Divya Manvikar essay winner

Central Middle School student Divya Manvikar won first place in the Eden Prairie Optimist Club’s annual essay contest.

We have all heard of Oscar Wilde’s famous saying, “when it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars.” But, what do we do when it’s bright and sunny? What do we do when we are happy with what we have? What do we do when every problem we have is solved?

As I was growing up, my mother always said to look at the bright side of things. She told me to be optimistic and to be happy with what I have. So naturally, when I was struggling with moving to a new country and switching schools, she told me to count my blessings and look at the glass half-full. And so I did. I pushed past the fog and looked for rainbows. I searched high and low for the stars. And it worked. Eventually, I made new friends and I found new activities to take part in. I moved past the fog and the darkness and it was bright and sunny, but then I stopped. I stopped thinking of the life that I left behind and forgot how the unhappiness and loneliness made me feel. I became content with life the way it was. I have fought my battle. Where do I go from here?

Why is it that we tell each other to be optimistic, to search for happiness, to search for the good only when we are struggling? Why is it that when our problems slowly fade away, we go back to finding faults, to accepting things the way they are, and forget about the difficulties we had? Optimism is not only searching for rainbows and looking for the stars. Optimism is a choice. It is a state of mind. It is a way of thinking. Optimism encourages creativity and enthusiasm, and it fuels the thinking process. It allows us to become confident and take risks. It teaches us to persevere. Optimism is hopefulness, not happiness. It is important to distinguish the difference between optimism and happiness. Happiness is being content and fulfilled. Each person has their own version of happiness. Optimism is the thought process of believing and hoping for a better tomorrow. It is believing in successful outcomes, regardless of the situation. We do not have to be happy to be optimistic. We just have to trust that tomorrow will be better.

Mindset plays a large role in the way we lead our lives. According to the National Institute of Health, optimism plays a substantial role in influencing physical and mental health. It encourages healthy lifestyle behaviors and is an effective method for managing negative information. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization, approximately three hundred million people currently have depression around the world and forty million adults have anxiety. We do not know the causes of these mental health issues. We do not know whether it’s a genetic predisposition or chemical imbalance or prolonged stress. But, we can help manage these mental illnesses. When we only become optimistic when circumstances are challenging, it becomes difficult for us to see the positives when circumstances are good. We need to train our minds to see the positives, to believe in tomorrow, to be hopeful for better for more, regardless of circumstances.

According to a study conducted at The Pennsylvania State University, regarding optimism and mental health, only 25% of optimism is inheritable. The remainder? We learn and we acquire. We need to cultivate a thought process of choosing to be positive about little things in life. We need to learn to fight pessimism. Pessimism promotes the idea of hopelessness and encourages negative thoughts. A pessimist will be able to find faults even in good situations so it is critical that we fight pessimism and learn to become hopeful. This thought process does not mean that we will cure mental health illness simply by thinking positively or being optimistic about the future. But it is one step forward. One small step in the right direction.

Optimism is essential to leading a positive life. The choice to be optimistic means that regardless of whether it’s rainy and dark or sunny and bright, you choose to see the good in situations and remain hopeful for a better or more positive tomorrow. We need to learn to develop an optimistic mindset because even when all the world’s problems are solved optimism is still necessary.

Melissa Turtinen is the multimedia reporter for Lakeshore Weekly News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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