in others, sometimes making unfair accusations and fabricating ideas supporting their pessimistic viewpoint.
It may also be difficult for pessimistic people to plan for the future because they may expect the relationship to end. Having hope for the future can be difficult if you're in a relationship with a pessimistic person. Others may want to know where the relationship is headed and discuss happy ideas instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario.
Pessimists may also struggle to show their true emotions, refraining from letting others know how they feel to protect themselves from assumed future hurt. Pessimists may believe working on relationship difficulties is pointless because they assume it won't work out. To an optimist, this lack of motivation may be seen as a lack of love or care.
Pessimism can harm your physical health
Scientists have long established proof of a mind-body connection that ties thoughts to physical health. When you have a pessimistic attitude, it may hurt your physical and mental health. The behavioral ramifications of pessimism may harm health. For example, studies have found that pessimistic people are less likely to diet, exercise, or see a doctor when they experience symptoms of an illness. They are also more likely to smoke.
One Finnish study connecting pessimism to physical health followed over 2,000 people over 11 years. These people were initially given six statements to rank related to how much they thought the statement applied to them personally. There were positive and negative statements. At the end of the study, 122 people had died over 11 years from coronary heart disease. The researchers considered diabetes, smoking, and other risk factors and determined that those who scored highly in pessimism were twice as likely to die of heart disease.
A pessimistic mentality can hurt your career
A pessimistic attitude can be a drawback in the workplace. Studies have previously tested the differences between a pessimistic and optimistic attitude in the workforce, proving it more beneficial to have an optimistic attitude in your career. Pessimistic participants were likelier to give up when they encountered a difficult situation at work, less likely to learn valuable lessons from their mistakes, and more likely to create unwanted workforce drama.
Pessimism can affect self-esteem and confidence
Pessimistic people may not only act pessimistically toward others but to themselves, too. Some people may not have been pessimistic initially but developed these tendencies and thought processes after experiencing hurtful situations. After constant disappointment or hurt by others, deciding that it's easier to expect the worst from the start may be tempting. To defend themselves from further pain in the future, a pessimist may behave in ways that backfire and hurt them even more. They're a "glass half empty" type of person.
Pessimism can harm your mental health
Although it isn't a mental illness, pessimistic behaviors may mimic symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Pessimistic thoughts are often unhealthy and can cause emotional pain. If you are living with anxiety, worry, anger, rage, or depression, speaking to a professional therapist may be beneficial to transform your pessimistic attitude. They can help you identify areas that are inciting your pessimism and help you overcome them.
Five tips for cultivating optimism
Even if it feels impossible, it can be possible to make a positive change in your life, regardless of how long you've been a pessimist. Becoming a more optimistic person can transform your mental, emotional, physical, and social health. Below are five ways to cultivate optimism daily.
Slow down and recognize what goes well
Slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings can help you see them as they are. Try to assign facts to situations instead of assuming the worst. Although a situation or environment may not be perfect, mindfulness can increase your appreciation for what is beautiful and meaningful in your life.
Focus on your successes
You might be distracted from what goes well when looking for challenges or ways a situation can go wrong. Each time you think about a disappointing scenario, think of two scenarios that went well during that day or week and why they made you happy.
Be honest about areas you can grow
While focusing on your successes is beneficial, try not to deny where you can improve. Everyone can make mistakes, so don't criticize yourself too harshly. Remember that you're human and that you can make healthier choices tomorrow.
Try to avoid ruminating about the future
A hallmark of pessimism is the tendency to worry about the future. Try to remember that the future isn't certain, and it may not be healthy to assume any outcome. Maintain a sense of hope and remind yourself that positive events are as likely to occur as negative ones. Building confidence through confidence-building exercises may also help you develop this skill as you learn to believe in your potential to succeed in your goals.
Communicate with someone you trust
Negative personal constructs of the world can produce difficult emotions. If you're a pessimist, you might believe you're alone. It could seem that no one understands your point of view or what you're feeling. In these cases, confiding in someone you trust about your efforts to improve your outlook may be helpful. Their support can remind you that people love you for a reason. If you don't have people in your life right now, consider making efforts to make new friends, date, or see a professional for guidance.
