The way we anticipate our futures and see the world around us, can have an impact on our health and longevity. That is: Optimism and pessimism can affect our physical and mental well-being. But which type of attitude is better for you?
Whether you’re an optimist or pessimist, the short answer is that there is inconclusive research about which trumps the other. Some studies have shown that optimism leads to greater longevity, while other studies have said the exact opposite — that pessimism preserves your health. It also largely depends on your age and circumstances; young people tend to be more idealistic than older adults, who approach the world with a more experienced and realistic viewpoint that can be seen as negative or pessimistic to those who preserves their hopes and ideals.
One study published in 2009 found that optimists were more likely to live longer than pessimists, thanks to a decreased chance of heart disease. The study reviewed 97,253 women over the age of 50 who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative, and found that the most optimistic women were 30 percent less likely to die of heart disease — and 14 percent less likely than their pessimistic counterparts to die from any cause during the study period. However, the authors noted that it might have been a general lifestyle of these cheery people that explained the association with decreased heart disease risk rather than just the optimism itself: perhaps people who are more upbeat are also more likely to exercise more, be more active, and retain strong social groups. “Optimistic people seem to seek medical advice and follow it,” an author of the study, Hilary Tindle, said. “They have good social networks and strong social relationships,” which are stress coping mechanisms. However, others have argued that realists actually end up more prepared for the challenges life throws at them, thus reducing anxiety and uncertainty.
- Advantages to Both
- Are Optimists Or Pessimists Better Leaders?
- Optimism and your health
- Measuring optimism
- Optimism and cardiac patients
- Optimism and blood pressure
- Optimism and heart disease
- Optimism and overall health
- Optimism and survival
- Possible mechanisms
- Blue skies
- Optimists vs. Pessimists: Who’s right?
- Pessimist vs. Optimist Investors
- Pessimist vs. Optimist Investors
- Pessimism and Optimism in Finance
- Characteristics of Good Investors
- Qualities of Optimistic Investors
- Qualities of Pessimistic Investors
- Market Rewards for Pessimist vs. Optimist Investors
- Pessimist vs. Optimist Investors in Bull and Bear Markets
- More Resources
- 4 Reasons Why an Optimistic Outlook Is Good for Your Health
- 6 Ways to Train Yourself to Be More Optimistic
- The 5 Benefits of Being Optimistic
- 1. See failure as a new start.
- 2. Be expansive.
- 3. Get healthy.
- 4. Spread good vibes.
- 5. It is the best choice.
- 45 Benefits of Optimism
- The optimists’ advantage
- The link between optimism and success
- The Benefits of Looking on the Bright Side: 10 Reasons to Think Like an Optimist
- Optimists Feel Healthier
- Optimists Are Healthier
- Optimists are More Likely to be Centenarians
- Optimists Take Fewer Sick Days
- Optimists Are Less Prone to Freakouts
- Optimists Are the Best Dates
- Optimists Have Happier 9 to 5s
- Optimists Get More Job Offers and Promotions
- Optimists Are Better at Bouncing Back
- Optimists Make Better Athletes
Advantages to Both
Of course, no one is entirely a pessimist or 100 percent an optimist. We are more of a walking greyscale of different attitudes, and studies have shown we actually choose which perspective to take on based on which one will be more functional at the moment.
One study out of Northwestern University and the University of St. Thomas found that there were advantages to both an optimistic and a pessimistic worldview — “both biases are thought to be potentially functional,” the authors wrote. The researchers also noted that people actually switch between the two in order to milk the advantages of both, “based on the perceived value of each outlook.” Which outlook you choose also depends on where your motivation stems from; people who were primarily concerned with growth or advancement (referred to as “promotion”) tended to manifest an optimistic view, while those concerned with safety and security — or preventing negative outcomes — focused more on potential downfalls and pessimism in order to improve performance.
People who are concerned with potential downfalls in a project, for example, tend to handle criticism much better than optimists. Pessimists are always looking to identify the holes or mistakes in a line of thinking so that they can become better. But optimists might fare better in situations where persistence and not giving up, even in the face of extreme adversity, may take them farther than people who focus only on what will go wrong, blocking them from their goal.
We can put on our rose-colored glasses for certain situations and be a wet blanket in others, using both optimism and pessimism in a targeted way, rather than having one blanket policy the entire time.
Are Optimists Or Pessimists Better Leaders?
By John A. Davis
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of occasional columns on managing the family business.
Optimism and pessimism are strong, stable traits that reflect our coping strategies. We live in an uncertain world. To cope with uncertainty, most people basically assume that things will either turn out well (the optimists) or turn out badly (the pessimists).
So here’s a question to ponder: Is it better to have an optimist or a pessimist leading your family organization? As I’ll show below, both have their own unique traits that can benefit a business. But they will do it in different ways, with different goals.
Which are you? Here’s a quick test. I plunk down two magazines in front of you. One, Time, has Warren Buffet on the cover, under the headline “The Optimist.” The other publication is The Pessimist.com, whose tagline is “Expecting the worst. Never disappointed.” Which do you pick up first?
It’s probably a good thing for us that so-called rationalists (tagline: “Why so emotional?”) are in the minority, because studies show that without optimism or pessimism people don’t accomplish as much. These natural traits motivate people to take action-different actions, but at least action.
Are you a pessimist?
If you’re a pessimist, you tend to focus on safety and security. Pessimism drives you to seek and find safe havens, establish clear advantages, and protect resources. When pessimistic about needed economic recovery, for instance, families save money and companies build war chests. When the news is bad and likely to get worse, a pessimist is your best ally because pessimists thrive on fixing errors.
To get the most out of the pessimist in your family or your company, researchers say, you need to provide “targeted negative feedback” from a trusted authority. Pointing out what has gone wrong or what’s less than perfect will motivate the pessimist to innovate products, improve plans, and solve problems. For this reason, pessimists can make good operational leaders. But pessimists in the corner office or leading the family are less likely to foster a culture of growth, risk taking, and wealth creation.
According to Jeremy Dean, a researcher at University College London, optimists prefer to think about how they and others can advance and grow. Optimists also have larger social networks, solve problems cooperatively, and are more likely to seek help in difficult situations. They make good spouses. People with optimistic spouses were healthier in a 2014 study by researchers at the University of Michigan.1 To energize an optimist, positive feedback is absolutely essential, because the optimist builds on incremental achievements and a sense of positive movement.
Choose optimists to lead growth activities in your family and company. Entrepreneurs, for example, are much more likely to be optimists. But if you choose an optimistic business leader, you should probably pair them with “reality testers,” not necessarily authority figures, advises University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology.
For decades, scientists regarded optimism and pessimism as fixed traits we are born with. But last year, researchers at a German University reported that 18-39 year-olds were more optimistic than people 40-64, and far more than people 65 and older.2 For reasons we don’t fully understand but can appreciate, life experience turns some people into pessimists. By the way, the same study of 40,000 people also found that grumpy people live longer. Their caregivers? You guessed it: Optimists.
Use the power of both traits
Leaders, whatever their orientation, need to learn to harness the power of both traits. “In a striking turnaround,” writes Annie Murphy Paul in Psychology Today, “science now sees optimism and pessimism not as good or bad outlooks you’re born with but as mindsets to adopt as situations demand.”
When testing strategic plans, deploy defensive pessimism, imagining all the things that can go wrong in the future. But when the task requires flexibility and had work toward uncertain goals, build teams with optimists.
