A: Some things in this world should be left alone: Pops and his good ol’ truck are two of them. He’s a grown man; let him enjoy his vehicle until he decides it’s time to replace it. He’s shown that he’s sensible — after all, he conceded and took your car to Baton Rouge. He’s not reckless; he’s a fellow who loves his truck. That’s as American as apple pie at the diner and should be respected.
Q: What is one piece of advice you can give us for the New Year?
A: Work to become more optimistic.
Check out Dr. Martin Seligman’s books and research on the topic of authentic happiness and optimism. He is the founder of positive psychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character and healthy institutions.
This excerpt from Seligman’s "Learned Optimism" will give you a starting point.
"The optimists and the pessimists: I have been studying them for the past 25 years. The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.
"I have seen that, in tests of hundreds of thousands of people, a surprisingly large number will be found to be deep-dyed pessimists and another large portion will have serious, debilitating tendencies toward pessimism. I have learned that it is not always easy to know if you are a pessimist, and that far more people than realize it are living in this shadow.
"A pessimistic attitude may seem so deeply rooted as to be permanent. I have found, however, that pessimism is escapable. Pessimists can in fact learn to be optimists, and not through mindless devices like whistling a happy tune or mouthing platitudes…but by learning a new set of cognitive skills. Far from being the creations of boosters or of the popular media, these skills were discovered in the laboratories and clinics of leading psychologists and psychiatrists and then rigorously validated."
Learn more at Seligman’s website: www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu.
And by all means, make it a Happy New Year!
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of “The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life” and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at www.thecrackerqueen.com.