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You can cultivate an optimistic point of view

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Every few days, we see the words of economic prognosticators who say the state of the economy is improving. They are giving us a dose of realistic optimism.

That point of view can be learned, but first you have to know what optimism is not: It isn’t being always cheerful and thinking everything is wonderful. Rather, healthy optimism is being in touch with reality and its possibilities.

In his new book, The Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Shahar describes realistic optimists as those who can make the best of whatever happens.

As an individual, Ben-Shahar, a Harvard professor, uses what he calls “PRP exercises” when he feels down.

P: He gives himself permission to be human. Not everyone can be the best at whatever they do and all the time.

R: His reconstruction is about learning what works for him and what doesn’t. He learns from the past.

P: The second P is for perspective. It involves acknowledging that in the grand scheme of life, one event doesn’t matter that much. By being optimistic, he experiences less health-threatening stress. He can tolerate circumstances, accept them and deal with them constructively.

His attitude goes along with the new field of positive psychology. People are taught to strengthen their strengths instead of their weaknesses. Instead of focusing on righting wrongs in their lives, they are taught to just move forward.

Optimism is contagious, so try to associate with happy, positive people. A study at the University of California, San Diego shows the happiness contagion works even in the largest social network of all. They found that those who smiled in their Facebook photos tended to have friends who smiled. People who smile tend to be more optimistic