As a determined optimist who has grown a bit more pessimistic during my life, I do want to share one important finding from my 35 years of field research: Effective long-term planning and investment requires an optimistic approach, with contingency planning by pessimists—because things never go exactly as you want them to.
1. Kim et al., Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 2014. Vol. 76 Issue 6. 2. Lang et al., Psychology and Aging 2013. Vol. 28, No. 1.
About the author: John A. Davis is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School where he teaches and researches in the family business, family wealth, and life planning fields. He is also founder of Cambridge Institute for Family Enterprise.
Optimism and your health
Published: May, 2008
Look for the silver lining…
Buddy DeSylva’s upbeat lyrics to Jerome Kern’s lovely tune provide an appealing call to a positive outlook on life, even in the face of adversity. Indeed, a cheerful disposition can help you get through the tough patches that cloud every life, but do people who see the glass half-full also enjoy better health than gloomy types who see it half-empty?
According to a series of studies from the U.S. and Europe, the answer is yes. Optimism helps people cope with disease and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.
To investigate optimism, scientists first needed to develop reliable ways to measure the trait. Two systems are in widespread use; one measures dispositional optimism, the other explanatory style.
Dispositional optimism depends on positive expectations for one’s future. These are not confined to one or two aspects of life, but are generalized expectations for a good outcome in several areas. Many researchers use the 12-item Life Orientation Test to measure dispositional optimism.
Explanatory style is based on how a person explains good or bad news. The pessimist assumes blame for bad news (“It’s me”), assumes the situation is stable (“It will last forever”), and has a global impact (“It will affect everything I do”). The optimist, on the other hand, does not assume blame for negative events. Instead, he tends to give himself credit for good news, assume good things will last, and be confident that positive developments will spill over into many areas of his life. Researchers often use either the Attributional Style Questionnaire or the Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations method to evaluate optimism based on explanatory style.
Optimistic sports fans
Sports fans will get a kick from a French study of cardiovascular mortality in 1988. On July 12, France bested Brazil in the biggest sporting event ever held in France, the finals of the World Cup of soccer. French men enjoyed a lower cardiovascular death rate on July 12 than on the average of the other days between July 7 and July 17, but French women did not. Doctors don’t know why fatal heart attacks declined; perhaps a burst of optimism is responsible.
Optimism and cardiac patients
In some studies, researchers have concentrated on the link between optimism and specific medical conditions. DeSylva and Kern tell us that a heart full of joy and gladness can banish trouble and strife — and now scientists tell us that optimism may help the heart itself.
In one study, doctors evaluated 309 middle-aged patients who were scheduled to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery. In addition to a complete pre-operative physical exam, each patient underwent a psychological evaluation designed to measure optimism, depression, neuroticism, and self-esteem. The researchers tracked all the patients for six months after surgery. When they analyzed the data, they found that optimists were only half as likely as pessimists to require re-hospitalization. In a similar study of 298 angioplasty patients, optimism was also protective; over a six-month period, pessimists were three times more likely than optimists to have heart attacks or require repeat angioplasties or bypass operations.
Optimism and blood pressure
A sunny outlook may help people recover after a cardiac procedure, but can it also reduce the risk of developing one of the major risks for cardiovascular disease — hypertension? Research conducted in Finland suggests it can. Scientists evaluated 616 middle-aged men who had normal blood pressures when the study began. Each volunteer’s mental outlook was checked with questions about his expectations for the future, and each was evaluated for cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse, and a family history of hypertension. Over a four-year period, highly pessimistic men were three times more likely to develop hypertension than cheerier souls, even after other risk factors were taken into account.
An American study of 2,564 men and women who were 65 and older also found that optimism is good for blood pressure. Researchers used a four-item positive-emotion summary scale to evaluate each participant during a home visit. They also measured blood pressure, height, and weight and collected information about age, marital status, alcohol use, diabetes, and medication. Even after taking these other factors into account, people with positive emotions had lower blood pressures than those with a negative outlook. On average, the people with the most positive emotions had the lowest blood pressures.
Emotions and infections
A 2006 study explored the link between emotions and viral infections of the respiratory tract. Scientists evaluated the personality style of 193 healthy volunteers, then gave each a common respiratory virus. Subjects who displayed a positive personality style were less likely to develop viral symptoms than their less positive peers.
Optimism and heart disease
High blood pressure is an important cause of coronary artery disease. If optimism can reduce the risk of hypertension, can it also protect against developing coronary artery disease itself? To find out, scientists from Harvard and Boston University evaluated 1,306 men with an average age of 61. Each volunteer was evaluated for an optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style as well as for blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, and family history of heart disease. None of the men had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease when the study began. Over the next 10 years, the most pessimistic men were more than twice as likely to develop heart disease than the most optimistic men, even after taking other risk factors into account.
Optimism and overall health
Optimism appears to protect the heart and circulation — and it’s heartening to learn that it can have similar benefits for overall health.
A large, short-term study evaluated the link between optimism and overall health in 2,300 older adults. Over two years, people who had a positive outlook were much more likely to stay healthy and enjoy independent living than their less cheerful peers.
Staying well for two years is one thing, remaining healthy for the long haul another. But for 447 patients who were evaluated for optimism as part of a comprehensive medical evaluation between 1962 and 1965, the benefits of a positive outlook were desirable indeed. Over a 30-year period, optimism was linked to a better outcome on eight measures of physical and mental function and health.
A laughable study
Experienced clinicians know that humor is good medicine. Now researchers in Tennessee tell us it may also provide a bit of a workout. They found that genuine, voiced laughter boosts energy consumption and heart rate by 10% to 20%. That means a 10- to 15-minute belly laugh might burn anywhere from 10 to 40 calories. It’s a lot of laughing for a few calories, but optimists will be tickled by the result.
Optimism and survival
It’s obvious that healthy people live longer than sick people. If optimism actually improves health, it should also boost longevity — and according to two studies from the U.S. and two from the Netherlands, it does.
The first American study evaluated 839 people in the early 1960s, performing a psychological test for optimism””pessimism as well as a complete medical evaluation. When the people were rechecked 30 years later, optimism was linked to longevity; for every 10-point increase in pessimism on the optimism–pessimism test, the mortality rate rose 19%.
A newer U.S. study looked at 6,959 students who took a comprehensive personality test when they entered the University of North Carolina in the mid-1960s. During the next 40 years, 476 of the people died from a variety of causes, with cancer being the most common. All in all, pessimism took a substantial toll; the most pessimistic individuals had a 42% higher rate of death than the most optimistic.
The two Dutch studies reported similar results. In one, researchers tracked 545 men who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer when they were evaluated for dispositional optimism in 1985. Over the next 15 years, the optimists were 55% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than the pessimists, even after traditional cardiovascular risk factors and depression were taken into account.
The other study from Holland evaluated 941 men and women between the ages of 65 and 85. People who demonstrated dispositional optimism at the start of the study enjoyed a 45% lower risk of death during a nine-year follow-up period.
Taken together, these studies argue persuasively that optimism is good for health. But why? What puts the silver in the silver lining?
Skeptics (or pessimists) might suggest that the effect is more apparent than real. People who are healthy are likely to have a brighter outlook than people who are ill, so perhaps optimism is actually the result of good health instead of the other way around. To counter this argument, researchers can adjust their results for pre-existing medical conditions, including physical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, and mental problems such as depression. The studies that made these adjustments found that medical conditions did not tarnish the benefits of a bright outlook on life. Moreover, by tracking people for 15, 30, and 40 years, scientists can minimize the potential bias of pre-existing conditions.
