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Stay Present and Positive

Aim for optimism and reap the benefits.

©iStockphoto.com/gocosmonaut

You can't simply wait around to get happy, just as you can't wish away boredom. Part of maximizing happiness is staying actively mindful of your circumstances and the power you have over your response to them. According to Daniel Gilbert, author of "Stumbling on Happiness," many people become bogged down in presentism, or the belief that current emotional states will persist into the future [source: Lambert]. In other words, people give up hoping for a silver lining or a bend in the road, when sometimes they just need to look a little harder for it.

Discovering the glass half-full can be challenging because not everyone is equipped with innate optimism. Martin Seligman, the pioneer of positive psychology (the branch of psychology devoted to figuring out happiness), maintains that people can actually learn the trait. Pessimists are more prone to overestimate the gravity of difficult situations and assume that its effects will echo indefinitely. Conversely, to practice learned optimism, people must train themselves to approach problems as temporary, solvable situations [source: Morris].

This kind of emotional resilience was also a common trait among the shining stars of the Harvard Grant Study. The men who could manage crises with a dash of hope and optimism fared better down the road.

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