For a big chunk of my life, I was a pessimist, hiding behind an arrogant cloak of proclaiming myself a ‘realist’. How about you? Are you the proverbial optimist or pessimist? Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?
Just to be clear, optimism is NOT about being a Polyanna. It isn’t expecting only good outcomes or good things to happen. It is about looking on the bright side when things go wrong or so-called ‘bad things’ happen.
What is realistic is that life includes both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. The tendency is often to fixate on the ‘bad’ and not even attempt to see a silver lining to events or situations we have deemed ‘bad’. This is a bit about personality but it is also a lot about learned habits. This is a new habit worth developing!
Why be optimistic?
I have been on both sides of this fence and unequivocally choose optimism. What’s in it for you to also make this choice? Optimism is good for our physical and mental health. Put simply, optimism interrupts a stress response and makes for a more pleasant ride through life! It will be particularly valuable as you care for your aging parents. As your parents age, and you project into the future, it can look like a future of losses and potentially difficult times. Optimism helps you see beyond and through this narrow view.
Here is an adaptation of a positive psychology exercise called Finding Silver Linings. It has been adapted to the specific context of caring for and supporting your aging parents.
Practice: What is another way I could look at this?
- Write down 5 things in your life that make you feel that your life is enriched, worthwhile, and enjoyable. Why is this part of the process? Because it will bring you into a positive state of mind about your life in general. Now you are ready to ‘practise’.
- Think about a recent time when something in relation to your parents went wrong or didn’t go as planned and you felt impatient, frustrated, or upset. If you can’t think of a time, then please tell me your secret(s)! Describe the situation in a couple of sentences (or longer if you are so inclined).
- List 3 ways some good came of this. Write these down, whether it is in a journal, on your phone, or computer—just write them down somewhere!
Here are a few examples:
You missed a doctor’s appointment
- We weren’t prepared anyways – we didn’t have a chance to write down/discuss our questions for the doctor beforehand.
- Wow…I’m really busy & have to look at ways of slowing down or get more help.
- The weather wasn’t that great – glad we didn’t have to go out in that rain!
- Peace of mind; I know they are being cared for 24/7.
- It gives me a bit of a break.
- It is an opportunity to have a family discussion about care needs.
My father had his driver’s license revoked
- Peace of mind; I know he and others will be safer.
- It gives his grandchildren a chance to drive him places; opportunity to bond more.
- There are lots of transportation options these days.
You can see how it really is a mindset, a way of looking beyond the initial “I wish that hadn’t happened.” Do you have an example of finding the silver lining in relation to something with your parents?