Another explanation is behavioral. It is possible that optimists enjoy better health and longer lives than pessimists because they lead healthier lifestyles, build stronger social support networks, and get better medical care. Indeed, some studies report that optimists are more likely to exercise, less likely to smoke, more likely to live with a spouse, and more likely to follow medical advice than pessimists. But optimism is not generally associated with a better diet or a leaner physique, and even when results are adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors, a beneficial effect of optimism persists.
In addition to behavioral advantages, optimism may have biological benefits that improve health. A 2008 study of 2,873 healthy men and women found that a positive outlook on life was linked to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, even after taking age, employment, income, ethnicity, obesity, smoking, and depression into account. In women, but not men, a sunny disposition was also associated with lower levels of two markers of inflammation (C-reactive protein and interleukin-6), which predict the risk of heart attack and stroke. Other possible benefits include reduced levels of adrenaline, improved immune function, and less active clotting systems.
Finally, heredity may explain some of the link. It is possible that genes predispose some people to optimism, and that the same genes exert a direct effect on health and longevity.
More study is needed to clarify the link between optimism and good health. It’s likely that multiple mechanisms are involved.
Personality is complex, and doctors don’t know if optimism is hard-wired into an individual or if a sunny disposition can be nurtured in some way. It’s doubtful that McLandburgh Wilson was pondering such weighty questions when he explained optimism in 1915:
“Twixt the optimist and pessimist
The difference is droll
The optimist sees the doughnut
But the pessimist sees the hole.”
Today’s doctors don’t think much of doughnuts, but they are accumulating evidence that optimism is good for health. As you await the results of new research, do your best to seek silver linings, if not doughnuts.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Optimists vs. Pessimists: Who’s right?
I listed optimism as one of the ten things you should do every day to improve your life. Yet pessimism does have advantages and plenty of people see it as a better way to view the world. What does the research say about the best outlook to take?
Glass as half full
Optimism is associated with better health and a longer life. Being positive can actually cause better health because it changes how people behave.
Via The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain:
This study examined a group of patients who had experienced heart attacks and were following a rehabilitation program. The researchers found that… optimists exercised more and were more likely to reduce their body-fat levels, thereby reducing their overall coronary risk. They were also more likely to take vitamins and eat low-fat diets. The result: Optimists lived longer… people who react to illness with passive acceptance of their own impending death… die prematurely…
Optimism can make you happier. (And before someone screams “correlation/causation!” research has shown that practicing optimism and gratitude does cause increases in happiness.)
The army teaches soldiers to be optimistic because it makes them tougher and more resourceful. Just believing you can become smarter and can become a better negotiator have both been shown to increase improvement.
Being socially optimistic — expecting people to like you — makes people like you more. Expecting a positive outcome from negotiations made groups more likely to come to a deal and to be happy with it.
Optimistic salespeople are more successful.
Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:
…testing revealed that the agents with more optimistic styles sold 37 percent more insurance than those with pessimistic ones, and that the most optimistic agents actually sold fully 88 percent more than the most pessimistic ones.
And optimism researcher Tali Sharot explains that, no, being pessimistic doesn’t soften the blow of bad news.
Via The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain:
…students who had low expectations of their performance on an undergraduate psychology exam felt just as bad when those expectations came true as students who expected to do well.
So why would anyone choose to be pessimistic?
Optimism can blind us. Pessimism can correct your brain’s natural positive bias. Those who are the most optimistic about their own willpower are actually the most likely to give in to temptation.
Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:
Research shows that people who think they have the most willpower are actually the most likely to lose control when tempted. For example, smokers who are the most optimistic about their ability to resist temptation are the most likely to relapse four months later, and overoptimistic dieters are the least likely to lose weight.
The reason you can predict your friends’ behavior better than they can is because we are all realistic about others’ actions and a little too optimistic about our own. Extremely happy people and very trusting people don’t fare as well as those who are more moderate.
In some situations, negative thinking offers a clear advantage.
If diagnosing problems is key to success, you don’t want to be looking on the bright side. Pessimistic entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. Optimistic gamblers lose more money.
The best lawyers are pessimists. Martin Seligman, psychology professor at UPenn and author of Authentic Happiness, explains:
Pessimism is seen as a plus among lawyers… The ability to anticipate the whole range of problems and betrayals that non-lawyers are blind to is highly adaptive for the practicing lawyer who can, by so doing, help his clients defend against these far-fetched eventualities.
A negative attitude, not a positive attitude, makes you more likely to learn from your mistakes. In fact, the shift to focusing on negative feedback is one of the marks of an expert mindset.
There’s even evidence that shallow efforts at optimism can make people feel worse.
Via The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking:
…those who began the process with low self-esteem became appreciably less happy as a result of telling themselves that they were lovable. They didn’t feel particularly lovable to begin with – and trying to convince themselves otherwise merely solidified their negativity. ‘Positive thinking’ had made them feel worse.
So what’s the best outlook?
Does this seem like there’s no way to win? Totally contradictory?
Improvement requires a focus on the negative and an awareness of all the things that can go wrong. On the other hand, perfect execution requires irrational levels of self-confidence. So when the pressure is on, yes, top performers need to engage in a type of doublethink to be at their best.
Via Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success:
You have to make a decision based upon a realistic assessment of your own weaknesses and the scope for failure. But once you have committed to your decision, you have to flick the mental switch and execute the shot as if there was never any doubt that you would nail it.
For most of us, though, those situations are rare. What should you take away from all this?
- The majority of the time, think positive. Happiness and health trump pretty much everything else.
- There are situations where negativity can help, like when we’re making high-stakes plans or trying to improve skills.
You don’t have to see everything through rose-colored glasses (in fact, that’s bad) but avoid taking a pessimistic attitude where negative events are seen as pervasive, permanent and uncontrollable. Try to see them more as local, temporary and changeable.
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Tags: Posted On: October 27, 2012 Posted In:
Pessimist vs. Optimist Investors
Pessimist vs. Optimist Investors
Differentiating between pessimist vs. optimist investors is best defined by the saying, “A pessimist is an optimist with experience.” An optimist is hopeful and confident that things will turn out for the better. On the other hand, a pessimist always keeps in mind the possibility of the worst outcome. An optimist’s positivityInterpersonal IntelligenceInterpersonal intelligence refers to the ability of a person to relate well with people and manage relationships. It enables people to understand the needs and motivations of those around them, which helps strengthen their overall influence. People with interpersonal intelligence keeps him energized while a pessimist’s negativity keeps him prepared should the need to counter risks arise.
Pessimism and Optimism in Finance
The finance world is populated by pessimist vs. optimist investors. An investor with zero pessimistic tendencies may soon come to realize that investing is more than just optimistic bettingLong and Short PositionsIn investing, long and short positions represent directional bets by investors that a security will either go up (when long) or down (when short). In the trading of assets, an investor can take two types of positions: long and short. An investor can either buy an asset (going long), or sell it (going short).. Through a gradual process and with experience in unprofitable trades, optimists may realize that research and time in the marketStock MarketThe stock market refers to public markets that exist for issuing, buying and selling stocks that trade on a stock exchange or over-the-counter. Stocks, also known as equities, represent fractional ownership in a company may be more important than timing in the market. The optimist develops pessimistic tendencies over time as a heuristic against overconfidence and hopeful wishing.
