By Victor Perton, the Author of "Optimism: The How and Why?"
"Let us start each day with prayerful optimism," so commends The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Dr Alfred Adewale Martins.
There is a strong connection between religious faith, belief and optimism. The Dalai Lama for instance is a promoter of optimistic thinking and says “Choose optimism. It feels better."
Research shows that religious beliefs, prayer and practices like singing are related to greater optimism, higher life satisfaction, happiness, hope, purpose and lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Harvard Professor David Rosmarin and Director of the McLean Hospital Spirituality & Mental Health Program, recently wrote, “Across the gamut of religious traditions, spirituality can engender the perspective that things happen for some reason and serve a greater purpose. This, in turn, deploys our attention toward the potential for a brighter future, which can create a sense of optimism even when one’s situation seems dire."
Those who regularly attend religious services are more likely to have an optimistic outlook and a lesser inclination to have depression compared to those who do not attend services at all.
The rituals of services and mass can be calming. Religious observance can be joyful: Singing spiritual songs brings joy and a more positive outlook.
Attendance often involves meaningful social interactions like the Christian offering of peace during mass or communion service or conversations after the service.
This is not to say all religious practice lifts optimism: I have sat through some pretty ordinary sermons seemingly designed to make us feel guilty and sad.
There are some strands of mainstream religion which are dismissive of optimism maintaining faith and hope are more important. There are some who reject optimism in favour of hope. I don't believe you have to make that choice - the spiritual life and faith enhance optimism.
My friend Janine Kirk has some good advice for leaders in general and religious leaders in particular, “Without faith we have nothing, without hope there is nothing and without love we are nothing. Optimistic leaders create the conditions where faith, hope and love can thrive."
In one of his sermons "Why I am an optimist", the American evangelist Billy Graham quoted St Peter "We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
Billy Graham went on to say "I am an optimist not because I blindly hope - all evidence to the contrary - that somehow everything will work out all right. Nor am I an optimist because I believe in man's unlimited ability to solve his problems. I am an optimist ultimately because I believe in God."
Referring to the epistle, Australian Salvation Army Leaders Floyd and Tracy Tidd said Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is the power available to us who believe. It is a power that enables us to: Live a life of joy, victory, poise, buoyancy and optimism.
The Dalai Lama said, “Optimism does not mean being blind to the actual reality of a situation. It means maintaining a positive spirit to continue to seek a solution to any given problem. And it means recognizing that any given situation has many different aspects—positive as well as problematic.”
The Brahma Kumari leader Sister Jayanti told me, “Just as nature goes through its cycles, and day will definitely follow the darkest night, although there are many things that feel very dark at the moment, there is a conviction that light will not only penetrate the darkness but banish it - so that the day will begin. Legends and myths of every civilisation have remembered that the power of good ultimately conquers evil. This is the optimism with which I hold a vision for a better world.”
Experiment: If you have a belief in God and haven’t been to a service for a while, attend a service or mass in a nearby church, temple, mosque or centre. If the services include spoken prayers and singing, join in. If it doesn’t lift you, perhaps try another centre or ask the celebrant whether they have services that are more uplifting.
Experiment for religious leaders and celebrants: Deliver a sermon advocating optimism, faith and hope.
“I propose these three characteristics for your testimony at this time: honesty, responsibility and optimism. All three accompanied by discernment."
Billy Graham, Evangelist
- "I am an optimist not because I blindly hope - all evidence to the contrary - that somehow everything will work out all right. Nor am I an optimist because I believe in man's unlimited ability to solve his problems. I am an optimist ultimately because I believe in God."
- "Optimism and cheerfulness are products of knowing Christ. If the heart has been attuned to God through faith in Christ, then its overflow will be joyous optimism and good cheer. You will never be free from discouragement and despondency until you have been tuned to God. Christ is the wellspring of happiness. He is the fountainhead of joy."
