Chin up, buttercup! What’s long been intuitive to me is now clearly documented by scientific research: staying positive and optimistic impacts our lives in more ways than we can imagine, including a plethora of health benefits – reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, contracting respiratory viruses – and even living longer. A study of hundreds of centenarians conducted by Blue Zone concluded, “There wasn’t a grump in the bunch.”
And according to Dr. Elise Kalokerinos of the UQ School of Psychology, “Despite the fact that people often think of late life as a period of doom and gloom, older people are often more positive than younger people. Our research suggests that this focus on the positive may help older people protect their declining health.”
As if that isn’t enough, these additional perks to staying positive (Also from Sherry Phillips Blue Zone article) are worth noting:
- Work environments that are positive outperform their negative counterparts, including more sales and better decisions being made.
- Marriages with a 5:1 positive to negative interaction rate are much less likely to end in divorce.
- Positivity enhances athletic ability.
So, the question becomes: are you an optimist? Perhaps you can gauge it by your reaction to the results above. Optimists are celebrating; pessimists are wondering if the research isn’t somehow skewed or inaccurate – who performs these tests anyway, and what do they know?
It turns out there are actually two types of optimism: dispositional (based on expectations for the future) and explanatory (how a person handles good or bad news). And there are simple clinical tests you can take today to check your own level of both types. The Life Orientation Test is the standard for dispositional optimism, and the Attributional Style Test, although a bit more in-depth and time-consuming, can help determine your explanatory optimism.
If you’re not as happy with your optimism level results (and what pessimist would be?) never fear; there are plenty of ways to work towards changing your outlook on life.
- Be aware of your inner monologue, and focus on stifling any negative self-talk.
- Intentionally seek out things – even the smallest things – to be thankful for: A grandchild’s smile. The sun beginning to peek through the morning fog. A warm cup of cocoa.
- And along those lines, refrain from comparing yourself to others, being thankful instead for your own unique gifts and talents.
- Take time for activities – and people – you love, in particular, optimistic friends and family who brighten your mood.
Of course we all know there are plenty of external circumstances – it is election week, after all! – that can make optimism a challenge. But I find that the older I grow, the easier it is to rise above the negativity and truly focus on what really matters most, and in doing so, am discovering that optimism naturally follows. I hope you’ll join me in my journey!