How do you stay optimistic when life seems to be a catastrophe?

Victoria Medvedeva
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I am an MSc student in Psychology and Learning Sciences at Ludwig-Maximillians...

We can distinguish two types of catastrophes: the real one such as war, becoming a refugee, a severe illness of a loved person, etc. and a superficial catastrophe which we tend to create for ourselves without any decent reason for that, such as meeting multiple deadlines in a rush because of procrastination earlier, or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend who you were dating for a few years and so on.

To target ‘catastrophe’, it is important to understand where does this feeling come from. There are two main sources of them: cognitive biases, which include attentional bias (noticing only very limited amount of information and mostly the one which is fresh in our memory), memory bias (remembering something we are frequently in touch with or exposed to) and interpretational biases (interpreting things from own perspective which is not necessarily objective, e.g thinking of event, such as taking a flight, as threatening and dangerous); and mass media which is playing on our cognitive limitations. Media mostly portrays the negative events of the world avoiding good and uplifting news, This is done for a reason – to catch our attention easier. As a result, if mass media is the main source of information, it leads to a skewed perception of the world. This guardian article explains the effect of media on our perception of the world very neatly, and I would definitely recommend you to read it. Besides biasing our views of the world, media also alters our perception of our own problems, in other words after hearing a lot of negative news, our own problems can seem to us more grandiose, even if they are not (Davey & Mitten, 2016).

Nevertheless, the historical practice shows that some people manage to stay strong and positive even if they had to go through really tough situations. While others become discouraged even after small failures. So how do you stay positive and optimistic when life is tough? The answer to this question lies in a research of positive psychologists.

The suggestion, on how to achieve this optimistic state is not a rocket science, and you might have heard them already, however, this is something that has been tested and retested in research. They sound to be simple, yet, maybe not so easy to implement.

  1. Firstly, having a purpose in life, helps you going through difficult times or situation. Having a clear understanding why you are doing what you are doing or suffering for, gives you strength. As Viktor Frankl, a famous positive psychologist who was sent to concentration camps during the World War II, describes in his books, the thing that kept him strong during the hardest time in the camps was love to his wife, and his infinite desire to see her. This purpose helped him to survive.

  2. Secondly, looking for benefits. Even when everything seems to be pretty drastic, it still worth searching for the goods, there is always something. It can be extremely hard and you may fail but you have learnt something, you gained experience, you may have started a completely new life. Any situation still has something good and positive in it, but you need to be open to see and accept it.

  3. And last but not least, staying present in the moment and meditate. The research has shown that being present in the moment makes you happier, even if you are doing routine tasks and, I guess, you can imagine how great is the value of the awareness and presence in truly precious moments. Unfortunately, all the technologies which surround us are both used and abused. You probably can quite easily remember the moment from a meet up with friends and how often you or your friends were checking the phone, such behaviour distorts attention and makes us less attentive to friends or any other activity you are doing, moreover, a constant urge to check the phone is one of the sources of anxieties, so it is worth knowing and being conscious about own behaviours. Meditation is one of the routes to achieve awareness of the present moment. It helps the mind to be clearer and more focused, as well as it makes it more flexible (e.g Hinton and colleagues, 2013). Both behavioural and brain imaging studies show that meditation has a positive effect on a brain and subsequent behaviours in people who are living an urban busy lifestyle and on those who are going through difficult times (e.g. Keller and colleagues, 2006).

If you are looking for some advice on how to change your life to become a happier person, this blog is a good starting point. It gives practical suggestions which are supported by scientific research but all written simply and easy to understand and implement.

Other than that, it is important to remember, that majority of our ‘catastrophes’ are not catastrophes but rather some challenges which can make us stronger once we overcome them. What seems to us as a catastrophe today, may not even be remembered in a year. In fact, things are better than we think and when they are not, it might be a trigger to take action.

13 марта 2017  · < 100
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Tala Trista  · 42
About? About me? Well that is a complex answer. I change with every new...
Catastrophic or in a depressive state? Life is full of heartache and hardships. Life is full of change and lessons learned, often the hard way. We lose people we love, we lose things we value. All of these things are guaranteed to happen. It's how we perceive them that makes or breaks us. Even in the darkest, lonely moments, there is beauty. It can... Читать далее
18 июня 2017  · < 100
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What exactly will climate change mean for Britain?

Jim Dale  · 17
Meteorologist, founder of British Weather Services, former Fleet Air Arm meteoro...

