A Healthy Dose of Optimism

IMAGE Take a close look at that glass of water. Half empty? Half full? What you see could make a difference, not only in your daily health, but in how long you live. One study highlighted how optimism or pessimism may affect, or even predict, your recovery from a major life event. Those who had a more positive outlook bounced back faster than those who did not..

The Power of Optimism

Being optimistic is thought to prolong life because optimists tend to:
  • Be less passive than pessimists and less likely to develop learned helplessness or negative and debilitating responses to things that happen to them
  • Be more likely to practice preventive health measures because they believe their actions make a difference
  • Suffer depression at a markedly lower rate than pessimists
  • Have better functioning immune systems

The Bright Side

For decades, psychologists have studied the link between positive thinking and physical and mental health. However, it is more important to change negative thought patterns into positive ones than to worry about being optimistic.Several studies have found that people who don't give in to negative thoughts may win more elections, get better grades, win more athletic contests, and earn higher pay. Why would this be so? Optimism and pessimism both tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies. Pessimism makes you feel defeated and less likely to take constructive action. Optimism makes you more likely to act.

Optimist vs. Non-optimist

How can you determine whether you think more optimistically or pessimistically? It may have to do with how you explain events in your life. Optimists tend to see setbacks as specific, temporary, and changeable. Because of this, they are motivated to take action. Non-optimists tend to look at setbacks as general, permanent, and hopeless—symptoms of widespread failure that cannot be changed or managed.For example, an optimist who did not follow through on an exercise routine for a week might say, "I had a lot going on this week. I did not plan my time too well. I will have to do better next week." A pessimist in the same situation might say, "I have no self-discipline. I obviously will not be able to meet my goals. Exercise just is not for me."

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