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A Day in the Life

The Return to School

 - a cause of moaning or of celebration? It depends on your point of view of course.  That is the point - perspective. 

Facts are facts, circumstances are circumstances. But the same facts and the same circumstances can be viewed in different ways. The optimist and the pessimist live in the same world, but research shows that one is generally much happier than the other, and curiously, likely to remain healthier than the other (1).
On average, optimists appear to be more successful, healthier, longer living, less likely to suffer from depression and less anxious. 

It was once thought that we were born optimists or pessimists, but this turns out to be only partially true.  Seligman discusses the inheritance of optimism and pessimism in twins acknowledging that although there is clearly a genetic component, environment is at least 50% responsible for the developing attitudes of children(2). It is also true that whatever our genetic tendencies, we can choose to follow, or not, that inbuilt inclination. Interpreting the events of the day is a constant choice - and we can choose to be optimistic or pessimistic in our outlook. It is easier for some than for others, but it is always a choice.  There is a view that ‘optimists’ live in something of a dream world, and that ‘pessimists’ may claim to be ‘realists’ in a mean world. But choosing positively leads us to work for a better future, not because we are blind to a mean world, but because we want to help to make the world a better and more hopeful place.

So how can we teach optimism to our children?  We teach it first by living it - by choosing to interpret events in the best possible light. The glass is both half empty and half full. The facts are the same. But how do you choose to frame the world? How do your children see you framing the world? Second we encourage our children to speak and think positively, particularly about the future. We instil hope in our words and actions, we create an expectation that things can go well. 

Eric Idle’s “Always look on the bright side of life” may not be such a bad song to sing - go on sing a line …. Right now!!  and you may be singing it all day).

If you would like to think some more, you can listen to a podcast about fostering optimism & confidence in children here:

(1) Petersen C. Optimistic explanatory style and health p145 - 162 IN: Gillham, J.E, The Science of Optimism & Hope. Templeton Foundation Press, Radnor Pennsylvania. 2000.

(2) Seligman, M.E.P., The Optimistic Child. Houghton Miflin, New York. 2007.  p98