Arfa Sarfaraz Khan
"I believe optimism is the strength for survival, so I try to stay optimistic. And my faith, Islam sees optimism as a strength and pessimism as a sin."
Sister Shivani, Brahma Kumaris
"Unconditional Optimism is the Soul of your Faith"
Craig Groeschel, Pastor
"Optimism is the unwavering expectation that our loving God is working in every situation for our future good."
“Optimism comes from hope, which is sustained by faith, and drawn from a belief in God’s Plan"
Sister Jayanti, European Director of the Brahma Kumaris
“Just as nature goes through its cycles, and day will definitely follow the darkest night, although there are many things that feel very dark at the moment, there is a conviction that light will not only penetrate the darkness but banish it - so that the day will begin. Legends and myths of every civilisation have remembered that the power of good ultimately conquers evil. This is the optimism with which I hold a vision for a better world.”
Charlie Hogg, Director, Brahma Kumaris
"Optimism begins at the core of my being. It is our natural nature when I am connected to my true self. The first relationship in life is with me. If this relationship is healthy, the mind creates an infectious perfume of positivity and a natural optimism that permeates the atmosphere and uplifts spirits. This is the leadership that emerges from who I am rather than what I know. This is authentic leadership."
Innocent Magambi, Author of Refugee for Life, Chief Executive Officer at INUA Consulting and Founder of There is Hope
"My faith is at the top. It is number one. That gives me the strength to keep pushing. Born in a refugee camp, I only heard my stories that my dad was doing well in Burundi before he became a refugee. But there I was, a refugee; I did not have shoes on my feet until I was 13 years old. So, it wasn't easy to reconcile. But with the faith, when I went to church, I heard stories of Israelites and many other prophets like Mohammed and other people who changed this world. So, I was like, "okay, the same God will change my life and will make me change the lives of other people."
"So, faith gives me the strength to push forward. Not only the faith, but it's also the small gains that I make in my journey as an optimistic person.
"Sometimes, when you have big dreams, you forget to count every small gain that you make. So, I have the habit of looking back and saying, "wow, I just did that. And that just did that." And to get that those small collective steps, small gains, they build up a library that I live on to say "If I was able to do that and that, and that this one I'll do it as well." So, in brief, that's where I get my optimism."
“Knowing that my soul is tied to the unfathomable loving force of God, which causes the sun to rise gives me hope. No matter what happens, the sun rises each new day, and my soul rises with it. That knowledge gives me optimism that never ends."
LaMonique Hamilton Barnes, Writer
"I believe what God says about me, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and He has plans for my prosperity, hope and future. I have no choice but to be optimistic, because I know this life is rigged in my favor!"
Nick Ryan, CEO of Lutheran Services Australia
"Some people say that optimism is Pollyanna naivety. I say that long before I arrived and long after I move on the work of Grace abounds. An optimist is one who is alert and expecting to see this dynamic in the midst of struggle, loss, boredom and even evil. The dynamic is often silent and gentle. But it is always there."
Nizar Juma, Kenyan businessman and founder of The Blue Company Project "focused on fighting corruption”
"Optimism? I was not born with it. For the early part of my life, I was a very intense, angry young man, full of stress. And it made life difficult for me because I managed so many things with anger and anxiety. Positiveness came much later to me. I found spirituality at the age of 48, and I think that spirituality brings optimism to your life. And I don't mean that you sit in a corner wearing coloured robes and sit in the lotus position. Spirituality is positive power. Positive power brings many benefits. I found that more and more and more, as I became more positive, I became more optimistic, enthusiastic about what I was doing. I now find that I cannot do it if I don't have a passion for something. I need to believe in what I'm doing. And once I believe, I become passionate. Once I become passionate, I become optimistic. And so I do lots and lots of things because I'm positive. I'm optimistic."
