Why aren’t more people optimistic? Optimism may be the ticket to being happier, healthier and more successful. Who doesn’t want that?
Honestly, optimism often gets a bad rap. Many people see optimism as looking at the glass half full or seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. That’s not necessarily the case.
Dictionary.com defines optimism as:
- a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
- the belief that goodness pervades reality.
Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism and Flourish, defines optimism based on “explanatory style.” This means that people who see negative events as changeable (where they have some influence), temporary (won’t last forever), and local (isolated rather than pervasive in their life) are more optimistic. Pessimists believe the opposite.
To assess your level of optimism, check out the Optimism Test, for free, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania. Personally, I am much more optimistic now than when I first took this survey in 2007.
Now that we put that “pie in the sky” stuff to rest, why should we be more optimistic?
Here are 5 compelling benefits for cultivating more optimism in our daily lives.
- Optimists are more likely to overcome and persevere in the face of challenges.
- Optimists experience less depression and more happiness.
- Optimists perform better at work, in school and in sports.
- Optimists experience better relationships.
- Optimists are better problem solvers.
Optimism Has Huge Health Benefits
Beyond the 5 compelling benefits above, optimism has been linked to health in extensive research for over a decade.
- Stronger immune system (Segerstrom, Taylor, Kemeny, & Fahey, 1998)
- Quicker recovery after heart surgery (Kiecolt-Glaser, Page, Marucha, et al., 1998)
- Protection from cardiovascular disease (Seligman, 2011)
- Better cancer outcomes (Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2009)
By now, you may be wondering, can I be more of an optimist? Am I stuck being a pessimist? I have good news! The research says optimism can, in fact, be learned (Gillham, Reivich, Jaycox, & Seligman, 1995).
Not sure how to start building optimism? Then, check out a few of my previous posts. You could even share them with friends, family and colleagues!
Related to explanatory style:
For building optimism day-to-day:
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,” said Winston Churchill. Think like an optimist and step into your opportunities – be happier, healthier and more successful.
Question: What is holding you back from being more optimistic? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below this post.
- Book: Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
- Book: Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin E.P. Seligman
- Website: Flourish Newsletter on Positive Health