Is there cause for optimism?

Rudyard Harrison

I recently read No Time Like the Future by Michael J Fox.

Michael is funny, poignant, self-deprecating and brutally honest… characteristics that I find deeply compelling.

After living with Parkinson’s disease for thirty years, he continues to sound a clarion call for optimism.

Referring to 2020, Michael says: “As things stand now, there remains a level of suffering and fear felt by many people… As impossible as it is to imagine, there are fragments of hope in the wreckage.”

He remains open to the probability that things will get better in the future.

Reality does not need to be ignored in order for optimism to flourish. The trick is to recognise the challenges that reality poses without losing all hope for the future.

This illustration may help. Those who live with anxiety often have to remind themselves to refrain from catastrophising. Don’t exaggerate the size of the obstacles.

The old saying holds true, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill! In fact, in an age of instant communication this word of warning takes on a new meaning.

Don’t believe every word you read on electronic newscasts, and especially on social media.

Be selective and critical when choosing your information source.

Many years ago, Norman Vincent Peale promoted the “power of positive thinking”. The theory became very popular, but proved to have its limitations.

Nevertheless, it is a good place to start particularly if you tend to overthink everything. Spending too much time on the treadmill of negative thinking is exhausting and counter productive.

It may sound like an old cliche, but try to fill your life with gratitude. Find at least one thing in your life for which to be truly grateful.

Thinking about those worse off than yourself is not necessarily helpful. Your journey is unique and precious. Discover and grow your smallest seeds of gratitude.

Be like the four-year-old who gets up in the morning and says “good morning, God”, not like the forty-year-old who struggles out of bed and says “good God, it’s morning!”

It is difficult to plan for the future, but you can learn to take better care of yourself one day at a time. There’s little value in always placing others first if you are neglecting your physical and mental health in the process.

Make time for yourself. Spend time alone. Do at least one enjoyable thing every day. Don’t isolate yourself. Breathe. Sleep. Walk. Read. Eat to live, don’t live to eat…

Lose yourself in a good cause. Maybe a neighbour needs help with her shopping or a lift to the doctor’s rooms?

Maybe a friend in hospital or a retirement home needs a visit? Perhaps you can volunteer at a shelter or a feeding scheme? Concentrating on helping others for a few hours a week can increase your supply of optimism.

Last but not least, try to spend time with optimistic people. Few things depress me more than listening to negative people prattling on and on.

Usually, it’s about the latest threat from the Covid-19 pandemic or the perilous state of our country’s economy.

Most of us can do nothing about these things, and worrying about them diverts our attention from doing something about the things that we are able to change.

In the final analysis, hold fast to anything that will support your spirit of optimism.

It may be a faith in the God of your understanding, a belief that the universe is unfolding as it should, a carefully considered philosophy of life or simply a faith in the basic goodness of humanity.

And never forget to retain a strong faith in your own ability to conquer.

“Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

Shalom! Rudyard