What is Optimism? A Helpful Guide On Being An Optimist

What is optimism?

One dictionary defines optimism as “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.”

Another dictionary defines optimism as “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.”

Whichever dictionary definition we go with, optimism boils down to believing good things can happen in the future.

Becoming an optimist is something that can benefit all of us in these stressful times.

Having some sense that things will eventually get better can help keep us moving forward.

Of course, sometimes we’ll feel a little pessimistic in response to negative news. It’s natural to get frustrated with things in life.

But choosing to have a belief overall that despite the frustrations, good things can still happen, that’s the better mindset to have.

Rock with the word smile on it

Benefits of optimism

There are a variety benefits of choosing to be an optimist. Here are some of the top ones.

1. Longer life

Boston University School of Medicine completed research that found individuals with higher optimism were more likely to live longer.

They noted that participants achieved exceptional longevity, living up to 85 years or older.

Based on other research, the authors believe one reason this is the case is because optimistic people regulate their behavior and emotions better.

They also think optimists bounce back from stressors and difficulties more easily than others.

2. Better sleep

University of Illinois researchers concluded from their study that optimistic people were more likely to sleep better than pessimists.

Those who were optimistic reported getting adequate sleep, sleeping for about six to nine hours a night.

The optimistic participants also were less likely to have daytime sleepiness and insomnia.

The reason was because optimists engaged in more problem-focused coping and found positive ways to interpret their stress.

As a result, there was less ruminating thoughts and worry experienced when falling asleep.

3. Better stress regulation

A Concordia University study found that optimistic people were better able to handle stress than pessimists.

The stress levels in optimists remain more stable in the face of stressful situations.

Overall, optimism can be good for our well-being and our general happiness in life.

How to be more optimistic

In an NBC news article on optimism, doctors and professors in the humanities field suggest that it is possible for us to train our brains to be more optimistic.

Here are some of the recommendations that were offered to do that.

1. Look at things through a positive lens

Dr. Richard Davidson, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin, says that we can consciously choose to think happy thoughts if we desire.

One way that it can be done is choosing to focus on what was gained in the moments of our day we found unpleasant.

Dr. Davidson encourages his clients to actively try to look at things through positive lens during their day.

2. Keep a positive group around you

Harvard Medical School professor Nicholas Christakis conducted research that found happiness can be contagious.

The more we spend times around others that are happy and positive, the more likely we are to be happy and positive.

The more time we spend around those who are pessimistic, the more we’ll likely feel pessimistic too.

Make an effort to surround yourself with those who are optimistic.

3. Stop watching the news

Dr. Aparna Iyer, a psychiatrist who teaches at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, recommends limiting the amount of news you watch.

She recommends spending just enough time to learn the news and then turning it off.

Dr. Iyer believes our time can be better spent doing activities that helps main our positive outlook and our well-being.  

Is optimism ever bad?

It is possible to be too optimistic to the point it can be harmful to you. One study noted that people who are unrealistically optimistic engage in risky behavior.

Despite that, it’s suggested that unrealistic optimism can be good for us because it can motivate people to take care of their well-being.

Why optimism is important                            

It’s important to be optimistic because it helps us to persevere through the challenges we deal with.

When you’re feeling positive and hopeful about your future, you’re more willing to put in the work to create a better life for yourself.

Your belief that things will get better keeps you open to the opportunities that can help make that possible.

How we respond to the difficulties we face determines a large part of how our time on earth will go.

If you choose to have a negative belief about your circumstances ever changing, then they likely won’t ever change.

But if you choose to be hopeful and positive about your future, it’ll remain possible that things will eventually change for the better for you.

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