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Seeing the World Through Rose-Colored Glasses Can Improve Our Lives

Expecting the best possible outcome of events often leads to just that.

When psychologist Shelley Taylor wanted to see how attitudes toward our health may affect outcomes, she looked at a group of women with breast cancer. The results were clear: The women who ignored some grim statistics — that breast cancer is the world’s most prevalent, that it killed nearly 700,000 people in 2020 — and believed that they actually had control over their own health, were able to cope better with the disease itself.

It’s true: Willful ignorance can actually help us. While meditation and mindfulness are tried-and-true methods for helping reduce anxiety and increase wellbeing, a less-obvious tool may be able to keep us afloat: seeing, and expecting, the best possible outcome of events — even if that means we’re fooling ourselves.

Humans have been striving to understand our environment for all of existence — we are driven to make sense of things, to calculate risks, and to educate ourselves and our offspring. Recently, psychology has highlighted our biases, and correcting these biases is fundamentally critical at a societal level. So, it may seem counterintuitive that the truth may not save us. But new evidence shows that viewing our world a bit askew — with rose-tinted glasses — can improve our mental health.

Encouraging ourselves and others to see things differently is great, but not when it means sweeping feelings under the rug.

“The power of positive thinking” is a cliché, of course, and cannot fully explain the mechanics of how our mental schema alters our perspective. Still, a shift in outlook makes a difference. Research shows that those who think positively by writing in a gratitude journal, for instance, improve their mental wellbeing. And directing positive feelings in meditation (called “loving-kindness”) toward a person we are having trouble with is shown to improve positive feelings.

Blurring our lenses, however, also happens unconsciously.

In Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain, Shankar Vedantam, host of the Hidden Brain podcast, explores how not seeing the truth often benefits us.

“When we believe the best about our partners in our romantic lives, we’re more likely to have happier relationships with those partners,” he told Shondaland. “When we believe that good things are going to happen to the businesses we start, they’re more likely to actually happen.”

A positive outlook not only encompasses the way we calculate risk but also how we perceive our current ability to thrive — especially following a setback.

As a motivational speaker, Kimberly S. Reed, the CEO at Reed Development Group, helps others reframe misfortunes into opportunities for growth. Following her mother’s death, she was in a period she describes as “incredible pain” — but was able to overcome it with a shift in thinking.

However difficult our circumstances, Reed believes that we can look to the past to find encouragement — we have usually faced difficulties before and somehow survived them, she stresses. “Examining your past success can help you see past the current crisis,” she said.

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Media Contact : Hope Reese

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