Are we eternal optimists?

Almost three years into the pandemic, things are finally looking up. A worldwide survey has shown that despite the economic meltdown, disruption, and lost opportunities, the youths in general are more optimistic about the years ahead. The better news is India is one of the countries where the majority is still hopeful about the world around them. One reason may be our age-old belief in the principle of “saving something for a rainy day“. Another, and the most potent one, in my view, is that countries like ours are more accustomed to facing diverse challenges on a day-to-day basis, as compared to their counterparts in first-world countries. Therefore, they are more resilient in the face of adversity. Nevertheless, our very own Indian philosophy of accepting fate to be an integral part of life’s journey might have come to aid at such difficult times.

Let me walk you through the path of optimism. There is ample evidence shown by the think tank operatives to prove that sheer hope provides strength and succor to people. It serves as the heart’s balm in a dark time. This is why there was a surge in booking tickets for flights and trains for long-distance travel as soon as the covid protocols were slackened. People started spending more on leisure and travel, eating out, parting, and meeting their loved ones on every possible occasion. Don’t you think that the very zeal for life made people pull through this turbulent period? Ordering digitally, and paying online saw a sudden uptake. Didn’t the trend also indicate the eternal optimism of humanity that never stopped celebrating life? With all its tribulations, the pandemic taught people the need for pause, the value of family, collaboration, the importance of hygiene, and the need to maintain mental equilibrium, a hard way.

Now, the century-old epochal debate is if being eternally optimistic makes people overconfident and unrealistic. Across the fields of education, psychology, economics, politics et al, studies have proved that optimism is one of the prime keys to achieving success. On the psychosomatic plane, it’s observed that optimists are less prone to freak out. They are better romantic dates, and more likely to get better jobs and promotions. They also have a probability of longer life spans, and they are better athletes.

However, the pessimistic theory promulgates the idea that humans are pessimists by nature. But I think of it as a different coping mechanism. Always being in a state of alertness or stress may be wired in our genes. Our ancestors, the cavemen always remained in that state since they had a perpetual threat of wolves or other wild creatures lurking behind every other stone in and outside their caves. But, if fear and dissatisfaction with the present condition is the source of pessimism, the same source has prompted men to discover new things that eventually changed their life for the better. Here the former segued into the latter for an improved life.

If we scroll through the history of mankind, we will see the very longing for “the good old days” had always been there. We, humans always thought about our posterity. This sometimes sounded like pessimism. Like, while using technology we pondered on how it might affect negatively human employment. But that didn’t stop us from being hopeful about the future. Time and again, studies have shown us that optimism promotes more confidence, better health, better sleep, and less depression and anxiety. The good news is being hopeful is a skill and can be acquired with practice.

So, the takeaway is hope begets optimism. Strive to be an optimist who learns from their mistake and is never afraid to fall again. Practice gratitude by counting your blessings. And lastly, as Hellen Keller, the eternal optimist said,” keep your face to the sunshine, you will never see a shadow.”

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