Contributed by Mary Kay Hafer, School Psychologist
(Adapted from the philanthropyinmotion.blogspot.com website)
Did you know that, besides being a month that honors peanut butter, the inventor of the parachute and the color purple, March is also National Optimism Month? I am not sure who makes up these national holidays, or who tends to celebrate them. However, this particular one seems to be much needed in our community, state and country these days. What with the poor economy, job losses, difficult school budgets and lots of additional household stress that is affecting so many of us, it seems like a very welcome relief to consider what being an optimist means and how it might contribute to peace of mind, as well as good physical and mental health.
This month could be a time for all of us to get rid of negative or intruding thoughts. Some people believe that optimism is an outlook on life that maintains that the world is a positive place, in general. Optimism strongly correlates with high self esteem (not to the point of conceit), psychological well being and better immune system functioning. There is much to be optimistic about in March. Yes, there will still be snow and ice, but there will also be the first day of spring,shrubs and trees starting to blossom (look south; see that faint green color on the birch trees?), summer birds returning, gardens to get ready, the prom to look forward to, and longer days in which to work and play.
Optimism takes work. Being pessimistic means you are stuck in identifying the problems over and over again. Being optimistic means you have to move forward and do something about it. This is good advice for both adults and students. It is so easy to get discouraged or even angry during difficult times. Why not try a different approach and see the benefits of being even a little bit more optimistic? Optimists generally believe that people and events are inherently good, so that most situations will eventually work out in the end for the best, if effort is added! They do not just go around smiling all the time. They get mad at times, too. However, they don’t get stuck in their emotions and they have been found to be better at doing one thing than those with a different attitude or outlook on life; they are better at problem solving. They move quickly from problem identification to problem solving. They believe that situations will work out, so they spend their time and energy on making these situations work, rather than focusing on their own emotional reactions.
As Winston Churchill summed it up, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. Why not live through this month as an optimist, seeing the glass half full, and see what positive changes may come to you as a result. Students, see the possibilities in you…WE do!