Learning the Skill of Optimism in the Age Of COVID-19

Pessimism is rampant in the world
today, with good reason. Our health and, for many, financial well-being, are
severely at risk. Surely, there is nothing to be optimistic about.

If anything, optimism seems absurd in
the face of a worldwide pandemic or a personal health or financial crisis. More
to the point, why bother?

Because the best personal protection
you have – we all have – against the potential ravages of
COVID-19 (along with following the safety advice of the World Health
Organization), is a strong immune system. And optimists have astonishingly
robust immune systems.

This is not fanciful or wishful
thinking. Science has shown us repeatedly that
optimists thrive. Regardless of their life situations, optimists enjoy longer,
happier, healthier lives, much of which is predicated on their strong immune systems.

Becoming an Optimist

Contrary to popular belief, being an
optimist is not something you are necessarily born with. Some people are, of
course, but most of us are not. We can learn to be optimistic at any age, and
with that, reap the benefits.

As seniors, we owe it to ourselves
and our families to do whatever we can to remain strong and healthy. Developing
and increasing our optimism is a prime way to do just that. What’s more, optimism
is free, with no side effects, requiring no prescription, and can be done in
the solitude of our mind.

Feeling Grateful

The easiest, quickest way to access
optimism, and therefore to an enhanced immune system, is through appreciation. Appreciation,
in a nutshell, is valuing and feeling grateful for what is currently in your

That does not mean that we should be
grateful for COVID-19. That would border on insanity. No, appreciation is recognition
of the good that does exist, of the resources you do have in your life, as
opposed to moaning and groaning over all that is missing.

For example, my dance classes are
currently canceled, along with my work, speaking engagements, and all other
activities involving people. But my dance classes are what hit the hardest.

Dance is what keeps me on a steady
even keel, balanced, and sane, and is great exercise. It’s the place where I
get to be fully myself without judgment, whether I’m being madly creative,
bumbling, or downright inept.

Did I spend the first couple of days
“moaning and groaning”? I most certainly did. But then I pulled myself up by my
metaphorical optimist’s bootstraps and got to work. I decided to appreciate the
Internet with its endless videos and found ballet workout sessions to follow

I found ballroom videos I could study
and apply the techniques to my at-home practice. I appreciated how my fellow
dance students and I jumped into texting and emailing, face-timing, and skyping
to stay in touch.

For we are, as adults, more than just
students who come to class. We’re dance aficionados, a community of like-minded
individuals who love to go on endlessly about our mutual passion.

Optimism in the Face of Adversity

As unusual and unwanted as
self-isolation or forced quarantine may be, we are blessed with cyber resources
that didn’t exist through the world’s previous pandemics.

Universities are continuing courses
online. Our news comes to us via the Internet, as do our entertainment and
ability to stay in touch with loved ones.

No, I don’t enjoy this confined
existence. It’s antithetical to my social nature. But I can and do appreciate
the many ways in which I can make things better for myself, knowing my self-care
is also beneficial to the others in my community.

Keeping myself as healthy as I can
means one less source of contagion, one more hospital bed available to someone
who is ailing.

Optimism isn’t a cure-all. Yet if I
look at the situation with an optimistic mindset, appreciating that our
scientists, medical professionals, and our communities are doing the best they
can to resolve this situation as quickly as possible, I certainly don’t want
pessimism with its unfortunate consequences to get in the way.

Try an optimistic approach to
COVID-19 – your mind and body will thank you.

Have you tried new things or gotten
creative because of the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus? What are
some of the enjoyable ways you now pass the time if you are in voluntary or
forced isolation? Please share your creative activities with our community!