Do you see the glass half-full rather than half-empty?
If you do, this might bring you remarkable benefits. And if you don’t, this is an intervention.
Researchers found optimism has a significant impact on physical health - regardless of demographic factors such as income level or overall health status. It turns out that an optimistic attitude helps us be happier, healthier, and even more successful! But what does being optimistic mean?
Optimism is often described as the mental state where you believe in the best possible outcome in any given situation. It can also be a positive and hopeful emotion that encourages you to look forward to a bright future. Most importantly, optimism represents a positive characteristic that confers a number of physical and mental health benefits.
So how does optimism affect physical health exactly? Read below to find out
Main health benefits of optimism
Why is optimism necessary? You might be surprised to find out that an optimistic attitude is linked to a considerable number of benefits, including the ones below.
Prevents heart disease and regulates blood pressure
Studies show that, on average, the people with the most positive emotions have the lowest blood pressures. Thus, having a more positive outlook on life can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Why is this?
Because those who think positively are more likely to have a better tolerance to stress. Stress and challenging situations are directly linked to complications in blood pressure and heart disease. Whereas stress is impossible to avoid in our daily lives, we can reduce the chance of it impacting our health and well-being by learning how to react in a more positive manner.
Helps you cope better with illness
Most of the time, becoming ill is something we don’t really have control over. However, for many people, the way in which they choose to react to a diagnosis can have a huge impact on their recovery. A positive attitude can help speed up the recovery process for most physical health conditions one may face.
Positive thinking can protect against depression. And it often starts with self-talk. While some thoughts come from logic and reason, others arise from misconceptions and misinformation. Thus, it is important to approach unpleasant situations in a more positive and productive way. And the good news is that you can practice positive self-talk. Read on to find out how to practice being more optimistic.
The characteristics of an optimist
The optimist is a winner, guided by the thought that positive events are more stable and frequent than negative ones. They believe that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world. Unlike the pessimist, he can cope with stressful situations more successfully, and even avoid problems in daily life.
The term ‘optimism’ was first introduced in 1819 by Percy Bysshe Shelley and was described as 'a tendency to have a generally hopeful view'. In 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson explained it as a belief 'that good will finally prevail' in any situation.
If we were to make a top, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are some of the most famous optimists in history. The grand prize, however, goes to German rationalist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz who believed that our universe is the best possible universe God could have created.
Is optimism innate or acquired?
Related studies have shown that optimism is 50% inherited from our genes, 40% determined by us, our actions and beliefs, and 10% influenced by others and the environment we choose to develop in.
How to be more optimistic in life
Even though optimism is mostly inherited, we can work on that remaining 40% and act upon our own level of optimism. Researchers found that optimism is a teachable skill. So, yes, it is possible to teach yourself to be more optimistic. How? By using the power of autosuggestion.
Here are some of the things you can do to become a more optimistic person:
- Celebrate every little success
- Get a role model
- Focus on the positive part of any situation
- Live in the moment
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Focus on a solution, rather than the problem
And if you have trouble making all of that happen, don’t panic. There’s a secret optimists will gladly share with you: fake it! Optimism isn’t something that comes naturally to all of us, and changing your mindset might take some time. Studies have found that it is possible to trick yourself into feeling happier. So next time you feel challenged, try to put the action before the feeling and fake a more positive outlook: smile, laugh more, speak in a more joyful tone.
Types of optimism
Not all optimists are the same. There are 7 main types of optimism:
Also known as “big optimism”, dispositional optimism is the belief that the future generally holds more positive events, rather than negative. Research has shown that this type of optimism can confer benefits in terms of psychosocial well-being.
Established in health risk research, comparative optimism refers to the belief that negative events are more likely to happen to others rather than to oneself.
This occurs when positive expectations and the actual evidence don’t match. Unrealistic optimism also happens when people tend to predict that their personal outcomes will be more favorable than the outcomes of others.
Situational optimism occurs when one generally expects a good outcome in a specific context.
Strategic optimism involves denying risks because you believe you have control over the situation.
Realism refers to the relationship between the knowledge you have and understanding the moment. Realistic optimism is usually described as the ‘tendency to maintain a positive outlook within the constraints of the available measurable phenomena’. Basically, the actions that you choose are based on the options that are available to you.
When asked to describe something they want or not, an optimist and a pessimist will weigh information differently - even if they were given identical statistics and descriptions. More weight is given to information if it supports a desired conclusion. This being said, optimism bias refers to the way you evaluate knowledge can be distorted in predictable and self-serving ways.
People also ask
Do optimistic people live longer?
Researchers found that optimism is linked with longevity in the sense that optimism could extend your lifespan by up to 15%. This is because optimists are more likely to engage in healthier habits. People with a positive attitude are more likely to live to age 85 or longer.
Are there any disadvantages to being optimistic?
As weird as it might seem, being optimistic can have its downsides. Being overly optimistic can blind you to the costs and consequences of a situation. If you can overestimate the benefits and underestimate the costs, you can risk making poor decisions.
Optimism is an excellent tool to improve both physical and mental health.
Cultivating a positive attitude can bring many benefits such as staying healthy for a longer time and having resilience to face the challenges that might arise. While it might seem impossible to remain positive through any situation, you can make the most of every day by trying to find the good side in everything. Choosing healthy living habits and learning to use autosuggestion for the better can boost your mood and improve your outlook on life.