Health & Wellness Articles

Optimism and the Power of Positive Thinking

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life!

“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.

Because of their thought processes, optimists have much brighter futures. A bad circumstance or event is taken in stride, viewed as a temporary setback—not a permanent way of life. Even if something bad happens today, a positive thinker believes that good things will come again in the future.

Optimists tend to share several other positive characteristics that increase overall happiness and promote health, while reducing depression and chronic stress:
  • They think about, reflect on, and emphasize the good things in life.
  • They are grateful and thankful for all their blessings.
  • They don’t complain when something bad happens.
  • They feel that nothing can hold them back from achieving success and reaching their goals.
  • They believe in abundance.
  • They are confident that the world offers plenty of opportunities for everyone to succeed.

The Power of Positive Thinking: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

Luckily, you can change your thinking patterns over time. Even a pessimist can become an optimist with enough practice! All you need to do is to reframe how you define events. Instead of dwelling on the bad experience, analyze it to figure out what good can come of it. Even if a project at work is deemed a failure, think about what you learned during the process. What strengths did you discover within yourself, and when can you use those talents again?

Instead of blaming yourself for the failure, think about the outside influences that may have affected your project. Maybe you were delayed by outside vendors, so you couldn’t meet a deadline; or management decided to go in another direction, making your project redundant. Virtually any failure can be turned into a learning experience, which increases your potential for success in the future.

Optimism is a skill of emotional intelligence, which translates to a better career and greater success in life. Life is too short to be miserable, so start turning your thinking around! The power of positive thinking can advance your prospects for work, relationships and other life experiences.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!

Member Comments

  • Positivity is something I'm working on and I believe it's helped me recently. We have been house-hunting in a market where a house goes on sale and is under contract within a couple of days. It was beginning to seem impossible especially since we live at a distance. However, I decided to "surrender the outcome" and believe that we would get the right house when it came along. The next day we found our dream home, made an offer, and were officially under contract the next day. I choose to believe that my optimism was partially responsible!
  • Some days it is harder than others but you just have to go on
  • My positive thought for today is: Slow but steady! Being older the weight doesn't come off as fast as it did when I was younger. It's taken 3 mos to lose 15lbs but I look at it as a positive. I could have gained that 15 instead of losing! Instead of growing OUT of my clothes, I now fit INTO my smaller ones!
  • Fear is the darkroom where the devil develops your negatives.
  • All you have to do is read through the comments to see that the points in the article are certainly proven.
  • This is to Elegant Babe - I loved your comment. I also feel overall I am a positive person. But when I've been too optimistic I fall flat on my face. Being positive comes from being REAL and that includes dealing realistically with disappointments and grief. Like the author when I was laid off I started a business but with some physical limitations and my personality (introvert to the max) I found that marketing was NOT my thing. I also found that I needed to be in an office environment at least some of the time. As an introvert I tend to close myself off if I stay home to work.

    A dear friend of mine said it is often better to be a pessimist and be delightfully surprised by a positive outcome than an optimist and be derailed. Nowhere have I found this to be truer than in my hearing journey. Finding myself deaf at 61 I got a cochlear implant. Success here is on a bell curve. 25% hear amazingly well; 50% are somewhere in the middle and most do better than they did before they received an implant; and 25% derive little or no benefit. Yet going in everyone hopes for the best. I was deaf - had nothing to lose so I went in thinking, worse case I will be have surgery and still not be able to hear. First time around I was one of the amazing success stories. It was overwhelming. A year later the device failed. The second time around I was squarely in the middle of the bell curve but I now had a pinched trigeminal nerve. Results were markedly different. No amount of patience and practice can change that. And then the unthinkable - several surgeries (rotator cuffs both sides) and a few ear infections and my hearing is declining. Eventually I will be deaf again without an option. There is no positive spin I can put on this but it is my reality and my challenge to accept it with grace and dignity. I feel also however that it is a part of my responsibility to help to educate others on the downside of a device. After all it is not a cure.

    I start each day with three good things: I got up - some days that is no small feat. I have the...
  • Read the Book of Psalms, and the rest of the Bible
  • Optimism is something I always work to exude; “Work” because for as long as I can remember, it didn't come easy for me. I call it “putting on my game face” to deal with the world. I’m not a complainer or a gossip and I do not indulge in others’ complaints. Instead, I try to suggest a possible alternate solution hoping it helps.

    My family, friends, and acquaintances, always thought I am a high spirited person. I finally shared the truth to my family and friends. Besides surprise, they didn’t know how to respond. Fortunately, they continue to stand by me even though they don’t understand.

    I’ve been doing lots of work to handle and fight to heal such as:
    • Seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist that consult which each other. Fortunately, they work well together to provide the best treatment possible for me
    • Medication
    • Learning how to take care of myself: grooming, balanced meals, keep the apartment clean, care for my dog and plants.
    • Working up to regular exercise program (which doesn’t come easily for me).
    • Light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
    • Workshops
    • And so on…Yet, I still feel deep sadness

    Positive thinking seems a bit simplistic to me. In fact, it annoys me when anyone shares that concept as if it helps relieve the pain. Even my family and friends know better to not suggest such inane advice.

    For me, it’s not about positive thinking. It’s about AUTHENTICALLY knowing that:
    • I wake up in the morning feeling calm, grateful, and ready to face the day.
    • I wake up knowing that whatever I decide to achieve, I do so effortlessly.
    • I make an income that allows me to create true financial freedom.
    • I’m in love with a guy that truly loves and accepts who I I feel for him. Also, he appreciates I’m in his life…as I feel for him.

    Sorry “Sparkpeople”, you are off the mark and a bit naive. I suggest you consider deeply researching the “Types of Depression”. Perhaps, this insight may generate information that truly helps me and others.

    Thank you.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Hard to be optimistic with so many "down" people around me.
  • 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.
    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.

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.

x Lose 10 Pounds by May 10! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.