Why be Hopeful? Why be Positive?

Why be Hopeful? Why be Positive? ‘Cuz Psychology, that’s Why.

In our first post, we talked a lot about begin hopeful and staying positive, even faced with over-the-top bashing and hate on some of the things you love.  Hell, even if you’re the one doing the bashing, we think it’s pretty important to remain hopeful, and put out some thoughtful critiques so it can be done better in the future.  We also talked about how we want to build our lil’ community here.  Well, it’s time to back all that up with science.

The study of psychology has been a huge focus for both me and e-vaughn in our academic pursuits.  Aspects of psychology are also constantly present in our everyday lives, from personal love interests to managing office politics.  One of the reasons Social Psychology has such engrossing appeal is that it’s entrenched in nearly every conscious action we all take as humans.

After spending years studying social psychology concepts, it’s invigorating to take note of the hundreds of behaviors that exist in the normal course of one’s day that social psychologists have tried to explain one way or another.  While many social psych concepts can be used to influence human behavior in impactful, meaningful, and even enjoyable ways, much of what Social Psych encompasses is observational in nature. The idea is that with a focus on how humans interact — and why we do what we do — we can start to predict behaviors (with some degree of certainty and error anyway), and make more informed choices based on the normal outcomes.

We bring all of this up because it’s important to understand just why we’re about to (and will frequently) quote from articles and summarize various psych findings to back up many of the things laid out in our opening philosophy post for Hopeful Homies. Why are we so damn hopeful, and why do we strive to keep this blog hopeful too? Read on!

Why Hopefulness is Important…

Alright, so optimism vs. pessimism is a bit of a philosophical discussion in that it involves personal ideologies. In other words, “how one thinks and reasons”. Optimism and pessimism are sometimes thought of as ‘worldviews’. The worldview of your choice might change how you perceive and interact with people, how you tackle adversity, how you handle defeat, love, luck, politics, and general life.

optimist_pessimist

The ‘fight’ between optimism and pessimism – hopefully it’s a balancing act landing somewhere around hopeful homie

Some people think of pessimism as a way of ‘managing expectations’. While there is a LOT to be said about ‘managing expectations’, the oft-touted mantra of “I have low expectations so I’m never disappointed” that is tied to pessimism is actually kind of unhealthy. We’ll get to the actual health problems pessimists encounter in a bit.  First, here’s why being a pessimist can be a vicious cycle. Thinking things are shit and will continue to be shit might lead the shitty expectations to be fulfilled because of how you act on those expectations.  This is what we refer to as The Shit Cycle (see below).

expectations often beget reality, and that reality could be coated in a grime of icky unhappiness.

Let’s put it another way: expectations often beget reality, and that reality could be coated in a grime of icky unhappiness. This could be because the pessimistic mind framed it negatively to match its worldview – or, perhaps the pessimistic person actually influenced the situation due to their unconscious bias. This effect is commonly seen in schools, where teachers of either gender assume girls will do more poorly in math, thereby unconsciously treating them differently, and voila, the boys score better because they were taught or helped in better ways or were more adequately challenged.  You can see how this worldview leads to more disappointment and more resentment of the surrounding environment. It can also lead to less desire to explore outside of your comfort zone. And, crazily enough, it is actually physiologically unhealthy.

poopcycle

The Shit Cycle.  Not JUST the worst option on your washer/dryer.

Now we’re somewhat conflating optimism with hopefulness, but in practice, they’re pretty damn similar. Optimism can be defined in multiple ways, but one analysis of 53 different optimism-focused research studies defines it in two ways: (1) the inclination to hope and (2) the tendency to believe that we live in the best of all possible worlds (the latter is discussed at length by the German philosopher Liebniz and is most definitely focused on the ideological nature of worldviews, rather than practical applications.  Literature review studies like these are basically the Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes of research studies.  They overlook a huge chuck of commonly themed studies and pull out trends.

Spoiler alert: Optimism and hopefulness are pretty damn dope . Ya want bullet points? Here they are.

