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Cultivating Optimism

In the current global climate, it's undeniable that we're traversing some tumultuous times. World events or current circumstances can make it challenging to envision a brighter future or discern pathways to improvement. Yet, hope serves as a crucial beacon, not only for happiness but also for our mental well-being. Thus, I've found myself pondering how we can foster optimism amidst the prevailing bleakness.

Dacher Keltner, a distinguished psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, introduces a straightforward metric for gauging our happiness—the Jen Ratio. This ratio comprises a simple fraction: the tally of negative occurrences observed, like selfishness or hostility, forms the denominator, while positive occurrences, such as acts of kindness or generosity, constitute the numerator. Consider this in ordinary scenarios like commuting to work—count the instances of aggression or frustration versus those that are considerate or generous. Keltner suggests that a higher Jen Ratio reflects a more humane world, which he correlates with greater personal happiness.

Through my own experiments with calculating the Jen Ratio, I've realized that the outcome is heavily influenced by where I direct my focus. When I actively seek reasons for gratitude, negative events may evade my attention. This reinforces my belief that my happiness significantly hinges on my perspective. Naturally, this approach might pose greater challenges for individuals facing adverse circumstances. Nonetheless, how can we find motivation for positive change without nurturing an optimistic mindset?

I don’t recommend that people stick there head in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong in the world. However, if you are feeling pessimistic, anxious, or somewhat hopeless, it may be time to limit your exposure to the negative input you are experiencing.  This could include reducing the amount news you watch, read or listen to.  As much as possible you may want to reduce the time you spend with overly negative people.  It is also helpful consciously look for things to appreciate and be grateful for.  When we reduce the negative influences in our lives it becomes easier to see the potential good in our future.  If we are going to find solutions to our problems, I believe it is essential to cultivate some optimism in our lives.


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