8 Ways to Become Less Cynical
We all know someone who is deeply cynical: a friend, a relative, or perhaps even ourselves. A cynic is someone with an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, who usually doesn't hide their feelings from anyone. In fact, cynics seem to be almost compelled to make others feel negative about their own lives as well.
Proponents of cynicism claim that it's a way of taking off the rose-colored glasses and looking at the world more realistically. Many experts disagree, though. As writer Peggy Noonan said: "Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It's unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don't have to try."
Getting to the Heart of It
The effects of cynicism may do more than affect us emotionally; studies show it can also be detrimental to our physical health. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Finland's University of Helsinki outfitted 100 men and women with monitors that recorded their blood pressure every 30 minutes for two working days and one weekend day. After each interval, subjects described their mood, physical activity level, and recent social interactions. Regardless of their mood, perennial cynics had higher average blood pressure levels than optimistic subjects.
Time to Lose the Cynicism
Lifelong cynics aren't destined to remain that way. If you're exhibiting some of the telltale signs, break the cycle by following these eight helpful tips:
1. Avoid negative, cynical people.
When you're surrounded by negative people who view the world in a jaded, pessimistic fashion, it can be easy to behave in a similar manner. A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that negative opinions may cause some of the greatest attitude shifts of all, not just from good to bad, but from bad to worse. In the study, consumers with negative opinions of a product became even more negative about it while participating in a group discussion. So, when cynics and complainers gather for a gripe-fest, do yourself a favor, and walk away before you end up feeling even worse than you did before.
2. Let go of the assumption that the world is against you.
It's unrealistic to believe that the universe has singled you out and shifted the world order just to make your life miserable. Sometimes bad experiences lead to good experiences, and since you can't predict the future, you can't assume it will always be bad.
3. Look for the source of your pessimism.
Deep-rooted negativity can often be traced to childhood experiences, as kids observe their circumstances and make presumptions about how the world functions. If all you saw growing up were disappointments, betrayals, and failure, it's no surprise that it's what you expect from the world as an adult. The sooner you can attribute your pessimism to a unique set of circumstances rather than the state of the world itself, the easier it will be to change your perspective.
4. Understand that the past does not equal the future.
Just because you've experienced pain or disappointment in the past does not guarantee that it's all you will experience in the future. There are also many things in life we can control to one degree or another, and therein lies the possibility of change. Do not make a bad start turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy for a bad ending.
5. Accept pain, failure, and disappointment as a part of life.
Life involves taking many risks every day, and not all of them will end positively. But some actions will lead to good results, and it's generally better to have a mixed bag than to have nothing at all. Plus, taking risks may even make you happier. Researchers from the Institute for the Study of Labor, the University of Bonn and the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin, surveyed more than 20,000 individuals and found that people who take risks tend to be more content with their lives than those who play it safe all the time.
6. See yourself as a cause, not an effect.
You don't have to be a product or a victim of your circumstances. Stop thinking about what is happening to you, and start thinking about what you can make happen. If you're not happy with the way your life is now, set goals, and move on. Use your past negative experiences to build character and make better decisions, instead of letting pessimism turn you into someone who avoids risk at all costs.
7. Focus on the good times.
When something good happens, expect that that's how things usually are. The anticipation of positive experiences can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
8. Make goals attainable.
If you set completely unrealistic goals for yourself, you'll only become frustrated and disappointed if you're unable to achieve them. It's better to establish practical objectives, keeping in mind that you're only human. Miles Denney, author of Surviving the American Diet to Become Thin Like Me, embraces this idea as he helps his readers successfully lose weight. Do the right thing for your body 75 percent of the time, he advises, and be more liberal 25 percent of the time. This principle recognizes that some degree of positive change is better than no change at all.
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