However, being overly pessimistic will keep an investor isolated due to fear, which may sometimes be irrational. Trying is the best way to move forward, and failure is the road to success. Thus, to be successful in investments, neither of the two principles should be ignored nor over-relied upon. The best way to become a successful investor is to be an optimist while applying a pessimist’s strategies.
Characteristics of Good Investors
1. They are hopeful
Business undertakings are surrounded by uncertainties that make it hard to operate without some degree of confidence. A great investor does not attribute success purely to hope, but she will always keep a healthy dose of it while taking the necessary steps to lessen risks. Again, an investor that is too optimistic or hopeful may fail, but an investor that is too pessimistic may not even manage to begin their trading. Here, it’s all about a balance.
2. They are willing to pay for premium information
Wise investors know that information is power, and freely available information may not offer them any competitive advantage. As such, they are ready to pay professionals for their best recommendations.
Note here that there is such a thing as an unethical acquisition of premium information, namely in the form of insider tradingInsider TradingInsider trading refers to the practice of purchasing or selling a publicly-traded company’s securities while in possession of material information that is, which should be avoided at all times.
3. They own a portfolio of investments
Experienced investors are aware that the game involves losing money once in a while, and do not let setbacks keep them from trying a second time. Keeping a stream of investments in various industries is a proven and more reliable method to good investing. Diversification is key, and is, in fact, in line with a pessimistic mindset. The pessimist knows that industries will always experience downward swings, and so she diversifies.
Qualities of Optimistic Investors
- They realize that not all options will succeed but are sure that not all will fail, too.
- They are ready to learn from mistakes and improve over time with hands-on experience rather than trying to learn the rules while out of the game, as in the case of a strong pessimist.
- They are less prone to giving up after a setback as they take each scenario as a learning opportunity rather than an all-or-nothing battle.
Qualities of Pessimistic Investors
- They may abandon a successful investment at the expense of mitigating negative emotions even when the odds are in their favor.
- They are risk-averse and perfectionists: they need to know every step the investment will take before committing their dollar. Bearing in mind that the markets require fast action takers, pessimistic investors lose more opportunities than optimistic investors.
- They over-rely on historical data. Thus, even when the market is on an upward trend, they may still be hesitant to invest if the path is unclear.
- They are likely to be stressed from a loss as they tend to think they should be profiting from every investment they engage in.
- They only like to act on thorough knowledge. These investors are not willing to get into a venture without a clear outline of what is involved.
- They only risk what they are ready to lose as opposed to optimists who tend to take into account the loss of not going for certain opportunities.
Market Rewards for Pessimist vs. Optimist Investors
Are optimists rewarded in the market? Before we answer that, we are going to look at a scenario where one party thinks everything will go wrong, creating hedging strategies and plans in case of the worst. The other party is entirely optimistic, and after casting the net, they sit and wait. If things turn out positively, the optimist will be at more of advantage compared to the pessimist since they’ve spent fewer resources on the purchase, paying little to no hedging expenses.
However, if things go wrong, the optimist will possibly lose everything, and the pessimist will be in a better position. Wealth is built on what you save rather than what you make. Thus, if you make a lot of money but leave it exposed, it will not last or it may be taken by other market forces. So, in such a case, the market rewards pessimists by giving them a second chance.
The pessimist and optimist can both thrive in the business world because they need each other to sustain the market. If everyone were profiting in a single sector alone, all other sectors would exit in favor of that profiting sector. The same goes for businesses in the realms of optimism and pessimism. The optimist invents, but the pessimists give longevity and sustainability. One company manufactures aircraft while another makes parachutes.
Pessimist vs. Optimist Investors in Bull and Bear Markets
In the stock markets, two forces reign. The two forces are the bear market and the bull market. The bear market is characterized by pessimism and lowering prices, while optimism and increasing prices characterize the bull market. From historical data and records, there is no one time the bear market was able to suppress the bull market in the long run. The two are in constant swing between each other. The market movements can also be characterized as a constant engagement between pessimist vs. optimist investors.
Herein lies the strength of the belief that “A pessimist is an optimist with experience.” In a bear market, a strong pessimist may sit entirely out of the market and refuse to buy in. A strong optimist may be too hopeful and buy while the market is still trending down. The investor in the best situation is the one that marries the two outlooks.
An investor with an optimistic mindset that the bear will eventually become a bull will have the resilience and patience to ride the market out. The same investor, having experienced failed trades in the past, takes the pessimistic strategy of hedging her bets.
Thank you for reading CFI’s explanation of pessimist vs optimist investors. CFI is a leading provider of financial analysis courses, including the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™FMVA® CertificationJoin 250,044+ students who work for companies like Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Ferrari certification program. To help you advance your career, check out the additional resources below:
- Emotional IntelligenceEmotional IntelligenceEmotional intelligence also known as the emotional quotient (EQ) is the ability to manage one’s emotions and the emotions of others. For business leaders, high EQ is essential to success. This guide covers the five elements of emotional intelligence and their relevance to characterizing a successful leader. EQ vs IQ
- Interpersonal SkillsInterpersonal SkillsInterpersonal skills are the skills required to effectively communicate, interact, and work with individuals and groups. Those with good interpersonal skills are strong verbal and non-verbal communicators and are often considered to be “good with people”.
- Investing: A Beginner’s GuideInvesting: A Beginner’s GuideCFI’s Investing for Beginners guide will teach you the basics of investing and how to get started. Learn about different strategies and techniques for trading, and about the different financial markets that you can invest in.
- Objective vs Subjective TradingObjective vs Subjective TradingObjective vs subjective trading: Most traders follow either an essentially objective or subjective trading style. Objective traders follow a set of rules to guide their trading decisions. They prefer to have buy and sell decisions essentially pre-planned. In contrast, subjective traders disavow using a strict set of rules
4 Reasons Why an Optimistic Outlook Is Good for Your Health
“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” – the Dalai Lama
In my last post, I wrote about research that shows people tend to become less optimistic as they grow older. While there are good reasons why this is the case, the health benefits of remaining optimistic throughout our lives are substantial.
In simple terms, an optimistic outlook equals good health.
This discussion hinges on what psychologists call dispositional optimism, the degree to which people believe that positive outcomes will occur in the future, for themselves, and also for others they know, the economy, the world in general, and so on.
More than five decades of research have found that optimism is a potent health tonic. Optimistic people remain healthier and live longer. They have better cardiovascular health—even after risk factors are controlled for, stronger immune function, and lower levels of stress and pain. And healthy people who are optimistic report feeling better than equally healthy people who are pessimistic. When optimistic people encounter an adverse health event like coronary artery bypass surgery or orthopedic surgery, they bounce back faster. Perhaps most impressive, their survival rates after diagnoses of cancer, Type I diabetes, and HIV or AIDS are higher, and their quality of life even years later is superior.
The idea that being optimistic boosts our health may seem like common sense, but why it happens is less clear. Following is some of what research tells us about why there’s a connection between optimism and good health, which boils down to four significant factors:
1. Optimists know more about their own health and about how to be healthy.
Knowledge is a necessary condition for maintaining good health and for bouncing back. Unless you know what makes you healthy, how will you perform the required actions to stay healthy? Optimists know more about what it takes to maintain good health and also track their health more closely. In a 2002 study, psychologists Nathan Radcliffe and William Klein found that optimistic people knew more about how and why heart attacks occur, and how six key risk factors like consuming alcohol, smoking, and stress cause heart attacks.
