Many people adopt an inclination towards defensive pessimism: prepare for the worse, hope for the best. To me this is a losing strategy. Events are neither good nor bad. It is our thoughts that make them so.
Defensive pessimism keeps us on the lookout for the negative. Seek and ye shall find. Being inundated with negative thoughts keeps us stressed which is not good for our health. Hoping for the best may sound fine but on closer inspection it has a pessimistic outlook built into it that is absent from expecting the best. Hoping acknowledges defeat as a real possibility. Expecting defeat too often creates defeat.
Mindful optimism is not burying one’s head in the sand with a certainty that all will be fine, but still helps us live in the moment without stress. Uncertainty is not newly upon us. Everything has always been uncertain. All is and was always changing but we may have felt we knew because we were oblivious to the inherent uncertainty.
We can worry or relax, and things can turn out good or bad. If we worry and everything turns out fine, we’ve stressed ourselves unnecessarily. If we worry and things turn out to be bad, we’re no more prepared for it than if we didn’t worry. If we relax and things turn out bad, we’ll be stronger to deal with it, and if it all turns out to be fine, we can continue behaving adaptively.
So, what should we do if we want to adopt a life strategy of Mindful Optimism?
Make a plan, such as frequent hand washing (which is always good) and engage in social distancing, but then go back to living fully moment by moment with the implicit expectation that all will be fine.
The Mind Research Foundation (MRF) was formed with an aim to support scientific research and application of ‘Mind and Thought Based Interventions’ for enhancing the mental wellbeing of the community at large. The third wave approach in behavioral and training / developmental interventions makes awareness and acceptance, the key factors rather than just negative thoughts. They abandon the old concepts of traditional CBT informed by developing research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience and welcomed concepts of metacognition, acceptance, MINDFULNESS, personal values and spirituality into the existing CBT. The focus shifted from elevating the psychological/emotional symptoms which was now considered to be a “side-benefit to “holistic wellbeing”.
3rd wave therapies are not just a deviation from the original cognitive behavioral therapies but an addition to the same. Ellen J. Langer, Harvard professor of Psychology in her book Mindfulness, states that mindfulness helps us to break the routine and other automatic behaviors which leads to pain, error and predetermined course of action of life. Mindfulness helps to ‘develop mindsets of categories, associations, habits of thought born of repetition in childhood and throughout schooling.’
In our surge for finding Thought Leadership in Mindfulness Approaches and way of Living the Leadership Team at MRF was fortunate to find a Mentor and Thought Leader in Professor Ellen Langer
Dr. Ellen Langer, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and the first female professor to gain tenure in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. She is the author of eleven books and more than two hundred research articles written for general and academic readers on mindfulness for over 35 years. Her best-selling books include Mindfulness; The Power of Mindful Learning; On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity; and her most recent book, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. Her recently published book, the Wiley Mindfulness Handbook, is an anthology on mindfulness in which leading researchers integrate work derived from her western scientific theoretical base of mindfulness with research on eastern derived forms of meditation.
Dr. Langer has been described as the “MOTHER OF MINDFULNESS” and has written extensively on the illusion of control, mindful aging, stress, decision-making, and health. Among other honours, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Distinguished Scientist Awards, the World Congress Award, the NYU Alumni Achievement Award, and the Staats award for Unifying Psychology.
The citation for the APA distinguished contributions award reads, in part, “…her pioneering work revealed the profound effects of increasing mindful behavior…and offers new hope to millions whose problems were previously seen as unalterable and inevitable. Ellen Langer has demonstrated repeatedly how our limits are of our own making.”
Dr. Langer has been a guest speaker all over the world, including Japan, Malaysia, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Switzerland, Argentina and China. Her websites can be found at www.langermindfulnessinstitute.com and www.ellenlanger.com.
She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Dr. Langer is a frequent speaker on mindfulness at academic, professional and public events. She is also the founder of The Langer Mindfulness Institute, and is a gallery exhibiting artist.
Dr. Langer is also the Founder of The Prestigious Langer Mindfulness Institute. The Langer Mindfulness Institute focuses on three main activities:
The organizational consulting work focuses on Mindful leadership, innovation, mindful strategy processes, and work/life integration. Work has been with companies such as THORLO and Santander Bank as well as NGOs such as CARE, Vermont Energy Action Network, the Federal Aviation Administration, Intel, and Florida Power & Light. In 2014 two Langer Research Institutes were established in China and in India (In collaboration with The Mind Research Foundation). An Institute in the Berkshires, Massachusetts is also planned for 2018
The Langer Mindfulness Institute’s trainings, workshops and retreats are facilitated by an experienced and diverse team of “players”. Experts in all the domains of life including wellness, art, writing, gardening, business and personal development, the faculty are all lifelong explorers of how to live a mindful life. During each session, they will support you in your personal journey and challenge you to see, hear, taste, and enjoy life newly.
Apart from that Professor Langer can also be approached for a Speaking Engagements, Research Queries or her Art Work.