Songs, adages and literary works have been extolling for centuries the benefits of a positive attitude. But is there truth to this piece of conventional advice?
Actually, yes. Decades of research demonstrate that optimism can provide measurable benefits such as increased longevity and stronger social networks.
Read on, and discover more about the substantial advantages of facing the world with a smile.
It Helps to Overcome Setbacks
In his influential book Learned Optimism, psychologist Marty Seligman explains that optimists have certain traits in common when it comes to facing setbacks. Optimists believe that difficulties are transitory, easy to overcome, and due to external factors, which keeps them always positive and eager. Try applying this mindset the next time you face a setback or a stumbling block and note how your attitude changes. If you convince yourself that the problem you’re facing was originated mainly by external causes and it’s only momentarily and easy to overcome, you’ll be more likely to try again until you succeed in your endeavor.
For Seligman, these thought guidelines constitute the “explanatory style” of optimistic people. Conversely, pessimists have an explanatory style that makes them see setbacks as pervasive, permanent and personal, that is, originated by internal causes.
Benefits Mind and Body
A growing body of research suggests a strong correlational (not causal) association between optimism and “exceptional longevity.” A recent study that involved more than 70,000 participants revealed that the most optimistic men and women had odds of reaching age 85 that were 50-70 per cent greater than the participants with lower optimism levels. This can be attributed in part to the fact that optimists live with less stress and usually take better care of themselves. There’s still a lot of research to be done, but the link between optimism and health is becoming increasingly evident.
Optimists Have Better Social Networks
This is not difficult to understand: People prefer being around those with a positive, glass half-full attitude. Optimists manage their relationships more successfully and tend to have more friends and better relationships that their pessimistic counterparts. This effect can offer benefits that extend far beyond the realm of friendship, since a reliable social network can have a positive impact on our personal and professional lives and on our health.
As you can see, an optimist outlook comes with many advantages, so those who are born-optimists can consider themselves lucky.
The great news is that, as Seligman posits in Learned Optimism, a positive attitude can also be learned as any other skill, so the benefits of optimism are within everyone’s reach.