Physically, optimists tend to have:

  • overall better physical well-being
  • longer life expectancy
  • significantly greater chances of survival battling some various forms of cancer, and better health outcomes whilst battling AIDS
  • greater stress management and reduced cortisol levels

Mentally, optimism and hopefulness correlate with:

  • fewer depressive symptoms, much less suicidal ideation, much greater hope for the future
  • more adaptive mental coping skills and more effective processing of negatively skewed information
  • being less likely to “give up” on putting forth effort in life through a better problem solving capacity

We here at hopeful homies think these sound pretty sweet, so let’s keep digging. But first, because we’re optimists and positive thinkers ourselves, we’ll frame the remainder of these factoids through the lens of a hopeful homie (ie: optimists).

Likely due to the menagerie of delightful mental and physical boosts to one’s life, it’s no surprise that hopeful homies tend to have a better quality of life than negative nancies and negative neddies 1. Hopeful homies adapt better to unpleasant circumstances, and have better emotional regulation as they do it. That means that hopeful homies are bosses at managing the times they happen to be sad, and being expressive at times when they are happy.

Interestingly, optimists tend to trend towards abstaining from unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking, and heavy drug use, but hopeful homies recognize that there is a need for moderation (Check out our post about moderation of hopefulness!). In terms of a possible “win” for the pessimists, optimists are found to have less belief that they are at risk for potential ailments, which isn’t always a realistic belief. One would think that this would mean they are in turn inadequately taking care of themselves, but in actuality it correlates to having more physical fitness, well-being, and other positive behaviors. So perhaps that belief is grounded in an innate need to take care of oneself when one believes the world is “good” and “hopeful”?

We think all of these things are great and wonderful, and that everyone should probably be a lil bit more mindful in how we view the world (and we recommend y’all actually process some of these studies/sources a bit, ‘cuz they ain’t no fluff). But what does that mean for our blog and our community?

Well, it just so happens that socialness, community, and how we interact with each other is a HUGE factor in how hopeful we find ourselves to be, and what being an optimist is about.

How Hoping at Hopeful Homies Should Impact You:

Now, we’re advocates of being hopeful, and honestly think you (yes, you the reader) should ponder what it means to be more hopeful and what it can bring to your life. If you’ve forgotten, re-read the last section you likely skimmed over. It’s important. But what’s even more important for our community of gamers is how we treat each other and how we discuss games, media, and life.

Sure, hopefulness is good for your health.  But so is being social!  Psychological and physical well-being are connected with the social support we receive in life, meaning that interacting with people impacts both mental and physical health throughout our lives 2.  There are a ton of psych studies backing this up – peep em at the bottom of the article.  We’re sure the majority of you can agree that interaction online constitutes a fairly social involvement, and if those interactions remain positive, open-minded, or rewarding, many of us may find joy and good health in by keeping them going.

At Hopeful Homies, we’re asking all of you readers and commenters to help us lay the brick and mortar of an embracing and social community.

At Hopeful Homies, we’re asking all of you readers and commenters to help us lay the brick and mortar of an embracing and social community.  Become part of the conversation. Share your thoughts, express your voice, and consider the values in the thing you might find contention with. Build connections with like-minded folks, and let contrarian voices expand your views. We want you to participant in our discussions, and help us question our values in a respectful way. We want to push y’all to step outside your comfort zone and to challenge your views in finding value in things once bashed or hated. We want to stimulate engagement about all things videogame, media, philosophy, and much more.

Join us, homies. Leave some comments and holler at us!

TL;DR

Simply put, be a social, optimistic, hopeful but dutifully grounded homie. It’ll snag you some boosts in mental state, some buffs in physiology, some +1s in coping skills, some adaptability in managing stress, an extra bit of health bar, and an easier time staying connected with your friends and building communities. We here at Hopeful Homies hope to build a community, ya dig? Help us build it with your input, yo.

e-vaughn and Tom

References

  1. Ciro Conversano,1,†* Alessandro Rotondo,2,†* Elena Lensi,1 Olivia Della Vista,1 Francesca Arpone,1 and Mario Antonio Reda1“Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being – Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2010; 6: 25–29.Published online 2010 May 14. doi: 2174/1745017901006010025 <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894461/>
  2. Cohen & Syme, 1985; Eisenberger, Taylor, Gable, Hilmert, & Lieberman, 2007; House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988; Thoits, 1995; Uchino, 2009

 

 

 

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