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“Two men look out through the same bars: One sees the mud, and one sees the stars.” – Frederick Langbridge, A cluster of Quiet Thoughts

If you placed second in a writing contest, would you jump for joy and push for better results the next time? Or would you be discouraged and find an excuse not to participate again?


Optimism (Photo credit: Vanessa Pike-Russell)

In life, we are always filled with choices. We may opt to have a pessimistic view and live a self-defeating life or we may decide to take the optimistic route and create a challenging and fulfilling life.

So why nurture an optimistic point of view? And why now? Why at this age? Why at any age?

Well, optimism has been linked to positive mood and good morale; to academic, athletic, military, occupational and political success; to popularity; to good health and even to long life and freedom from trauma.

On the other hand, the rates of depression and pessimism have never been higher. It affects middle-aged adults the same way it hits younger people. The mean age of the onset of depression has gone from 30 to 15. It is no longer a middle-aged person’s disorder, but also a problem suffered by teenagers as well.

Here is how optimists react and the research that backs up why it really pays to be an optimist.

Optimists expect the best.

The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe that bad events, which will last a long time and undermine everything they do, are their own fault.

The truth is optimists are confronted with the same problems as everyone else in this world. What differs is the way they explain their misfortune. They explain it in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, and that its causes are confined to this one case.

Optimists tend to focus on and plan for the ‘problem’ at hand. They use ‘positive reinterpretation.’ In other words, they most likely reinterpret a negative experience in a way that helps them learn and grow. Such people are unfazed by bad situations, they perceive them to be a challenge and try harder.

Optimists won’t say that things will never get better, “ If I failed once, it will happen again”, and “If I experience misfortune in one part of my life, then it will happen in my whole life.”

Positive expectations of optimists also predict better reactions during transitions to new environments, sudden tragedies and unlikely turn of events. If they fall, they will stand up again and won’t stay down. They see opportunities instead of obstacles.

People Respond Positively To Optimists.

Optimists are proactive and less dependent on others for their happiness. They find no need to control or manipulate people. They usually draw people towards them. Their optimistic view of the world can be contagious and influence those they are with.

Optimism seems to be a socially desirable trait in all communities. Those who share optimism are generally accepted while those who spread gloom, panic, and hysteria are treated unfavorably.

In life, these people often win elections; get voted most congenial, find a companion easily, and are sought for advice.

When The Going Gets Tough, The Optimists Get Going.

Optimists typically maintain higher levels of subjective well-being during times of stress than do people who are less optimistic. In contrast, pessimists are likely to react to stressful events by denying that they exist or by avoiding dealing with problems. Pessimists are more likely to give up when difficulties arise.

Optimists hang on and persevere. They just don’t throw in the towel easily. They are also known for their patience and they inch their way a step closer to their goal or elusive dream.

Optimists Are Healthier And Live Longer. 

Medical research has justified that simple pleasures and a positive outlook can cause a measurable increase in the body’s ability to fight disease.

Their health is unusually good. They age well.

Optimists are much freer than most people from the usual physical illnesses of middle age. And they outlive those prone to negative thoughts.

So why not be an optimist today? And think positively towards a longer and more fulfilling life. Why not look forward to success in all your endeavors? Why not be resilient? Like everybody else you are bound to hit lows sometimes, but don’t just stay there. Carry yourself out of the mud and improve your chances of getting back on the right track again. And why not inspire others to come out of the deep, dark dungeon of depression from pessimism and follow the bright, sunshiny path of optimism for a rewarding life.

Author: Fred Horstman