What is Pessimism?

By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

Pessimism is a tendency to see the worst or negative aspects of situations. Pessimists tend to believe the worst will happen and lack hope for the future. Much of pessimism revolves around perceptions, interpretations, and meaning ascribed to situations and events that take on a negative view. The classic example is seeing the glass as half-empty rather than half full.

Pessimism can develop to evolve from a few different sources and variables. There is some research that supports the finding that genetics may predispose some people to be pessimistic. Family upbringing and role modeling have also been shown to shape pessimism often by years of exposure to other people’s negativity. Other times pessimism can evolve from difficult life events such as failed relationships, employment traumatization, sickness, and other medical problems, or traumatic experiences.

The Impact of Pessimism

Not surprisingly, pessimism is linked to a number of negative outcomes. Many pessimists struggle with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety which are fairly common and even more extreme issues like suspiciousness, paranoia, and even delusional thinking. Medically, pessimism has been linked to sleep issues, hypertension, heart disease, inflammation, and problems with immunity.

Not all impact and outcomes are negative. Some studies find that pessimists can make better leaders. They tend to be resistant to propaganda and manipulation and can be better at igniting social change. A healthy dose of skepticism and pessimism can help people be more aware of red flags and threats. Others can leverage their negative outlook to motivate themselves to aspire to be greater.

How Can You Improve Pessimism?

One of the best ways to combat pessimism is to evaluate expectations. Often having unrealistically high or low expectations can be a setup for a pessimistic outlook. Having increased awareness of one’s thoughts and inner dialogue can help shut down and disrupt such thinking. The less a person reinforces negative thinking, the less pessimistic their global outlook. For others, it is important to make changes in their life and environment by reducing negative experiences such as distancing unhealthy relationships or moving on from a job they hate. Having healthy coping skills can help as well. Exercise, hobbies, activities, and socializing with friends can help deal with stressors that might otherwise fuel pessimism. You can also work on your thinking and conclusions. Look for the positives in difficult situations, focus on what you have to be grateful for, and make sure you are not turning molehills into mountains.

If you are interested in looking more at your thinking styles and patterns, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule a consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve

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