It’s already meaning something: take the floods in Cumbria last year. Temperature records are being broken, both minimum and maximum, and it’ll increase in both directions. Maximum temperatures are caused by more energy being released into the atmosphere, which will deliver potentially greater storms, and carry greater amounts of rainfall, so expect more floods and greater wind damage.

The extra degrees of temperature ignite greater energy – if you warm something up, the molecules move faster and more unpredictably than if they are cold and slowed down. The different is manifest, look at boiling water against cold water. It means there is far more activity in the atmosphere, and more unpredictability in the weather, and weather forecasting, as these systems will do their own thing, given they have all this extra energy. Like anything with more energy, it fizzes, and will go off in all directions that you might not expect.

"Temperature records are being broken, both minimum and maximum, and it’ll increase in both directions" 

A rise in temperature doesn’t mean you won’t see snow, because when it comes, it will be potentially deeper because there is more energy in the atmosphere. So, we’re talking extremes of all sorts, like more tornados here.

Of course, climate change has happened before. It’s a long, ongoing exercise, but we’re talking here about man-made changes, and we have the pot boiling faster than it would ordinarily on its own. It’s already having a massive effect in terms of economic, and then political ramifications, because it will affect people more and more. You talk of migrants; if you’re in the wrong part of the world where the weather changes such that you’re suddenly a desert because you no longer have water – or there’s too much because you’re an island in a flood zone – those people will need re-establishing somewhere else, as climate migrants. That will happen in the future, for sure, and then the walls will go up, and all the rest of it, because some people don’t give a damn.

"You talk of migrants; if you’re in the wrong part of the world where the weather changes such that you’re suddenly a desert because you no longer have water – or there’s too much because you’re an island in a flood zone – those people will need re-establishing somewhere else, as climate migrants"

The wrong person has arrived in American politics regarding climate change, if he carries out his threats to tear up the Paris agreement, to explode America’s coal fields and start up the furnaces again and re-establish them for the blue-collar workers. It may all be electioneering rubbish, but at the end of the day, if he does, he’s rowing backwards 30 years just at the time that the rest of the world is steering forwards, like China and India are running with climate change. If Trump had been around 300 years ago, he’d have believed the earth was flat.

8 декабря 2016  · < 100

What actually happens to your body when you get drunk?

Reader in Alcohol Policy and Mental Health Studies, University of Greenwich...

Actually, it’s not so much what it does to your body; it’s what it does to your brain. But let’s look at the body to begin with – and there’s two things that are happening here. Firstly, alcohol is toxic, it’s a poison and it is dehydrating the body and brain – that’s the main thing.

Secondly, alcohol is also a diuretic. Putting all that liquid into your body makes you want to urinate. So you lose body fluids quicker than you would do normally. Again, it basically dehydrates your body. This has two further consequences: the blood sugar drops and the electrolytes in the body, such as Sodium and Potassium, can become unbalanced. If unchecked, these can be life-threatening.

"One of the reasons we become sick when we drink alcohol is our brain has told us that we’ve got too much poison in the brain, and it’s asking us to please get rid of it."

One of the best ways to minimise the impact of being drunk is to alternate your drinking. Have a fruit juice or some water. If you do that, the impact on your body won’t be as bad as just drinking alcohol.

But alcohol is toxic, and if you drink enough of it it will start to shut your organs down. People do die of alcohol toxicity. One of the reasons we become sick when we drink alcohol is our brain has told us that we’ve got too much poison in the brain, and it’s asking us to please get rid of it.

Alcohol is generally a sedative. And so it should – should – sedate you. But most of us don’t experience alcohol, at a small level, as a sedative. The reason for that is because of a concept called expectancy. We expect to have a good time, and if you expect to have a good time with alcohol you will have a good time.

"If you feel good about taking alcohol, you’ll have a good experience. If you feel bad, you’re unlikely to have a good experience."

We have learned about alcohol through our own experiences, and also what we’ve been trained to expect through our family experiences, the media and other places – in short, most people have learned that alcohol is a pleasurable drug. This basically informs how we’re going to feel and how good we are likely to feel. The bottom line is that if you feel good about taking alcohol you’ll have a good experience. If you feel bad you’re unlikely to have a good experience.

Responses to alcohol such as feeling sad, happy, aggressive, sexually aroused and so on are to do with the psychological make-up of the individual in question. All alcohol will really do is exacerbate what somebody already does or feels. So if someone is habitually violent then alcohol will probably facilitate that. The phrase In Vino Veritas – in wine life – is often used. It’s not that, but it is something similar. Essentially what it does is allow someone to be more of their true conscious and sometimes subconscious selves. Drinking will accentuate what you are feeling at the time.

