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Beacon Senior News

If the glass is half full, at least I won’t drown in it

Dec 22, 2021 03:36PM ● By Bonnie McCune
Glass of water that says, "half full, half empty."

During these crazy times of global lockdowns, I’ve noticed that Americans have retained their cockeyed, optimistic attitude toward life. News articles, interviews and social media are packed with people counting their blessings.

I don’t fit in well with this point of view. My attitude is always dismal—this may be the end of our civilization, a substantial percentage of our population will die, we’ll enter another Great Depression, my grandchildren won’t be able to find jobs, health care is becoming nonexistent...etc.

Pose this against the view through rose-colored contacts. One publication I receive had a huge section about finding the good in 2020. A woman, whose plans to start a new career as a life coach went bottoms-up, burbled about her ability to take online courses. Another one’s family embarked on a nutrition and cooking improvement phase.

Others joined in. “You can always find something to be grateful for.” “We can be more compassionate and listen more.” “I learned to budget and save money.” “Indulged in photography class and skills.” “Became a better teacher through distance teaching.” “Got new pets.” “Created albums for past travels.”

I was ready to fling the magazine down. All these happy, or at least contented, people were making me recoil. Hadn’t they noticed what’s going on around them? Then I asked myself, “What’s your problem? Do you want people to be miserable and depressed? Am I a ‘depressive realist?’”

Now, both the cockeyed optimist and the depressive realist have some benefits to their attitudes. Studies have shown that the rose-colored glow, no matter how undeserved, helped people to sustain a healthier mental state. Lack of objectivity, i.e., optimism, led to a beneficial, more adaptive and resilient mindset. Positive expectations generally led to positive results.

On the other hand, depression breeds objectivity, which tends to lead to more actual success. Pessimists might be able to evaluate their situations and life around them more accurately than the hopeful.

Then everything gets mixed up. If you think you’ll succeed, you tend to do so, or at least avoid attitudes that might hinder you. However, being realistic about your life results is likely to make you happier than overestimating them. Optimists may be unrealistic, whereas pessimists don’t automatically expect they’ll come out on top. An optimistic life outlook offers health benefits because a more positive—even if misguided—outlook was connected to an improved ability to deal with stressful events like the pandemic.

If the bottom line is the benefit to the individual, I’m now convinced I’ve been wrong all these years to constantly look for the downside. I just make myself miserable. So, I’m making a concentrated effort to join all of you out there walking the sunny side of the street. At least I’ll give myself permission to be happier, and I might gain a healthy glow.

Bonnie McCune is a Colorado writer and has published several novels. Contact her at  

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