2. Optimists engage in healthier behaviors.
Study after study shows that the superior health knowledge of optimists translates into a constellation of healthier behaviors. For example, the 2002 study found that participants with greater optimism exercised more. Optimistic people are less likely to smoke and more likely to drink only moderate levels of alcohol. They get more sleep and better quality sleep. They have fewer anonymous sexual partners and they eat more fruits and vegetables. Optimists’ healthier actions lead to more positive health outcomes. These in turn promote healthy activities, producing a virtuous cycle for good health.
3. When facing a setback, optimists use more effective methods to deal with it.
Regardless of how optimistic we are, we all face setbacks. We may be diagnosed with a serious chronic condition or suffer a sudden accident or illness. Research shows that optimists are more effective in dealing with such stressors or traumas. They tend to use more approach-focused coping strategies (also known as engagement coping) which rely on confronting a problem head-on and finding ways to reduce its severity. When that is not possible, they seek ways to manage and control it.
For instance, an optimistic person with cancer may spend countless hours trying to understand the latest research and treatment options, then seek and obtain advice from multiple experts, and choose and diligently stick with a treatment option deemed to be the most effective based on their research and consultation.
Optimists also focus more on the problem itself rather than on reducing or managing emotions, such as fear or sadness, that may result from the problem. And they tend to use fewer disengagement coping methods that simply ignore the problem or sweep it under the rug. Choosing approach-focused coping that hones in on the problem itself (rather than the surrounding emotions) leads optimists to have a greater sense of control and ownership, and focus on implementing the solution to their medical problem. It is not surprising that optimists live longer and have a better quality of life after being diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, or AIDS.
4. Optimists have better social networks and receive greater support after adverse health events—or at least they believe that they do.
People tend to like optimists more than they like pessimists, and studies confirm that in terms of sheer number, optimists have more friends, stronger relationships with their friends, and fewer occurrences of negative social interactions. In short, they manage their relationships better, and as a result, when faced with adverse health events, they can rely on their social networks to a much greater degree and receive more support, managing the resulting stress more effectively.
Even under circumstances in which they may not receive adequate support, their glass-half-full mentality means that they are more satisfied with their social relationships, even when the reality is different. (Just as interesting is the reverse effect—from social network size to optimism. Social psychologist Suzanne Segerstrom found that law students who were able to build larger social networks over a 10-year period showed increased optimism in that time.)
Source: Incurable Optimism by Natalia Medd Flickr Licensed Under CC BY 2.0
I teach marketing and pricing to MBA students at Rice University. You can find more information about me on my website or follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter @ud.
Do you tend to see the positive, even in trying situations? Or do you immediately assume the worst and focus on the negative?
When it comes to how we view the world, most of us fall into one of two categories: optimist or pessimist. And according to experts, whatever category you fall into has a lot to do with your upbringing.
“From my experience, optimism is both a personality trait and a product of our environment,” says Karol Ward, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist. “From an early age, babies and children pick up the emotional vibes in their homes. If the atmosphere is relaxed and loving, children blossom even if they innately have a tendency towards anxiety. But if the home environment is tense and filled with dysfunction, optimism is one of the first things to go. It’s hard to be emotionally open and hopeful when that is not being modeled for you by your caretakers.”
But if you recognize yourself as someone who tends to default to the negative, your childhood isn’t completely to blame.
Studies show that optimism is about 25 percent inheritable, and then there are other factors that affect our positivity — like socioeconomic status — that are often out of our control. Yet that still leaves a solid amount of wiggle room for us to develop a more optimistic outlook as adults. So if you’re someone who tends to see the negative in a given situation, there’s hope.
“Some people are optimistic by nature, but many of us learn optimism as well. Anyone can learn to be optimistic — the trick is to find purpose in work and life,” says Leah Weiss, Ph.D, a Stanford professor specializing in mindfulness in the workplace. “When we work with purpose or live with purpose, we feel more fulfilled and better equipped to see the glass ‘half full.’”
Many equate optimism with happiness. But while one can breed the other, they aren’t the same thing. And while optimists are usually pegged as those who only see the positive in every situation, experts say that’s not true, either.
“Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you ignore life’s stressors. You just approach hardship in a more productive way,” says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. “Constructing an optimistic vision of life allows one to have a full interpersonal world in spite of unfortunate circumstances … reduces feelings of sadness/depression and anxiety, increases your lifespan, fosters stronger relationships with others and provides a coping skill during times of hardship. Being optimistic allows you to handle stressful situations better, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.”
Science shows that those with an optimistic outlook have better cardiovascular health and a stronger immune system, earn a higher income and have more successful relationships.
In fact, experts claim that the real difference between optimists and pessimists isn’t in their level of happiness or in how they perceive a situation, but in how they cope.
“Optimism is a mindset that enables people to view the world, other people and events in the most favorable, positive light possible. Some people describe this as the ‘half glass full’ mentality,” says Dr. Aparna Iyer, psychiatrist and assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Optimists do acknowledge negative events, but they are more likely to avoid blaming themselves for the bad outcome, inclined to view the situation as a temporary one and likely to expect further positive events in the future.”
Your Brain on Optimism
So what exactly is happening in the brain when we have a positive or negative response to a situation?
Research shows that positive moods are associated with more left-side activity, while negative emotions, like being angry or depressed, are associated with more right-side activity.
“Just about anyone can be classified by their brain wave patterns as one or the other type,” said Dr. Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, who has conducted numerous studies on the link between activity in the frontal lobes and emotions. He found that only 15 percent of people have no inclination one way or the other.
Another one of his studies published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology confirmed that these brain pattern activities are strong predictors of how we will react to certain situations. Volunteers with more left-side activity who watched amusing films had a far stronger pleasant response, while those with more right-side brain activity who watched distressing films had far stronger negative feelings.
Positive moods are associated with more left-brain activity, while negative emotions fire up the right side of the brain.
The good news: By consciously altering your thought processes, you can literally re-wire your brain.
Davidson conducted an experiment to see if it was possible to shift the activity of those who had a tendency towards right-brain activity. Mindfulness was taught to workers in high-stress jobs who, on average, tipped toward the right in the ratio for the emotional set point. The findings were promising: After two months of training (for three hours each week), their emotions ratio shifted to the left and they reported feeling less anxious, more energized and happier.
Yes, the workers proved that we are able to change how our brains respond to experiences.
The Tangible Health Benefits of Looking on the Bright Side
Is making the effort to train your brain to be more optimistic worth it? Science says yes. Research shows that the sunny worldview has some very real benefits for your health and productivity.
According to a study published in Clinical Psychology Review, optimism is closely linked to resilience. “Optimism has been shown to create physical and mental resilience for people, even those who have been through extraordinarily traumatic life circumstances or medical situations,” says Iyer.
Science also shows that those with an optimistic outlook tend to be more proactive when it comes to their health, have better cardiovascular health and a stronger immune system, earn a higher income and have more successful relationships.
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With all of these suggested benefits, it’s not surprising that research also shows that being optimistic can lengthen your lifespan.
A large study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that the most optimistic women were 30 percent less likely to die from any of the serious illnesses tracked during the 8-year time period, including cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Half full or half empty? Experts say you can learn to see the positive. Malte Mueller / Getty Images/fStop
6 Ways to Train Yourself to Be More Optimistic
Convinced it’s time for a shift in perspective (and to take advantage of the perks that come with it)? You’ll be happy to hear that experts believe optimism is a trait that can be learned pretty easily.
