a belief in God;
marriage (or civil partnership registration);
and an optimistic nature.
Belief in God, so the presenter said, gives us a sense of community and also causes us to look beyond ourselves. I can see how this might help, but unfortunately a faith is not something you can turn on or off. As far as I can tell it is something you have or do not have, it is not something you can work towards.
Similarly people may be fortunate or unfortunate when it comes to marriage - some may never find quite the right person, but human beings all need to love and be loved by someone.
Even though we can do little about faith or marriage we can do something about the third factor - our degree of optimism. It is something that can be learnt and it is something I need to learn. I blame my pessimistic nature on my upbringing. The Welsh, I think, have an especially pessimistic nature, as do the Scots, and the people living in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and those I have encountered in London... In fact the British as a whole are a pretty gloomy lot in my opinion, every silver lining has a cloud, and it is quite unusual to find anyone who is relentlessly upbeat. Sometimes I think we like it that way. We are the people who were left behind, who were too pessimistic to find a new land and emigrate - because, after all, out there things would only be worse. Optimism, it is said, was exported from the old world to the new world with those adventurous enough to seek out a new life. Yet optimism is good. Optimistic people are more creative (not really sure about that, some of my best pieces of work have been written with tears rolling down my face) - expect to do well and you will do well - that is what I've heard.
And the good news is that optimism can be learnt using positive psychology. What I have to do is quite simple:
challenge negative thoughts;
count three blessings every day;
and seek out the positive.
So to the accompaniment of REM's 'Everybody Hurts' I am happy to report that I made a start. Today I challenged the thought that I am never going to be able to clarify the motivation of the characters in my novel (as suggested by my agent). My three blessings were the cups of tea and coffee I had with my friends Irene and Jan, the unexpected early arrival home of Hodmandod Senior and the funny passages in a book I was reading (I shall review this as soon as I have finished it). The positive is that tomorrow will be better. I just wish I believed it.