My husband is an optimist. Last year was the toughest year of our lives, but mostly his. He had an open heart surgery and unfortunately he suffered a stroke as a complication. He has come a long way since then and is recovering well with a few hiccups here and there. However, 99% of the time he has been upbeat and always sees the silver lining in everything. I attribute much of his recovery to his attitude. I don’t know anyone who had to endure such tragedy yet come back winning like him. As Schneider et al. (2012) state that optimists make external attribution for bad events. That’s what I think my husband does. He didn’t blame himself or anyone for the surgery and the stroke. Instead, he attributed that to a situational occurrence that while he can’t change it, he can recover from. On a tough day he seems to always find a way to tilt the balance and make optimism outweigh pessimism, something that I still have to learn (Schneider et al., 2012). Affleck, Tennen, and Apter’s (2001) study suggests that the day-to-day levels of happiness of people who suffer from rheumatoid, arthritis, asthma, and fibromyalgia are positively related to their optimism (as cited in Schneider et al., 2012). Additionally, Affleck et al. (2001) assert that optimists can regulate their moods better than pessimists (as cited in Schneider et al., 2001). I found this to be true with my husband. Not that he is never sad or discourage. He is at times. However, he acknowledges his feelings and attributes his sadness and discouragement to external events such as lack of sleep, dehydration, a tough day at the gym, etc. Thus, he constantly teaches himself to be optimistic. Furthermore, he also seems to have mastered the art of problem-focused coping which refers to engaging behaviors that target to correct the stressful situation that is perceived to be controllable and amenable to change (Schneider et al., 2012). Everyday, he focuses on what he can control, his recovery, and let go of what he can’t control, his stroke. More importantly, he is surprisingly really good with emotion-focused coping as well, as he is actively doing everything he can to regain his emotional stability back. Emotional-focused coping is a behavior and cognition that does not directly address the source of stress but targets to reduce an individual’s level of emotional distress (Schneider et al., 2012). He meditates, does yoga, and listens to music to divert and reduce his emotional distress. All of these help him, and in turn help us, cope with our misfortune and make us appreciate life and each other even more. Whenever we are down, we spend time counting our blessings, which are fortunately in abundance, and disputing our misfortunate, which luckily are very few, similar to what Schneider et al.(2012) suggest. We have learned first handed that optimism will take you far and at times it’s the only thing you have left. So, be an optimist. If you are not, the good news is that optimism can be learned and with enough practice everyone can master it. Become one.
Schneider, F.W., Gruman J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Second Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.