Build your optimism with a professional
Because of the potential damage a pessimistic mindset can cause, it may be valuable for people who identify as pessimistic to seek help from a mental health professional. However, although help is available, some people choose not to seek therapy. They might believe they won't be able to afford therapy or find time for it in their busy schedules. Others struggle to find mental health professionals close by. In these cases, online platforms like BetterHelp can connect you with a licensed, accredited therapist with experience treating challenges like pessimism.
Research shows that online therapy platforms can provide beneficial tools for those experiencing difficult-to-process feelings associated with pessimism. For example, in a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers examined the effects of an online psychological intervention on individuals described as pessimistic. Researchers found that the online treatment increased optimism, happiness, and self-esteem and could improve overall psychological well-being.
Online platforms allow individuals to remotely access valuable resources, such as interactive exercises, audio and video educational files, and counseling services, to help reinforce important concepts and ideas. In addition, online therapy is often more convenient than in-person therapy due to its cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and mitigation of perceived stigma.
What do you call an extreme pessimist?
Someone experiencing extreme pessimism may be called cynical by some people. There are ways to change an overly pessimistic attitude through greater self-awareness, which may be easier to obtain with the help of a counselor.
Should I be optimistic or pessimistic?
Aside from the emotional benefits of an optimistic attitude, research suggests that optimism may be physically beneficial. Research published by Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC News) shows that pessimism may lead to a lower life expectancy. However, pessimism doesn’t have to be set in stone; there are ways to challenge pessimistic thought patterns and develop more and more optimistic thoughts.
Can pessimists be happy?
A person who tends to be pessimistic can experience a change in perspective. This change may be easier with the help of a counselor who has experience helping people identify and challenge cognitive distortions. And even someone who tends towards pessimism can experience happiness at times.
Am I pessimistic or realistic?
There may be times when a person has a pessimistic view that ends up being true. However, pessimism tends to be more of an attitude or a pattern of thinking. A person who experiences this type of thinking may believe they are being realistic and following conventional wisdom, but they may be experiencing a cognitive distortion without knowing it. There are ways to address pessimism and experience a shift in thinking.
Can you be both optimistic and pessimistic?
A person can experience both optimism and pessimism, and this may depend on life circumstances. A person who tends to be optimistic may experience a challenging phase of life that leads them to see things from a pessimistic perspective, but this can be temporary.
Is it easier to be pessimistic?
There may be times when it seems easier to be pessimistic, but there is often an alternative perspective that might lead to more happiness and even better outcomes.
What do you say to a pessimist?
It can be challenging to know what to say to a pessimist. If you insist, your perspective may be considered toxic positivity. You can recognize their concerns as real, and when the time is right, you might consider presenting alternative opinions and possible solutions to their concerns. People are often more receptive to alternate perspectives when asked for permission to share ahead of time.
Do you ignore pessimistic people? why?
If someone experiencing pessimistic bias is affecting your mood, you may want to consider distancing yourself to some degree. All human beings can be pessimistic at times, but if someone is generally pessimistic and you don’t see a way to help them change, you might try to spend time around people who build you up. You don’t have to end your relationship, but you can make a decision that benefits your mental health.
Is it OK to be too optimistic?
While being optimistic can be beneficial in numerous ways, there may be times when it could be harmful if it leads a person to make a decision that leads to an unfavorable outcome. For example, someone may be thinking about an investment and have an optimistic view of the economy or other factors without having enough information, which can lead to a poor investment. It may be helpful to consider the possible outcomes of a particular situation and make a decision that reduces the risk of harm.
Who is happier, an optimist or a pessimist?
Research shows that optimists tend to be happier than pessimists, but this doesn’t mean they are always right. Someone with a pessimistic outlook can sometimes exercise caution, which may help them avoid consequences that could reduce their happiness. However, research on optimism and pessimism in society shows that there tend to be health benefits to having an optimistic attitude. Optimism can also affect how a person construes meaning in various life situations, which may have an effect on outcomes.
For more on optimism and pessimism, consider reading the following text published by Cambridge University Press: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics/article/abs/glass-is-not-half-empty-optimism-pessimism-and-health-among-older-adults/B570AC8D001189B45E34B0B6A28C1940.
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