My mother is addicted to Hallmark movies!

To put this into perspective she is a retired 68-year-old woman with an advanced degree, two kids, who had a 40 plus year career and every weekend when I visit she is watching a sappy story on the Hallmark channel. She immediately changes the channel when I come into the room to anything else and acts a bit embarrassed. I have reached out to my brother to see what his opinion was. Is she depressed or lonely; is there something we should do?

Looking back at our childhoods this obsession was not apparent. She went to Star Wars movies, TMNT movies, soccer games, football games, concerts, and supported every interest we had. Even now she will watch Adam Ruins Everything and Declassified with my brother and I. So when and why is there a disconnection from then to now?

I have always accepted that my mom was an optimist. Not an unrealistic one, but always the person that helped you to solve any problem to achieve the best outcome possible. Thinking back to times that were challenging she always tried to hide her sadness while I railed at the world and my brother ran through his emotions on the track. In our family reality, it seems that we represent the aspect of social psychology that reflects the optimism-pessimism continuum.

Blame it on genetics, social cognitive learning, or simply a bad attitude but my brother and I rarely see the bright side. We are not unhappy; we just don’t expect things to work out. When we focus on our goals and are successful we are often surprised. Bring in the optimist and we are forced to reevaluate our actual experiences. According to Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts “Optimism has little to do with the objective characteristics of the situation that can range from dire to ideal. Instead, optimism is a largely subjective perceptual phenomenon” (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 384).

The question now is how did she develop that perspective. I know enough about her life to acknowledge that it had sadness, disappointment, and tragedy just like everyone. No silver spoon, just a girl growing up in the 1960’s that saw the world change. She knows where she was for three assassinations and Kent State protests and will freely admit that the experiences changed her. Applying the learned optimism theory, I would say that it was through this time period that she developed and acted on the need to see positive change. She wanted to see a future without war, poverty, and racism and she believed she could do her part. And it would start with her through her interactions at home and at work. It was a choice she made. As things happened in her world she tried to understand who was responsible. Assigning attribution for the world’s problems was easy, and on a personal level, her reactions were the classic optimist; able to enjoy internal attribution when things worked out and external attribution when things happened that were not in her control. That skill would become very important as she raised her sons.

As the son of an optimist, and I am here to testify that I am lucky. Her optimistic outlook, while sometimes annoying, helped support us all. It gave us a counterbalance to negative experiences, it reminded us that we had strengths and weaknesses, it provided problem-solving skills and supported us emotionally through the years of teenage angst. Optimism taught us balance; we are responsible for ourselves, our actions and our reactions and what we don’t have, which is control of anything else.

So why does my mother watch Hallmark movies? I asked her. Her response is that they are a guilty pleasure. Problems are solved, love wins, people help each other, having and being a friend is important, and attitudes can change; basically, these movies are optimism in a two-hour dose. And the one caveat – love takes work (way more than the 2 hours allocated in the movie). If I have learned anything about what is important in relationships’ from my mother, it is that optimism is vital. And to answer my question to my brother “Is there anything we should do about mom?” the answer is yes, make some popcorn and watch a movie with her and sink in the optimism!


Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology (Second ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.




  1. Great post, Hallmark Movies are a way out for her. It provides comfort for her. For other people they have more serious vices such as drugs, and food addictions. In comparison to those, Hallmark movies do not seem too bad. Many other people choose harmful practices for comfort. As this chapter mentions we might even be in a relationship because we are attached (Schneider et al, 2012). We choose to stay in the relationship because it is comforting.

    My mother was very similar as she was always looking to be optimistic. She had many external factors as to why she is the way she is. We all do. She did not have an easy childhood and this led to wanting to give everything to her children so we can have everything she did not.

    Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381

  2. Lourdes Camille Gonzalez

    What an interesting post. I like the topic of optimism. Reading about your mom reminded me about my own mother. She was born in 1960 and the stories about her childhood and life are shocking to me. I have definitely lived in a different era and have been extremely lucky with the life I have had so far. Your post made question about my own mom’s personality; is she optimist or pessimist? I have seen her fight all life and her attitude is remarkable. If I would have to choose, I would say she is definitely an optimistic person. It is not like she does not have her down moments, because really, she is human after all. For some reason, this idea of optimism may sound like someone is unbreakable. That is why I like your conclusion. The fact that your mom is watching that kind of movies, does not necessarily mean she is depressed or lonely. I like that you not only reached your own conclusion, but also asked her directly. I too like happy endings, they are reassuring and hopeful. Sink in the optimism like you said because it may not be unlimited and that is ok.

    In terms of attribution of life situations, I relate to what your mom did. I think it may be like a defensive mechanism. One likes to take credit when things work out, but when they don’t, then is easier to look outside for some reason. Of course, there are more factors that determine if a person is an optimist or a pessimist. According to Seligman, attributions have three dimensions, internal and external like you discussed in your post; but also, stable/unstable and global/specific (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).

    It is interesting for me to think that most people have no knowledge of these theories and concepts. We can really apply what we learn from psychology courses to our life. But honestly, my admiration to those who persist with optimism in life, with the little moments, with determination and good movies!

    Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology (Second ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

  3. I think this might be one of my favorite blog posts I’ve read so far this semester! I love the way you show how much your mom’s optimism really shaped your life. It made me think about my own parents and their attributional styles and tendencies towards optimism and pessimism. My dad, for example, is a textbook pessimist. Like you mention about yourself, he never expects things to work out, good things are never internally attributable, but negative things always due to internal, global, and stable things. My mom, on the other hand, is definitely more like your mom. She always operates under the assumption that things are going to work out, and is quick to internally attribute good things and externally attribute bad things. Just by growing up exposed to both of these styles, I can so appreciate how beneficial optimism can be. According to an article in Prevention, optimism can even be better for your physical health, with studies showing pessimists die sooner of heart disease and other illnesses and have a higher likelihood of developing depression (Adams, 2016). This article also gives a whole list of things people can do to start becoming more optimistic. While changing our ingrained attributional styles is no simple task, it is definitely something that we all should consider thinking about. As you note that you are a pessimist yourself, do you ever find that this is something you consider working to change? Reading about positive social psychology in our text this week really reinforces to me the role the mind plays in so many aspects of our overall life. I guess it all just goes to show that we should take a page out of our moms’ books and look at things with a little more optimism! Thanks for a great post!

    Adams, J. M. (2016, December 7). 6 easy ways to be a whole lot more optimistic about anything. Prevention. Retrieved from

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