Sant Rajinder Singh
"It is important to be optimistic and adopt a positive attitude in life and on the spiritual path. It is up to each of us to choose an optimistic view of life, wherein we have hope and are open to possibility. As we go through life, we need to put into practice the words, ‘Yes, I can!’
"When we embrace an attitude of optimism, we are exemplifying a characteristic of our soul. Our soul is a part of God, and as God is the source of all optimism, this characteristic is also inherent in us. As we set forth with optimism, the ways and means of getting to our goal open for us.
"It all begins, as we take small steps to sit in silence each day and still our minds. Daily, we also take small steps to inculcate ethical virtues in our lives. Step- by-step, we lay the bricks of daily meditation and ethical living to build a strong foundation that will help us fulfil the goal for which we were sent to this world."
William R. Goldstone, CEO, Durban Institute of Technology.
“Optimism is in my DNA: I believe that God would never give me more than I can manage. I’ve managed a lot more than most over the course of my life, yet never can I recall a stage of being weary and or unduly exhausted - somehow, I was given this extraordinary boost that would see me through all difficulties to a positive end.”
Chuck Swindoll, Insight for Living Ministries
“When you have vision it affects your attitude. Your attitude is optimistic rather than pessimistic. Your attitude stays positive rather than negative. Not foolishly positive, as though in fantasy, for you are reading God into your circumstances. So when a situation comes that cuts your feet out from under you, you don't throw up your arms and panic. You don't give up. Instead, you say, "Lord, this is Your moment. This is where You take charge. You're in this."
John Lane, Operations and Compliance Manager at Mini Excavations
“Optimism defines Faith in your ability and the support of your work team and family. Optimism is the precondition of human success.
Rabbi Yoel Glick in "Spiritual Optimism"
"The spiritual life is about living with optimism; it is about living with hope and faith. The practice of religion should be empowering. Through our spiritual practices, we can join ourselves with our higher nature and become filled with the power of the Infinite and Eternal."
Eric Tjoeng, CEO and Business Stategist
Christalla Jamil, Headteacher, Eastfield Primary
"By having faith and helping others, my optimism grows because I am thankful. I try to surround myself with positive people, and whatever life throws at me, I seek solutions."
“What makes me optimistic? For me, there are a few things that all come back to the faith, that the majority of people in this world are good at heart, that the sun always shines above the clouds, that there will be a tomorrow, and whatever bothers me right now will pass at some point. Being optimistic is a mindset that each of us is free to choose.”
Dionne Gleaton, Journalist
"Trusting and believing and the Lord makes me optimistic and gives me the strength to face another day. Things may not be all right with the world, but I take comfort that he’s still the one in control. I appreciate the comfort that his peace brings me every day and despite what may be going on around me locally and around the nation, I am uplifted by his spirit. That is what keeps me optimistic."
"Don’t we have every reason to be optimistic? We have had our sins forgiven (Col 1:14). We have had the righteousness of Christ imputed or accounted toward us (2 Cor 5:21) and we who have repented and trusted in Christ have eternal life (John 3:16). This means that when Christ returns, we won’t have to face the so-called second death (Rev 20:14) and that gives believers every reason to have optimism about their future."
Jimmy Carter, American President
“My faith is the key to my optimism. It is important to understand what it means, because faith is involved in almost every aspect of our lives.”
Laurie Feingold, MSW, LSW, in "Meeting Patients’ Spiritual Needs in Oncology Care."
"Spirituality and religion instil people with a significant degree of hope and optimism."
Patrick Loh, Chief Leadership Coach at Knowledgeworks Consultants in Singapore
Terri Weems, Author
"Optimism is putting faith before fear."
Sue Doherty, then Mayor of the City of South Perth
"Faith is the foundation for my optimism"
Peter Baines, Founder and Director of International Operations, Hands Across the Water
"I remain optimistic because I have seen beyond the fear and into the soul, beyond the fear we fundamentally care."
Check out what’s new at Centre for Optimism
Check out our latest articles and insights to help optimism flow through your life.