“Previous studies have shown that optimism can be altered with relatively uncomplicated and low-cost interventions — even something as simple as having people write down and think about the best possible outcomes for various areas of their lives, such as careers or friendships,” said postdoctoral research fellow Kaitlin Hagan, co-lead author of the Harvard study. “Encouraging use of these interventions could be an innovative way to enhance health in the future.”
“Optimism can definitely be a learned trait,” agreed Iyer, who says she works with many clients to cultivate a more optimistic outlook. “Just because you have been a pessimist for most of your life does not mean that you are destined to always be a pessimist. In fact, there are many effective ways to adopt an optimistic mindset.”
Here are a handful of tactics that will help you begin to see the glass half full.
1. ‘Try On’ a Positive Lens
Yes, shifting your perspective is as easy as consciously thinking happy thoughts.
“For my clients who have historically tended to be pessimistic, they habitually view things as negative. I will ask them to challenge themselves to always consider that there may be another way of looking at things,” says Iyer. Experts refer to the tactic as “positive reframing.”
“For example, if a client expresses that an entire day was ruined because it was dark or rainy outside, I would challenge him to focus on what may have been gained during that time. Often, he will reply that he did end up spending time indoors relaxing, reading or cuddling up to somebody he loves. Instead of looking at events in the most negative possible light, I encourage clients to make an active effort to ‘try on’ positive lenses as much as possible. After a while, this will become effortless, a more automatic and optimistic frame of mind.”
Making this conscious effort not only shifts your viewpoint in the short term, but it may actually train your brain to think more positively. As Davidson’s research revealed, the more we consciously reframe scenarios in a positive light, the more we train our brains to fire up circuits in different regions, eventually altering our response to negative experiences.
2. Take Note of the Company You Keep
We all have those friends who are chronic complainers or gossipers. After spending a few hours with them we find ourselves jumping on the Debby Downer bandwagon. It’s clear: Negativity is contagious.
Luckily, positive emotions can be contagious, too.
“Just as some diseases are contagious,” Christakis says, “we’ve found that many emotions can pulse through social networks,” says Nicholas Christakis, an HMS professor of medical sociology and of medicine who has researched the contagion of emotions within the larger context of social networks, His research found that happiness may be a collective phenomenon: Having a happy spouse, or a friend or neighbor, who lives within a mile of you appears to increase the probability that you will be happy as well.
Having a happy spouse, friend or neighbor who lives within a mile of you increases the probability that you will be happy as well.
Which means it’s time to add some optimists to your network.
“Start noticing who you spend time with on a daily basis. If you start connecting to people who are optimistic and grounded in life, you will start to be affected by their positive energy,” says Ward. “The same goes for the time you spend with pessimistic people. The more you spend time with negativity, the more negative you are bound to feel.”
3. Turn Off the News
Five minutes of the morning news is enough to send anyone’s mood in a downward spiral.
“The news and current state of media and politics can make it very hard for people to be optimistic. The reality is that the moment you turn on the news or read the paper, you are likely to be barraged with negativity and a bleak outlook on the world,” says Iyer. “This, however, is an imbalanced view on the world, so I suggest that people try to limit their consumption of the news. I typically recommend allowing yourself just enough time to learn the news, after which I suggest that you turn off the media and instead spend time doing activities that help maintain your health and a positive outlook. If you feel a need to process the current state of political or world affairs, you may want to consider having a healthy discussion about it with a friend or family member; this still allows you to absorb the information but can also offer you a good level of discourse and balanced views on the news.”
4. Write in a Journal for a Few Minutes Each Day
Researchers define gratitude as the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself, or a general state of thankfulness — no doubt a mental state that fosters an optimistic outlook. But it can be easier said than done to remain grateful throughout day to-day stressors .
A smart way to ease into it is by journaling, a popular technique for cultivating gratitude that takes just minutes each day.
“I will often ask my clients to keep gratitude journals. At the end of each day, they will write down one or two things that they experienced or witnessed during the day that filled them with gratitude, says Iyer. “It is really important to note that this could be anything — a cup of coffee that filled you with joy, a random act of kindness by a stranger or even breathing in some fresh air on your morning walk. This will allow you to focus on the positives of your day and cultivate an optimistic mindset, a perfect note on which to end your day.”
Writing down what you are grateful for is linked to greater feelings of optimism.
One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that writing in a journal about what you are grateful for was linked to greater feelings of optimism, while another published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that keeping a journal in which you write down your own acts of kindness can also give you optimism a boost.
Not to mention that writing down what you’re grateful for comes with some pretty impressive physical benefits as well, including better sleep, improved heart health, reduced aches and pains and fewer depressive symptoms.
While you have your journal open, jot down some of your accomplishments as well. “It may sound corny but start acknowledging your personal and professional achievements. Doing so creates a sense of self-esteem and healthy self-esteem builds confidence. When you feel confident, you feel much more optimistic about life,” says Ward.
5. Acknowledge What You Can — and Cannot — Control
“While some people may be unable to deal with uncertainty, positive individuals are able to adapt and thrive. Accept what you can and cannot control in the situation,” says Hershenson. “For example, if you lose your job you cannot control the fact that you were fired or laid off. You can control whether you take steps to find a new job as well as whether you take care of yourself with proper nutrition and sleep.”
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to help combat the tendency to ruminate over daily stressors, which is a breeding ground for negativity.
“We often ruminate endlessly without really focusing on the task at hand,” says Weiss. “If you can learn to be in the present space (while allowing other thoughts to enter your brain but then pushing them gently away) without judgement or thought about past or future, you will find that there’s less room for pessimism,” says Weiss.
6. Don’t Forget to Acknowledge the Negative
It’s important to remember that making an effort to be more optimistic doesn’t mean walking around wearing rose-colored glasses. While it’s good for our mental health to see the positive in situations, not acknowledging the negative can hinder you in the long run.
“Optimism can be detrimental if it keeps you locked into fantasy and you are in denial about your current reality. You may be optimistic about finding a more lucrative job or loving relationship, but if you do not address the issues that are keeping you from those goals, you will not be able to create what you want,” says Ward. “A combination of optimism and realistic thinking help people navigate through life. Realistic thinking does not mean never seeing the bright side of life; not at all. It is simply a way of supporting your optimism with the action steps so that you can create a positive future as opposed to being stuck in fantasy.”
- A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that optimists lived 11 to 15 percent longer than pessimists do.
- Optimists also had a 50 to 70 percent greater chance of making it to 85.
- Making small steps can help change a negative outlook, which may lead to a healthier, longer life, researchers believe.
Bad news for all you pessimists out there: Your negative outlook might actually shorten your lifespan, new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests. (But you already expected that, right?)
In the study, researchers used self-reported data—questionnaires regarding a person’s optimism—and mortality information from sources such as the National Death Index to determine level of optimism and lifespan.
“Optimism refers to a general expectation that good things will happen, or believing that the future will be favorable because we can control important outcomes,” study author Lewina Lee, Ph.D. assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine told Bicycling.
Data was taken from two sources: the Nurses Health Study, which collected information from over 69,700 women, and the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, which had records on over 1,400 men. Researchers then tracked the participants for 10 years.
They found that the most optimistic men and women lived 11 to 15 percent longer than those with the lowest levels of optimism. They were also 50 to 70 percent more likely to make it to 85 years old.
One possible reason? People with a sunnier outlook may be more likely to engage in healthier behaviors—think fitting in regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, or being complacent to doctor’s advice—as a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that linked optimism to lower odds of cardiovascular disease and premature death found.
