It’s getting tougher these days to think of the glass as half full rather than half empty, but if you’re going to survive this economic crisis – literally – you might as well try. – Time
Optimism. This can be hard when 2 people you know lost their job in the last week and a third got a layoff notice. Or when everyone’s ready to throw their fat panic all over you. Or when people start talking like keeping a “positive attitude” alone will keep you from getting sick or dying. Next thing you know, people are saying things like, “Well, she was always so negative. No wonder she’s sick.”
So what has been found? Most recently, some researchers found the women they identified as optimists lived longer than the ones they identified as pessimists. They also found that those who were more “mistrustful”, or “cynically hostile”, were more likely to die than those who were less “cynically hostile.”
But what does this mean? Well, first off, this is correlation, not causation. The optimism may be directly affecting longevity, or it may be affecting something else that affects longevity, or the optimism and longevity may be both caused by other factors.
- It could be that optimistic people are more likely to exercise or be “good patients” because they expect things to work out.
- Optimism may result in less worry, which can result in feeling less stress (or managing it better). Less stress can improve your health.
- Optimism also tends to correlate with self-esteem, which affects stress levels too.
- Another optimism researcher points out that maybe optimistic people “are more likeable”, which would help in building better social networks, which are associated with longevity too.
What it’s not is magic. Optimism doesn’t prevent bad things from happening.
Sure, if being optimistic makes you happy, go for it. I tend to care about it a bit myself* because of my own history. But I also think that being worried about not being optimistic enough is probably counter-productive.
*One of the main reasons this story caught my eye is that excess stress and pessimism tends to push me toward clinical depression. So I tend to keep a mental eye on my mood and to make sure I give myself time to laugh, to unwind, and to look on the bright side. Call me crazy, but I like not being depressed. :)