Eliminating Pessimism: Here’s Where You Can Start


By Namrata Darjee

Do you know someone who always seems to feel down? Someone who makes it seem like life can only be dark and gloomy? And no matter how much you want to help them, they always shut down your help? Maybe you’ve caught yourself behaving like this sometimes. If you have, you might just be a pessimist.

Excessive pessimism significantly affects your attentiveness and your ability to have higher brain function. It also can cause negative impacts on your relationships. 

Clay skipper wrote on GQ.com “pessimistic people tend to think that bad events are permanent and unchangeable. Learned optimism is recognizing that and arguing against it.” 

This generation of teens is heavily influenced by pop culture. In more recent years, mental health has been shown to spread awareness in pop culture, whether it is music, movies, books, etc. But sometimes this really just puts mental health in the spotlight to be fetishized. 

An article on studybreaks.com talks about the influence pop culture has on mental illnesses. ”Shows like ‘American Horror Story’ portray mental illness as desirable, even helpful… the characters are assigned mental illnesses which are written off as a personality trait.” 

The article also mentions a study done in the University of California where they studied 500,000 songs that were released between 1985 to 2015 which showed “a clear downward trend in ‘happiness’ and ‘brightness’ as well as a slight upward trend in ‘sadness.’”

The people you surround yourself with definitely impact your mindset. Do you surround yourself with people who want the best for your future and things that keep you moving forward? Or do you surround yourself with things that make you feel less optimistic? People that prevent you from moving out of a mindset that prevents you from being capable of anything.

A high school teen recalls what it felt like to deal with a pessimist.  “It evoked a feeling in me of hopelessness too. Eventually, every single thing that went wrong, they made me feel like I was personally responsible in some way,” said the student, who wants to remain anonymous. “Having a pessimist mentality becomes repetitive and it keeps you trapped in the same headspace. It not only made me feel like it was okay to see my grades drop, but it also made me not be able to express myself. It made me also start becoming a person with a pessimistic mentality.”

SHA’s psychology teacher, Mr. Ryan, stresses one of the biggest influences on mental and emotional health is social media and the use of gadgets. “There was a 50% increase between 2011-2015 of clinical depression among teenagers,” he said. “Not to mention, during that time, the teen suicide rate tripled among girls aged 12-14 and increased by 50 percent among girls aged 15-19.” 

His simple solution for starting to tackle this problem would be to “use your smartphones less, limit your time on Instagram, TikTok, etc., and while you’re at it, get some sleep.” In evidence, he explains that “the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Surveillance System, found that teens who spend more time on screens are less happy, more depressed, and have more risk factors for suicide.” 

Generally, It’s okay to feel down sometimes. If you’re having a bad day or feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a break and look after yourself. But it should not be an excuse to not try. Sometimes we struggle a lot and it takes a mental toll on us. If you are someone who is struggling and find it extremely difficult to complete tasks or maintain a stable lifestyle, then it is important to acknowledge those feelings and understand them. Your feelings deserve validation. 

SHA’s counselor Ms. Runkle makes a point that “feeling down and feeling depressed are not the same. If your anxiety is at a 3 for several weeks in a row that might be acceptable while having your anxiety at a 7 for a couple weeks in a row, and it is getting in the way of major life activities isn’t just about the emotion but the scale and duration.”

She also expresses that it is normal to feel highs and lows in our lives but it doesn’t mean we have to be stuck in the lows. “We need to take action to move out of that feeling. If we had a fever for two weeks we wouldn’t say “well it is okay to not be okay.” No, we would do something to help us feel better and prevent further illness.”

I went through a time I wasn’t doing so well emotionally and all anyone ever told me was “it’s okay not to be okay” or something similar. It became my whole persona that I was ‘not okay. ‘ I’m not saying my feelings weren’t real, but when I did nothing about them and resorted to unhealthy ways of coping, it didn’t really help me cope. A friend of mine was the first person to call me out on it, which motivated me to get out of that mindset. What I then did was try to self-actualize more, that these feelings are feelings and not reality. Or tell myself that “yes this happened, but can I do anything to change it?” If not, then I’d focus on other things I can control and then limit myself access to only things that made me calm and happy. Because when the greater part of my mind is consumed by these positive emotions, it’s easy to not think about the rest.

It’s never too late to become a better you. If you are someone who is struggling to deal with mental illness, get in contact with a mental health professional to help you sort things out or reach out to someone you trust. You should surround yourself with people who inspire you and feel comfortable enough to talk to.