A glass half full or half empty? The benefits of being optimistic

January 1, 2021
Lady in thoughtful pose against a door
end of life planning
anticipate life
supporting others
Bernadette Fulton

Is being optimistic inherited or is it learnt? Some psychologists believe optimism is to some extent genetically determined. But it is also accepted that environmental factors can play a significant role.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~ Winston Churchill

Research on healthy optimism shows that it can produce many benefits:

1. More happiness

As you might expect, optimists say that they are happier in life. Why is this? Well it might be because optimistic people are better able to anticipate positive events. And having a hopeful outlook makes them happier in their daily lives.

2. More positive emotions and better relationships

Because people with a more positive mood and outlook tend to have greater self- confidence and positive emotions. And their positivity must be infections as they often tend to be better liked by others.

3. Fewer negative emotions

Optimists experience less depression and anxiety. According to one eminent psychologist, depression is often accompanied by a pessimistic world view. So we tend to blame ourselves a lot more. And this can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. But in contrast to having a depressive outlook, optimism brings a greater sense of confidence and control over one’s life.

4. Better health

The results of several eminent studies conclude that optimists are physically healthier. An optimistic outlook is thought to boost our immune system when compared to pessimistic people. Studies have also shown that optimists live longer and that they are more proactive in working towards their positive expectations.

5. Better coping

Optimists cope better with stress and adversity. They tend to be better prepared for difficult challenges such as end of life planning. And use tools such as Anticipate Life to assist them.

6. Better performance

Optimists are more likely to persist to achieve their goals. So they tend to learn from their experience and mistakes if things don’t work out as planned. Research has shown that people with an optimistic outlook are more productive than their pessimistic peers.Optimism is a valuable trait to have in times of failure and defeat. An optimistic outlook is the key to persistence.

So would you like to be a more optimistic person?

So with all this research on the subject we can draw a few conclusions. It seems clear that optimism can play an important role in keeping us healthy, happy, and alive.

For those of us who are already optimists by nature, this is good news. But there are those of us who don’t find it easy to always ‘look on the bright side’. So how can we become more optimistic?

Well there is one exercise we can suggest. Reflect on how you think about and describe events happening around you. If your internal dialogue displays negativity, try to re-frame your mental reactions in a more hopeful light. Instead of saying to yourself “I really made a mess of that situation” try thinking “Well, I did my best.”

How often do we say to ourselves “Just everything went wrong today”? But there were probably times during the day when things were in fact going OK. Try to practise becoming more aware of your reactions. In this way it should be possible to achieve a more positive outlook on life generally. So that the next time you look at that glass, you will think of it as ‘half full’.