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A Million Voices of Optimism

We ask people "What makes you Optimistic?"   One of our strategic goals is to stimulate and collect one million voices of optimism.

In this blog collection of optimism on the way to "A Million Voices of Optimism," members and subscribers of The Centre for Optimism can post what makes them optimistic and the answers from people they have asked. 

If you want to contribute to this valuable global resource, please email our COO Victor Perton for a free subscription or support our work by joining as a member.

  • Monday, March 29, 2021 6:11 AM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    As long as I can remember, I’ve considered myself to be two things: an optimist and a problem-solver. Neither happened by accident. Growing up in a social justice family, I learned these qualities (and so many others) from the extraordinary women in my life: a hardworking single mother. An aunt who lives out the importance and impact of public service every day. A grandmother who taught me to always try and make a difference — always, big or small — in everything I do.

    Especially since I became a mum myself in 2016, I’ve marvelled at how each of these women managed to live three distinct lives at once, juggling the demands of parenthood, professional success and public-minded activism. All parents — but mothers in particular — face enormous pressure to keep these lives separate from one another.

    In fact, it’s only really in the past year — since the Covid-19 pandemic collapsed all of our various lives and identities together — that I’ve realised ‘work-life balance’ wasn’t something the women in my family struggled with. It was a fallacy they rejected on its face.

  • Sunday, March 28, 2021 6:50 PM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    In the brain, people experience optimism about the future in two key areas: the amygdala, our emotion processing center, and part of a region called the anterior cingulate cortex that is involved in thinking about the self, reflecting on the past, and anticipating the future, particularly with an emotional lens.

    The opposite of hope is often thought to be depression, and interestingly, both of the brain areas activated during feelings of optimism are malfunctioning in people with depression.

  • Sunday, March 28, 2021 6:43 PM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    Negative emotions — fear, anger, disgust — prepare the body to fight or to flee through activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which narrows people’s focus and restricts our behaviors to those actions. Positive emotions, on the other hand, lower arousal levels, broaden attention, and increase creativity, which helps people be more flexible in their thoughts and behaviors.

    While some people are naturally more optimistic than others, you can train yourself to think more positively through the skill of cognitive reappraisal. During times of stress, this means seeing a threat not as an insurmountable problem but as a challenge to be solved. For example, many people have tried to see the bright side of the extra time spent at home during the pandemic, viewing it as an opportunity to learn a new skill or pick an old hobby back up. It doesn’t change the outcome of the pandemic, but it does make the best of a bad situation. Instead of being bored at home and lamenting the loss of your social life, you might have learned a new language or started playing the guitar again now that you have more free time.

    Southwick calls this type of reframing “realistic optimism.” “The realistic optimist basically has a future-oriented attitude and the belief that things will turn out okay,” he says. “The realistic optimist actually tends to see as much of the negative information that a more pessimistic person might, but they don’t remain focused or glued to this negative perception, and they have the ability to rapidly disengage, particularly from those negative perceptions that are not solvable. And they tend to be pretty darn good at turning their attention to solvable problems.”

    This type of cognitive flexibility is associated with activity in the prefrontal cortex, and stronger executive control from the region, particularly over the threat response triggered by the amygdala, is important for not letting stress and anxiety run wild. Chronic stress can damage the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, taking the brakes off of the brain’s alarm system and potentially leading to anxiety and PTSD. Having a stronger prefrontal network that can protect against this negative effect of chronic stress may help support resilience.

  • Saturday, March 27, 2021 11:05 AM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    BP: Despite its many dark recess­es, there’s a won­der­ful under­ly­ing opti­mism to The Slaughterman’s Daugh­ter. How impor­tant is the belief that good­ness will ulti­mate­ly prevail?

    YI: Actu­al­ly, I rewrote the end of the book after ini­tial­ly writ­ing a pes­simistic end­ing. Fan­ny resist­ed that end­ing and I didn’t want to get into trou­ble with her. She was right. She didn’t want to end like Anna Karen­i­na or Madame Bovary, even though that might very well have been the case for a woman like Fan­ny at that time. But since I’m not con­strained by the bound­aries of real­i­ty or his­to­ry, I want­ed her to suc­ceed in her crazy jour­ney, and this is where the term ​“his­tor­i­cal nov­el” is mis­lead­ing. Not because my aim was just to present an unre­al­is­tic fable or to inspire our imag­i­na­tion. My aim was to show how real­i­ty could be — how his­to­ry could take a dif­fer­ent course, and not only in the form of a mag­i­cal romance. I think that these are the roots of my infi­nite opti­mism, which is essen­tial­ly relat­ed to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of writ­ing, of play­ing with what is real, of rethink­ing the factual.

  • Saturday, March 27, 2021 6:52 AM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    “We’re thrilled to have Caroline Ndung’u Njau join the Children’s Minnesota family and bring her wealth of expertise to our patients and families. I’m confident that her optimistic leadership and deep commitment to health equity, diversity, and inclusion, and continuous patient care improvement will help us shape our future to better meet the needs of our patient families today and in the future,” said Dr. Marc Gorelick, president, and CEO of Children’s Minnesota.

  • Monday, March 22, 2021 6:09 AM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    Hanya Yanagihara wrote, "Let this be the case for all of us: May fatalism and distrust be replaced by optimism. May we remember that the future need not repeat the present. And may we remember, too, that many things can be rebuilt — and that even if the world that emerges doesn’t resemble the one we knew, it is up to us to make it our own."

  • Sunday, March 21, 2021 5:32 PM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    "Being an optimist doesn’t mean he or she only sees the good side of things. But there’s a considerable advantage of having seen the good side of things in life. You tend to find more of those things that you regularly focus on.

    "If you focus on thorns, you will see more of the thorny things or “problems” all around you. If you find those problems larger than they actually are, they will certainly turn out to be so.

    "I choose to find non-thorns in my mind and have lived my life this way. Sure, there have been many thorns along my path, but, I choose to focus on the beautiful rose instead."

  • Sunday, March 21, 2021 6:29 AM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    "In recent years, world renowned academics have been writing increasingly positive books about the environment. From Harvard’s Stephen Pinker and the Hoover Institution Bjorn Lomborg, to contributors and organizations like the Breakthrough Institute, a number of conservation-minded authors and academics are exploring optimistic approaches when describing or advocating conservation ethics and environmental practices."

  • Sunday, March 21, 2021 6:11 AM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    The birds are chirping, a warm breeze is blowing and some of your friends are getting vaccinated. After a year of anxiety and stress, many of us are rediscovering what optimism feels like. And the good news about an increase in available vaccines could not come at a more joyous time.

    Spring is the season of optimism. With it comes more natural light and warm weather, both great mood boosters, and some of our most hopeful religious holidays: Easter, Passover, the Hindu festival of Holi and Nowruz, the Persian new year that celebrates springtime and renewal.

  • Thursday, March 18, 2021 5:57 AM | Victor Perton (Administrator)

    “We are very optimistic about the near future. That optimism is based on our willingness to undertake the reforms necessary to rebuild a strong and inclusive economy that thrives in the 21st century. We are also doing our utmost to provide a sustainable, greener, and healthier future for our Filipino people,” Philippines Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said in his keynote address at the opening plenary of an ADB-hosted Southeast Asia Development Symposium.

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