The other thing to take into consideration is what is happening around you. If you’re around people who might be considered risk averse they are likely to ensure the environment remains safe. Equally, if you’re with another group of peers who are more likely to get into trouble, they might be risk takers and thus the environment may become unsafe. So all those other issues have to be taken into consideration when considering how and why people react to alcohol in the way they do. Alcohol is just part of that bigger picture.

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Who is the most successful live act of all time?

Editor of IQ Magazine, the essential information resource for the international...

I would say it’s a toss-up between U2 and The Rolling Stones – but the Stones edge it. They were forced into because, historically, their record deals were not great and so they had to go on the road to make any serious money. They are the ones who have perfected it and now we are at the stage where every time you go and see the Stones you wonder if this will be the last time they’ll tour. Every tour is the farewell tour.

It is incredible that they are still out on the road. They are also a genuinely good live band and they’re also a band that you know exactly what you’re going to get when you go along. They’re not going to play most of the new album – which you’ll get with just about every other band. They are iconic rock stars and you know you are going to get a good show.

If you compare them with U2, you need to remember that U2 used to make huge losses on their tours as they had become so extravagant. It wasn’t until a few years ago when they pared it all back where they started making money from touring. Those kinds of tours will have a couple of hundred people on the road. So that’s 200 salaries and 50 trucks on the road.

Festivals will often tell you that they are not in the business of making money on the bands – they make money selling beer and hotdogs. Equally bands will make money selling merchandise. I have heard of one major pop star who played Australia a while ago but the cost of shipping the production there was so high that they still lost money on a sell-out tour. That shows you, when you add bells and whistles, how quickly the costs can escalate.

How can I make myself stick to good habits?

Rhona Clews  · 32
Health and confidence expert, mentor and coach, practising EFT, NLP and...

It can be challenging to stick to New Year’s Resolutions so distilling them down into goals is a more achievable approach – especially if you write them down. Research has found you’re 42% more likely to stick to a goal if you commit it to paper. Writing out your intentions is a really good way of grounding the process and getting very clear on what you are aiming to achieve. 

"Research has found you’re 42% more likely to stick to a goal if you commit it to paper."

Keep it simple and succinct and be realistic. You may feel like everything needs an overhaul – the habits, the gut, the job, the love and social life – but it’s better to make one change at a time rather than overwhelming yourself with plans that you can’t stick to. As you integrate the more positive behaviours into your life, you will feel encouraged and can set further goals as you progress. 

A major weapon in the battle to kick or start a habit is identifying another person that you can be accountable to. Choose someone supportive and kind who will cheer you on rather than criticise you. You might want to pair up with someone who is trying to reach the same goal, whether that be starting swimming weekly or quitting smoking. In that case, pick someone reliable. Or at least ensure that you will continue regardless of your buddy’s levels of commitment.

Identifying what might take you off track before you get there will also strengthen your resolve. Ask: what are the situations or triggers that could potentially knock me off course? Where do you foresee yourself getting tempted to either avoid new healthy behaviours or return to self-destructive ones, for example, if you are quitting refined sugar, when do you most feel tempted to hit the biscuit tin, and what can you do instead? 

"Keeping a diary is a simple way of recording your progress enabling you to see how far you’ve come already, keeping you on track and motivated."

If you’re trying to quit smoking and are aware that smoking tends to accompany alcohol, avoid booze too for a while. You can then reintroduce when on more solid ground. If you tend to gorge on snacks when you’re watching TV, switch it up, listen to music or ring a friend. If you do find yourself straying off track don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead resume the good habits as soon as possible. 

One way to stop yourself straying is acknowledging how far you’ve come. Keeping a diary is a simple way of recording your progress enabling you to see how far you’ve come already, keeping you on track and motivated. Rewards are important - consciously identify how you will reward yourself for reaching a particular marker – new clothes, a massage, more vinyl - choose a treat that will acknowledge your dedication.

Are the russians too stupid to see that putin is a dictator?

Евгений Г.  · 2,2K

Some of them, not sure about majority. A lot of people just think "Ok, he is a dictator, but what's wrong with this?" He is a good czar in their minds

They don't see any problem in a dictatorship while they can get stability and satiation in exchange for their freedom.

Really, there are some reasons for it - the most democratic years in Russia were also the years of famine and the heyday of crime, when millions of people had lost everything they had and what they hoped to.

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