Positive Thinking

Optimism is a trait that should become more common, judging by Winston Churchill’s famous quote that

“a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

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Optimism has been proven to improve the immune system, prevent chronic disease, and help people cope with unfortunate news. Gratitude is associated with optimism and has been determined that grateful people are happier, receive more social support, are less stressed, and are less depressed. Recent research indicates that optimists and pessimists approach problems differently, and their ability to cope successfully with adversity differs as a result.

Martin Seligman defines optimism as reacting to problems with a sense of confidence and high personal ability. Specifically, optimistic people believe that negative events are temporary, limited in scope (instead of pervading every aspect of a person’s life), and manageable. Of course, optimism, like other psychological states and characteristics, exists on a continuum. People can also change their levels of optimism depending on the situations they are in. For simplicity’s sake, the studies discussed herein will talk about people at the higher end of the spectrum as optimists and people on the lower end as pessimists. This section will review what is known about the benefits of optimism and evidence suggesting optimism is a learnable skill.