Positivity and optimism as they relate to mental health

Kenneth Salmon (middle) shares something funny with his friends, Josué Vega (L) and Tyler Lindo (R). Monday, April 18, 2022.
(Photo illustration by: Xander Ordinola)
Kenneth Salmon (middle) shares something funny with his friends, Josué Vega (L) and Tyler Lindo (R). Monday, April 18, 2022. (Photo illustration by: Xander Ordinola)

Written by: Delaney Harris

Editor’s note: The following article is written by a counseling graduate student in partnership with Counseling Services and the Southern Accent.

What are positivity and optimism as they relate to mental health? According to an article published by the Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, optimism is typically recognized as looking at the best possible outcome in a given situation. The Journal of Counselor Practice states that positivity is looking at the good in any situation, even a “bad” one. Positive attitude plays a huge role in mental health. 

In an article published by the Journal of Social Psychology, author Shannon Moore states that your attitude impacts behavior towards a situation and decisions that you make, impacting the outcome of that given situation. The article goes on to say that attitude does not just impact you;  it also impacts whom you will select as a partner and the compatibility of that partner. 

Optimism itself has been referenced as necessary to survive extreme conditions, such as surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the article included in the Indian Journal of Positive Psychology. 

It is clear that positivity and optimism impact our mental health. This may seem challenging for us at this time of year. As the end of the semester has arrived, our routines are about to be broken. Our environment will change as we return to home or work away from campus, and our lives will be disrupted. 

This chapter in our lives may seem daunting and discouraging. It’s possible you are failing a class, or maybe you are dreading returning home and leaving the independence of college life. Maybe your friends live across the country, and you have to say goodbye. Or, perhaps you are graduating and preparing to embark on the challenges and changes of adult life. Either way, looking at the positive and remaining optimistic may determine the next chapter of your life. 

But how do we gain this positive perspective and optimistic attitude?

It starts with simple situations. Next time you are faced with a small disappointment, look at the positive. Maybe what’s on the menu at the cafeteria or the Deli isn’t what you had hoped to eat that day. Look at what is there instead, and find at least one good thing about the change. Maybe it starts pouring rain when you are trying to get from  Brock Hall to Hickman Science Center. Look at the beauty in the rain. 

As said by American writer Kurt Vonnegut, “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” 

By practicing positivity in the little things such as this, you will be able to gain perspective in the big things and increase your quality of life. Start today by looking at the positives in the little situations. Work towards the big situations, and see how your life changes.

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