So, thinking about changing your tune? Lee explained that evidence has shown that certain things, such as identifying goals and then imagining a successful future, can increase levels of optimism, at least in the short term. However, it is not known whether these gains are sustained over longer periods of time, but it is possible that if they are, they may play a role in helping improve your health and longevity.
“A growing body of research suggests that optimism is modifiable, so our study lays the foundation for research to test optimism as a potential intervention target to promote good health,” Lewina said.
Another way to start seeing the glass half full? Keep on with your daily ride. Healthy habits—think a regular workout—can also affect your attitude, which may help boost optimism levels.
“Our findings suggest we may be able to promote longevity and healthy aging by cultivating psychosocial resources, such as optimism,” Lee said.
Lee pointed out that while research typically focuses on external factors that increase risk for diseases or premature death, this research suggest that it may also be beneficial to also target inherent things like optimism to better your overall health.
So, while you should still focus on your diet and exercise, check in with your outlook on life. Changing the way you perceive things just may help you live longer and healthier.
Jordan Smith Digital Editor Her love of all things outdoors came from growing up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and her passion for running was sparked by local elementary school cross-country meets.
The 5 Benefits of Being Optimistic
May 14, 2015 3 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When running a business, as we all know, there will be difficult days, hard times and stressful periods. Although it’s not easy to spot the silver linings, having a positive attitude can help us push through rough patches.
Here are a few benefits optimism and positivity can bring, even in the face of adversity:
1. See failure as a new start.
Failure is not the end, in fact it is often the beginning of something great. When things are good, we coast along without making any quantum leaps. When things go bad, our world gets shaken up, which requires us to grow, see new things and start afresh.
Related: 3 Ways to Harness the Inner Child in Every Entrepreneur
Optimism allows us to learn from failures, pick up the pieces and move on to something greater. The greatest business ideas, and times in life, can be born from failure.
2. Be expansive.
Pessimism makes us contract and shy away from new or adventurous things. It causes us to fixate on the negative possibilities and be trapped by fear of failure.
Optimism, however, opens us up to new ideas, new experiences and new possibilities. It frees us up to consider new options and change our businesses, and lives, for the better. It helps us look to the future and create expansive, evolving realities.
3. Get healthy.
Dwelling on negativity isn’t healthy. Not only are optimists generally happier and less stressed, but also they tend to have healthier hearts.
In a study of more than 5,100 adults, researchers from the University of Illinois found that those who were the most optimistic were 76 percent more likely to have health scores in an ideal range. In addition, optimists had significantly better blood sugar and cholesterol levels, exercised more, and had healthier body mass indexes, and were less likely to smoke than pessimists.
Related: One Simple Exercise That Can Help You Think Through Any Big Decision
Focusing on the positive, instead of the negative, improves mental well-being, which can motivate individuals to take better care of their bodies, as well.
4. Spread good vibes.
Optimism is contagious. Having an upbeat attitude can inspire everyone around us. A survey conducted by Gallup found that only 35 percent of U.S. managers are engaged in their jobs. This lack of engagement and its impact on employees costs the U.S. an estimated $77 billion to $96 billion each year.
Attitude is everything. Optimistic leaders can help motivate and engage their employees. A positive team will be driven to accomplish goals and work together to move things forward.
5. It is the best choice.
There is no better alternative to optimism. Pessimism doesn’t achieve much, and doesn’t have any benefits over optimism. Being optimistic obviously doesn’t mean seeing rainbows 24-7. Everything won’t always be great. But optimism helps us see new opportunities, learn from different situations, and keep moving.
In life, movement and growth is essential, which optimism helps us achieve.
Related: 5 Negative Ways of Thinking You Need to Stop Today
45 Benefits of Optimism
Note: This is a guest post from Ayo Olaniyan of Discovering Purpose
Look at the picture closely: Is the glass half full or half empty?
The BBC website published a report Optimistic women ‘live longer’. This was based on a research carried out by a group of US scientists who studied 100,000 women to deduce pessimists had higher blood pressure and cholesterol; optimistic women had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause after more than eight years of follow-up.
The concept of this post isn’t targeted at women only; I believe the subject of optimism affects every individual going/living through life’s struggles each day. There have been various studies carried out on optimism and while I have a few reservations on extreme optimism, one can’t deny the role optimism plays in enhancing your personal growth.
What is optimism?
Optimism is looking at a more favorable side of events and simply anticipating the best possible outcome in any situation.
Sir Winston Churchill states ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’ What do you see?
A few months ago, I filled out the VIA Survey of Character Strengths by Martin Seligman (founder of Positive Psychology) and the results showed I was moderately optimistic.
It’s also important to note that there are elements of hope expressed in optimism.
Rick Snyder states ‘hope is a process of goal-directed thoughts that reflects both the belief that one can find pathways to the goal and has motivation based on one’s perceived capabilities or thinking.’
In no particular order, here are 45 benefits of optimism:
- It gives you a reason for living.
- It reduces the level of stress experienced.
- Research shows that it increases longevity.
- It enables you to handle and put your emotions in check.
- It promotes happiness.
- It promotes self respect and integrity
- It enhances various coping skills developed in order to combat life’s struggles.
- It forges persistence which is an essential trait required for achieving success.
- It creates a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
- It promotes healthy living.
- It creates a positive anticipation of the future.
- It increases your level of productivity.
- It allows you to deal with failure constructively.
- It allows you to develop the attribute of patience.
- It makes you proactive.
- It improves your physiological and psychological well being.
- It enables you to take a balanced approach to life by dealing with the constant negative thoughts which spring up.
- It increases the likelihood of effective problem solving.
- It gives you peace of mind.
- It enables you to generate an alternative, more hopeful explanation for various difficulties experienced.
- It ensures you believe in your dream.
- It creates a positive attitude.
- It increases your tolerance levels because it lowers the risk of you being irritated by little things.
- It allows you to develop the habit of being thankful.
- It increases your level of motivation.
- It builds successful careers by promoting productivity.
- It promotes laughter.
- It doesn’t give any room for self denial.
- It welcomes any form of constructive change.
- It creates positive expectations.
- It sets your mood for the day.
- It promotes positive relationships.
- It builds resilience in the face of adversity.
- It promotes self confidence and boosts self esteem.
- It ensures you are focused.
- It promotes bonding between individuals.
- It reduces the level of your frustrations and worries.
- It promotes forgiveness.
- It enhances effective communication.
- It increases your spiritual development and awakening.
- It deals with your limiting beliefs which try to keep you from using your abilities.
- It gives room for self expression.
- It increases your mental flexibility.
- It is therapeutic.
- It improves your social life.
There are several ways optimism can be developed. They are as follows:
- Have realistic goals and expectations.
- Always remember you are human with a lot of imperfections.
- Acknowledge past events, but endeavor to manage the present with a view to creating a brighter future.
- Don’t fall into the trap of feeling hopeless.
- Be true to yourself.
- Network with people who show optimism in their daily lives.
- Believe in your dreams.
Once again, the aim of this post is to remind you of the benefits of optimism.
I look forward to your comments and suggestions.
Ayo Olaniyan is a certified Unitive Life Coach. He is also an Accredited Professional Counsellor with the Counselling Society United Kingdom. He writes on how you can discover your purpose through personal development and self-awareness on the blog Discovering Purpose. He is also the publisher of The Life Skills Magazine.
So many of us operate at full throttle and yearn for the idea of “work-life balance.” But I think that’s similar to hoping for a magical fairy godmother to show up and clean your house at night while you sleep. (Yes, these are the things I wish for.)
