Some Facts about Optimism

Beach in sunshine

Being an optimist is relaxing.

If you think about it, having a negative outlook automatically builds stress. If you are always expecting something bad to happen, you will naturally be anxious (with raised cortisol and adrenaline levels, of course). You'll also miss out on the fun of looking forward to something. Remember the old saying, 'plan for the worst and expect the best'?

Imagine arranging a family picnic. Someone with a pessimistic outlook might think 'it's bound to rain and be a disaster'. They won't be able to look forward to the picnic with pleasant anticipation because they will be expecting trouble. If it does rain, they'll think 'I knew it would rain and be a disaster' and if it doesn't, they'll think 'well, it could have rained and been a disaster'. Whatever happens, they will have focussed on the rain/disaster.

Someone with an optimistic outlook planning the same picnic might think 'it may rain - how can I ensure the picnic's still a success?' and consider an alternative plan. Then they will be free to relax and look forward to the picnic. If it does rain they'll think 'well, it's a good job I planned for this - the picnic is still a success' and if not they will think 'it's a success in spite of the rain'. They are focussed on success.

Here are some other facts about positive thinking...

Being an optimist is good for you!

Research has shown that people who are optimistic are more successful in work, school and sports. They are less likely to get depressed, have fewer physical health problems and have better relationships with other people. They can even live longer!

You can learn to think optimistically.

There's been lots of research into the new discipline of Applied Positive Psychology, particularly at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Seligman explains that learning to think optimistically is a 'sticky' skill. It's a habit you can learn and once you have learned to do it, you will keep on thinking in this way.

Optimism is not a good plan in all situations.

If you are about to fly across the Atlantic, you'd probably think it's not a good idea for your pilot and ground crew to be optimistic that the plane won't ice up. You'd prefer them to take a 'worst-case scenario' attitude to checking the plane. In every day life, however, optimism is a better attitude.

People with an optimistic outlook believe that setbacks are temporary and not their fault.

It's about problem solving...

People with an optimistic outlook check how bad the situation is.

Things may be bad at present but they could always be worse!

People with an optimistic outlook don't let setbacks in one area of their life affect other areas.

Just because one thing is going wrong, optimists don't discount all the good things that are happening as well.

Now try the quiz to see how positively you can think...