Optimism as Seen by Scientists

Optimism is being studied by many professionals. And the results are truly clear. Optimism results in better health and a better life in general.


Optimism is being studied by many professionals. And the results are truly clear. Optimism results in better health and a better life in general.

There are some studies that try to compare optimism and pessimism and their generalized outcome is that, although pessimism might help pessimists avoid any extra negative experiences, optimism leads you further and yields better results.

Let me just share with you what some of the scientists and institutions are saying…

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “A growing number of scientific studies indicate that optimistic people tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health than pessimistic people.”

Sanjay Srivastava and Kimberly Angelo concluded in their studies that optimists tend to be more extrovert and have higher self-esteem, lower levels of emotional instability, stress, anxiety, and hopelessness. Optimism is also correlated with lower depression, fewer mood disturbances, and fewer negative interpersonal interactions.

Furthermore, individuals with an optimistic view on life are better liked by others and are socially rejected less often; have longer-lasting friendships; have fewer negative social interactions; and experience lesser social alienation. In romantic relationships, both optimists and their partners enjoy greater relationship satisfaction, and optimists’ relationships are at lower risk of breaking up.

Another discovery made by the same researchers in their studies highlights that optimists experience less negative emotion (such as shame, depression, and anger) when their progress toward goals is disrupted, presumably because they anticipate being able to overcome the obstacles. Indeed, optimists not only regulate their behavior during goal pursuit by working towards their goals; they also engage in more proactive steps to promote well-being and prevent stress, suggesting that they are better able to prevent their emotions from interfering with their behavior.

Along the same lines, Suzzane Segerstrom, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky and 2002 winner of the Templeton Prize declares that, “when optimists encounter a setback or slowed progress, they are less likely than pessimists to just give up. They might keep trying or even redouble their efforts.”

In a study by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the medical histories of 839 people were tracked over 30 years. They had all completed a standard personality test between 1962 and 1965, measuring their optimism. There were 124 optimists, 197 pessimists and 518 in between. Their death rates were compared and every 10-point increase in pessimism was associated with a 19 per cent increase in death rate. Similar studies have been done more recently on the role of optimism in high-risk pregnancies, speeding recovery from heart by-pass surgery, and as part of the treatment for teenagers who take drugs. In all these studies pessimists tended to do markedly worse.

But can optimism be learned? According to other researchers, we can teach ourselves to be more optimistic. The trick is to condition ourselves to trigger a particular chemical pattern in our brains so that we can change our attitudes and our thinking in positive ways. Thus, even if you have a habit of focusing on the negative, with practice you can change that habit.

Controlling your response to your thoughts and what you focus your attention on can make all the difference between happiness and unhappiness. An excellent first step is simply to acknowledge the negative feelings. Negative or pessimistic feelings and thoughts  are not the cause of your feeling bad but do warn you that you’re letting yourself be engulfed in negative thinking. Try then to focus your energies on a more positive substitute. Do it willingly and consciously. And be daring. Optimists are usually also quite creative when looking for new approaches and solutions.

The LA Times had a front page story in January 2000 on the power of optimism. The article shared the following statements based on research studies:

1. Optimists do better than pessimists in work, school, and sports.

2. Optimists suffer less depression, achieve more goals, respond better to stress, and wage more effective battles against disease.

3. Optimistic people live 2 years longer on average than pessimistic people.

4. Pessimistic people appear more prone to accidents and violence.

5. Optimists tend to face problems head on while pessimists tend to live in a greater state of denial.

I think we could therefore easily conclude that being an optimist pays off.

Enjoy life… ALL of it,

Jessica J. Lockhart – humanology – www.jessicajlockhart.com

Jessica J. Lockhart is a humanologist, bestselling author and renowned international speaker. Follow her here:
Jessica J Lockhart, EzineArticles Basic Author