Health & Wellness Articles

Optimism and the Power of Positive Thinking

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life!

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“How do you do it?” my friend asked me one day over coffee. “You’ve had some awful stuff happen to you over the years, but you’re still so cheerful. What gives?”

My friend was right, my life had been rough at times. I’d gotten divorced and I’d been laid off a couple of times within a five-year period. I should have been angry and bitter, but I wasn’t. I was still looking forward to each new day and the possibilities ahead of me. While this was normal for me, my friend’s comment made me realize that not everybody felt the way I did. Why was I so optimistic, anyway?

The Definition of Optimism

Optimism comes from the Latin word optimus, meaning "best," which describes how an optimistic person is always looking for the best in any situation and expecting good things to happen. Optimism is the tendency to believe, expect or hope that things will turn out well. Even if something bad happens, like the loss of a job, an optimist sees the silver lining. For me, getting laid off was the catalyst that allowed me to start my own business. As I packed up my office, my mind was already whirling with the possibilities ahead. Without that push, I may never have made the leap to self-employment. Losing my job was a good thing after all.

The emerging field of positive psychology studies the positive impact that optimism has on mental health. Other research shows that optimism may be good for my physical health too—optimists are sick less and live longer than pessimists. Apparently, a positive outlook on life strengthens the immune system (and the body's defenses against illness), cardiovascular system (optimists have fewer heart attacks), and the body's ability to handle stress.

Happiness through Positive Thinking

Being an optimist or a pessimist boils down to the way you talk to yourself. Optimists believe that their own actions result in positive things happening, that they are responsible for their own happiness, and that they can expect more good things to happen in the future. Optimists don’t blame themselves when bad things happen. They view bad events as results of something outside of themselves. I didn’t blame myself for losing my job, but saw it as a business decision that had nothing to do with me personally.

Pessimists think the opposite way, however. They blame themselves for the bad things that happen in their lives and think that one mistake means more will inevitably come. Pessimists see positive events as flukes that are outside of their control—a lucky streak that probably won’t happen again.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • My parents were exact opposites , one pessimist, one optimist, I find the middle road a much better place, what I call realist, the world is not always a sunny perfect place and it is not always a cold dark horrid place, there is good and bad with everything. To pretend all is happy and perfect is just as irritating as always spouting the negative, I prefer the truth. - 4/7/2016 5:16:42 AM
  • I became an optimist by observing my parents. My mother was extremely negative, while my father was a realist/optimist. It was clear to me that being so negative was an awful way to live. I also observed that people did not care for my mothers negative attitude, she only had few friends & constantly talked bad about them, behind their backs. While my father was the life of the party & everyone truly enjoyed his company.

    I'm not saying I don't have negative moments or feel upset about things. But I do not let that negativity affect my life. I do vent, mostly alone in my car. Occassionally to my boyfriend. For me, I find that it releases the negativity from my brain and then I'm over & done with it. - 3/31/2016 12:50:09 PM
  • I think the goal should be BALANCE. Optimism can go too far - optimists are more likely to stay in an abusive relationship because they are always trying to find the good and looking for a "bright side." This is true romantically, platonically, and also in terms of employment - one should not have to wait to be fired to start one's own business, perhaps the job was undervaluing you anyway and the company was not a healthy one to work for. Good business is not only about the "bottom line" of making a profit off the backs of employees. Also, optimistic people are way more likely to overwork their bodies instead of resting when needed, which can lead to cancer, injuries, and lots of other health problems. Pessimism can thus have health benefits at times. One extreme is not actually better than the other - they are still both extremes with a lack of perspective in thinking. The goal is to BALANCE the two! - 2/13/2016 7:23:56 PM
  • You know how we all have phrases that we say over and over and we get known for those ("It's all good", "Think outside of the box", etc.)? Most of don't even know we over use these phrases. I was shocked a couple of years ago when a person came to me and told me my phrase was "The good thing about that is...". Apparently every time someone made a comment about a situation, I'd shoot back this "silver lining" phrase with a positive aspect of the negative comment. In retrospect, I am just fine over-using this phrase and hope that my positive outlook continues. - 2/8/2016 11:57:02 AM
  • Hard to be optimistic with so many "down" people around me. - 1/29/2016 2:02:02 PM
  • I don't see that it is pessimistic to realize when we have made mistakes that are our own fault. The optimist though, would learn something from that and not see it as inevitable. - 12/9/2015 5:33:09 PM
  • HARVCOWAN
    let us remember,,,...,,e
    very day may not be a good day, but there is good in every day. Along that line......there is good [ optimistic spirit ]in every person. It has to be nurtured/develope
    d more in some people. Cheers for years. - 9/10/2015 9:27:48 PM
  • ARISMORENO
    Optimism is actually a good thing because through this attitude, we can improve the quality of our lives. Thanks for sharing.

    www.theoptimist
    blog.com - 8/15/2015 2:41:58 PM
  • ARISMORENO
    Optimism is actually a good things because through this attitude, we can improve the quality of our lives. Thanks for sharing.

    www.theoptimist
    blog.com - 8/15/2015 2:21:08 PM
  • I am an optimist by nature, however, when you have others around you constantly telling you the bad stuff (at work) is your fault there are no steps that you can take to always feel 'up'. I recently had to give up a leadership role I was very good at because the boss I reported to wouldn't back me up with unruly team members. He told me I was negative and needed to let it go, that I should find the positive and just let them do whatever. This was after being yelled at my one of them. - 7/26/2015 6:40:44 PM
  • KIM31555
    I find when I am 'blue,' I find a song to hum or sing. Mostly I choose from Disney songs to religious hymns. When I have a negative thought come into my mind, I start to sing, and sometimes out loud. After a small while, I start to feel better about myself. Also, being a 'guy' it's easy to see a pretty woman walking outside. I have trained myself to look the opposite direction and by not seeing helps my thinking (i.e. hide the baby's rattle and the baby forgets about it). - 7/5/2015 5:33:11 PM
  • This article is fine, but certainly not for those with depression. - 7/1/2015 2:02:35 PM
  • JOSEMARINPTC
    In my opinion optimism is associated with a lot of positive feelings and thoughts and comes from all different directions. Optimism could make you healthier because when happy or excited your body is relaxed and feels good. I found good information about the benefits it brings optimism health in this article http://inspower.c
    o/positive-ef
    fects-of-opti
    mism-on-life/ - 6/17/2015 1:11:50 AM
  • Being an optimist is not something that you can turn on and off like a switch. I am a "Cockeyed Optimist" but I also understand depression. I am normally a very "up" person but I went through a period of illness where I just couldn't cope and needed help! Yes, sometimes you can improve your mood but actual depression is something else! - 4/2/2015 9:44:04 AM
  • Lots of good points about the how and why of optimism. It is particularly important for me when "something bad happens." I have discovered that that is the time when I need to sit back and stop taking control, take time to look around my life, take time to listen, even to ask, "What do You want me to KNOW today? Usually, when one door seemed to close unexpectedly, another opened in a new surprising place. And my needs have always been met during those low times whether it was being able to pay the bills, or get unasked help finding my car from 7 different people in Walmart parking lot after spending 3 hours in chemotherapy. Don't know where they came from, but I couldn't take another step, couldn't find the car. They came from all different directions, went in all different directions and found what I needed. Yes, my car, but also the knowledge that helpful, caring people are all around me, and YOU. - 4/2/2015 8:45:29 AM

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