I think there’s no such thing as work-life balance. However, there is an incredibly advantageous mindset we can foster—whether you’re facing a major deadline at work or enjoying a middle-of-the-night, unexpected hangout with your 1-year-old. When you develop an optimistic mindset, you’ll be in a better headspace to manage burnout and depression. You’ll also increase your productive energy and will probably see more success throughout your career.
The optimists’ advantage
Optimism is a great tool for decreasing stress and can even give you back as much as five stress-free months a year. Recently, I partnered on a study with Frost Bank and found individuals with more optimism experience 145 fewer days of financial stress each year than pessimists.
We surveyed 2,000 adults nationwide and found that optimists are seven times more likely to experience high levels of financial well-being. They feel better about their money, no matter how much they make or have, and they’re significantly more likely to make positive choices about it.
We also found that optimists have met more of their goals—both personally and professionally. Those who are less optimistic, on the other hand, tend to believe that their goals are unachievable. Optimists are nearly twice as likely to meet their primary life goals, on average, and I’m not just talking about financial goals: 96% of optimists have changed careers to follow a passion, or expect to.
The Frost study is just one of a multitude of studies that show optimism is a valuable attribute. For more than a decade, I’ve studied the connection between optimism and success. I’ve been fortunate to work with executives from some of the most forward-thinking companies to help foster an optimistic culture that drives business outcomes.
Together, we’ve seen a national insurance carrier increase gross revenues by 50% and managers improve team productivity by 31% in three weeks. A study I did with Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Achor also found that you’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion over the next year if you’re practicing optimism.
Looking on the bright side is more than a tool for taking life’s ups and downs in stride. An optimistic outlook is also good for your health, according to new research.
“Thought patterns and mindsets are the most intimate parts of our experience,” said Dr. Alan Rozanski, lead author of a meta-analysis on optimism that was published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open. “We have known for a few decades now that there’s a relationship between psychological factors and heart disease.”
The new meta-analysis, which examined 15 studies on optimism and health and utilized data from 229,391 individuals, found that a person’s tendency to think positively about the future was linked with a 35% lower risk for heart disease, and a lower risk of death.
But rote directives to “be more optimistic” seem unlikely to shift the worldviews of hardened pessimists.
Instead, Rozanski, who is also a cardiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s in New York, thinks a better application of the new optimism research might be to offer pessimism treatment as part of cardiac rehab programs.
People who have recently had heart attacks are eager to live healthier lives and are already making lifestyle changes, like improving their diets and exercising more, explained Rozanski, who has experience working with heart attack patients in such programs.
And while pessimism treatment is a novel idea, Rozanski thinks mental health should be part of post-heart attack regimens in the future.
“Thinking of this as a medical issue is new,” he said.
More broadly, he thinks pessimism should raise concerns for doctors who might already be screening for more serious mental health conditions, like depression.
While depression itself carries numerous health burdens and complications, including weight gain, heart disease, substance use disorders and risk for suicide, according to the Mayo Clinic, Rozanski stressed that we have clear approaches for treating depression.
“Just like we can treat depression, we can treat at an earlier stage,” he said.
The Benefits of Looking on the Bright Side: 10 Reasons to Think Like an Optimist
None By Jessica Cassity
Having a cheery disposition can influence more than just your mood. “People who are optimistic are more committed to their goals, are more successful in achieving their goals, are more satisfied with their lives, and have better mental and physical health when compared to more pessimistic people,” says Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. Research shows that people tend to be optimistic by nature, but what if you’re naturally more of an Eeyore? Strengthen your sense of hope: The trick is to act like an optimistic person, even if you aren’t feeling particularly hopeful. “If you think that the future can be positive, you’re more willing to put in time and energy to make that come about,” says Segerstrom. By being engaged and persistent, even if you don’t feel particularly positive, the benefits of optimism—like satisfaction and health—will soon follow. In fact, seeing the proverbial glass as half full can pay off in a number of unexpected ways, from improving your work experience to enhancing your relationships and protecting your mind and body. Here are 10 reasons strengthening your optimism is a good idea:
Optimists Feel Healthier
If you think that the world is inherently good, and that life will work out in your favor, you’re more likely to rate your own health and sense of well-being as better. Best of all, it doesn’t matter where you live or what language you speak: These statistics came from a study of more than 150,000 people living in 142 countries. But optimism doesn’t just make you feel healthier—it can actually make you healthier, as these next few studies show.
Optimists Are Healthier
A recent Harvard School of Public Health study found that positive psychological well-being, which includes self-acceptance and positive relations with others, is linked to improved heart health. However, having an optimistic attitude was the biggest predictor of all: People who tend to look on the bright side have fewer heart problems, such as cardiovascular disease. They also have better cholesterol readings: In a separate survey of nearly 1,000 middle aged men and women, those who reported higher levels of optimism had lower levels of triglycerides, or less fat in the blood.
Optimists are More Likely to be Centenarians
If you expect that you’ll live into old age, you increase your chances of actually doing so. An analysis of the health and hope of nearly 100,000 women by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that over an eight-year-period, optimists were less likely to die from all causes than cynics.
Optimists Take Fewer Sick Days
Can hope help you stay cold- and illness-free? The results are promising. In one recent study Segerstrom and her colleagues studied the relationship between optimism and immune response in first-year law students throughout the school year. When a student was more optimistic they fought off infection more effectively than during the times when they were less hopeful.
Optimists Are Less Prone to Freakouts
By nature, optimists don’t sweat the small stuff. Those were the findings in a study at Quebec’s Concordia University. Not only did optimists produce less cortisol—the stress hormone–during times of stress, they also didn’t experience as much perceived stress during stressful times.
Optimists Are the Best Dates
Romantic relationships benefit from a sunny disposition: Optimists and their partners tend to be happier than pessimistic pairings. This theory was put to the test at the University of Oregon, where researchers found that this increased happiness held true regardless if both or just one partner were identified as optimists.
Optimists Have Happier 9 to 5s
People who see a glass that’s half full tend to rate their jobs as more satisfying than those who don’t. A study from Kuwait University found that people who were the most optimistic were also happiest in their jobs and had the fewest work complaints; the opposite was true for pessimists.
Optimists Get More Job Offers and Promotions
A positive outlook is just as important as a polished resume when it comes to job-hunting. A study from Duke University followed a group of MBA graduates as they entered the workforce: Those who believed good things would happen to them had an easier time finding jobs than those who had a less hopeful outlook.The same Duke University study found that optimists in the workforce often have a reason to be happy on the job: They tend to earn higher starting salaries than pessimists and they also are promoted more frequently.
Optimists Are Better at Bouncing Back
When life delivers lemons, optimists are more likely to make lemonade. Those were the findings in a survey of college freshman in Australia: The students who were more optimistic about their transition to university life experienced less stress, anxiety, and uncertainty and had a more successful first year overall.
Optimists Make Better Athletes
Optimists don’t necessarily have more muscle mass or greater athletic ability than pessimists. But what they do have is hope. In a study co-authored by Martin Seligman, PhD, director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, a group of swimmers was instructed to swim their hardest then were told a false time—one that added several seconds. The optimists used this negative feedback to fuel an even faster time on their next swim; the pessimists performed more poorly than before.
Jessica Cassity writes about health, fitness, and happiness for publications including Self, Shape, Health, Women’s Health, and Family Circle magazines. Her first book, Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You was published in 2011.
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