Scientists have proven that negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive ones. They refer to this as the negativity bias .

It’s just the way our brains are wired: we feel the sting of criticism more intensely than the joy of praise; we remember trauma more vividly than a happy event and we tend to dwell more on the bad things that happen to us.

With all this being said, it’s quite hard to be a truly optimistic person, but you can be somewhere in between — a realist.

Many people tend to think that realists are just as negative as pessimists. That realism is just a more acceptable term to define one’s negative way of looking at life. In order to prove that this affirmation is not true, we’re going to point out some differences between the two and give you some tips to prevent you from falling into the trap of pessimism.

So what is a pessimist?

Pessimism is defined by the American Psychological Association as “the attitude that things will go wrong and that people’s wishes or aims are unlikely to be fulfilled.”

A pessimistic individual tends to see everything that happens to or around them in a more negative way. Pessimists usually expect negative outcomes, they believe that happiness is just a myth or something that’s simply not meant for them.

They get suspicious even when things seem to be going well and they will mostly not lift a finger to change a situation they’re in, because they’re already used to being miserable.

What is a realist?

A realist is a person who accepts a situation as it is (good or bad) and is always prepared to deal with it accordingly. Realism is more about objectivity — a situation is not necessarily catastrophic, it’s just something that needs to be dealt with.

The main differences between pessimists and realists

To start off, the pessimist will always see that the glass is half empty and the optimist that it’s half full.  A realist will simply see that there is water in the glass and will probably be more preoccupied with filling it.

Realists don’t get too optimistic or too pessimistic about something they’re going through. Whenever something bad happens to them, they take a step back and assess their situation. Of course, they’d feel sadness or disappointment, but unlike a pessimist, they’d also try to find ways to snap out of those feelings.

A realist also remembers to be grateful for whatever’s left good in their life and hope for a better tomorrow. They balance the negative and the positive – “It is what it is…”, “Today was awful, but tomorrow I’ll be better” or “I’m going through a tough time, but I still have a lot to be grateful for”. A pessimist is just not able to see the good in anything as they are too busy drowning in negative thoughts.

When you train yourself to think in such terms, your entire emotional estate changes and you’ll be more able to focus on dealing with what you’re given.

How to avoid falling into the trap of pessimism:

1. Are you really as miserable as you think?

You know that feeling you get when you talk to someone about how bad you’ve been feeling lately and they answer with “Oh, you’re gonna be fine”? It can be really annoying. It feels like they don’t understand you or even care. But what if they see something that you don’t?

Your negativity about a situation can quickly extend to every aspect of your life. By dwelling on something that’s not going too well right now, you’re missing out on everything that’s still good. Since your friend is not directly involved, they can see that there are also good things happening to you. So why can’t you?

2. Remember that life’s not always fair

Wouldn’t it be great if we’d always get the results we think we deserve? Sadly, this doesn’t happen. Sure, maybe some people are luckier than others, but everyone gets harsh lessons from life every now and then.

Being more objective when it comes to the “fairness” of a situation will help you deal better with disappointment and frustration. The faster you overcome these feelings, the faster you’ll get back on track.

If you expect the world to be fair with you because you are fair, you’re fooling yourself. That’s like expecting the lion not to eat you because you didn’t eat him.

PAULO COELHO

3. Stop overthinking things before they even happen

It’s quite easy to get from “nothing” to “tragedy” in our heads. From “I’m so anxious about my presentation” to “That’s it! I’m gonna get fired!”. Imagine someone else is telling you this. How would you react?

If you have a negative thought about an event that hasn’t happened yet, stop right there! Get busy or try to think about something else. Dissolve that negativity before spiraling into additional thoughts.

4. It’s not a bad life

We get it. You didn’t get your dream job right off the bat and know you hate everything. Moreover, you start thinking that your whole life sucks because of this.

Take a deep breath and see things for what they actually are — a temporary situation. Be grateful that at least you have a job. Then take advantage of every day to build your way up and get the one that you want so much.  

5. Not everyone lets you down

The fact that some people have disappointed you, doesn’t mean that everyone else will. Assess your situation in more objective way.

Maybe you can avoid future disappointment by letting go of some of your current friends. Maybe your expectations are too high and people find it hard to meet your standards.

For example, if a friend tells you they can’t see you tonight, don’t start making crazy assumptions. It’s nothing personal. People can’t be available for us all the time.

To sum up…

As you see, you can avoid being pessimistic by accurately assessing your situation and simply deal with it. We know this is easier to be said than done, but start by taking baby steps. Eliminate irrational thoughts that deep down you know they’re only hurting you and prevent you from experiencing real joy.

Life’s not always going to be fair, but that’s just how life works for everyone. So do what you have to do to overcome today’s challenge so that you can enjoy the magic of tomorrow.

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