Optimism: A Detour to Emotional Wellbeing

By Cindy Bishop on 09/16/2013
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end of road depression optimisimI watched a movie this weekend starring Jude Law who plays a psychiatrist. The third act was a little lame, but I’m a sucker for Jude Law, so I hung in there until the end even though you could see it coming from a mile away. The reason I reference this movie is there was a line Law delivers at one point that caught my attention.

At one point he tells his patient (who’s feigning crippling depression), “a famous psychiatrist once said, ‘depression is an inability to construct a future’.”

I don’t know if a famous psychologist actually ever said that — but the sentiment got me thinking about how hopelessness is often the kingpin to weight struggles. Fighting with our body, cravings, hunger, shame and guilt is only further complicated by the fact that living as a fat person isn’t something we’re willing to give in to when we look out over the landscape of our lives. So then what does the future hold if you can’t lose the fat?

In my work I speak to alot of women who talk about feeling hopeless around their weight. But most women acknowledge that feeling hopeful, genuinely hopeful, is a key ingredient to getting their heads back on track. So how does one do this exactly? Can one actually learn optimism?

Martin Seligman, PhD, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at University of Penn says the key is a meaningful life. One that isn’t so individually centered.

“Optimism is invaluable for the meaningful life. With a firm belief in a positive future you can throw yourself into the service of that which is larger than you are.”

In relationship to depression he adds, “Depression is a disorder of the ‘I,’ failing in your own eyes relative to your goals. In a society in which individualism is becoming rampant, people more and more believe that they are the center of the world. Such a belief system makes individual failure almost inconsolable.”

I’m interested to hear experiences you might have had (and are willing to share) where you successfully moved out of a pessimistic state to a more optimistic on and how you did it.

Here’s a quick 3-minute video from Seligman on Learned Optimism.

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