Does Optimism Lessen Anxiety?

With the reality of a new school year upon us, a number of students I see are understandably a bit anxious. They worry about their academic success, being accepted socially and, for those going off to college, leaving home.

And one of the things that I have observed is that anxious people tend to be pessimistic. They tend to think about everything that could go wrong in the future and see the worst aspect of situations. Unfortunately, if you are a pessimist, you might actually be worsening your anxiety. And, certainly, your sense of wellbeing.

And as Charlie Chaplin once said, “You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”

Now optimism, on the other hand, is an attitude of hopefulness, positive expectancy and confidence about the future. Can you become more optimistic? Martin Seligman and others in the field of positive psychology believe that optimism is a cognitive skill that can be cultivated.

Boost Your Optimism

One of my favorite tools to enhance optimism is the tool of Positive Future-Focusing. With Positive Future-Focusing, you purposefully shift your attention away from the present moment and, in your mind’s eye, fast-forward to the near future when things have worked out the way you want them to. By changing the envisioned scenario, you change the way your body and mind respond. Envisioning the experience of safety and relief cues your body and mind to shift away from fear and anxiety.

You can read more about this technique and many others in my new book, The Road to Calm Workbook.