research, published in Health Psychology, has found that optimists recover more
quickly than pessimists after a death or the onset of severe illness in the
family. This is the latest in a line of research supporting the idea that being
optimistic is good for your health. Optimists have been found to live as much
as 19% longer – perhaps because they have more friends, persist at healthy
behaviours and have stronger immune systems.
were assessed for optimism and pessimism using the Life Orientation Test, while
sick days were used in this research as an indication of health levels. The
authors argue that this is more accurate than self-report methods of assessing
health. These tend to be open to a variety of problems including people simply
forgetting or misreporting when they were ill.
positive when life is treating you like a punch-bag? Dr Raj Persaud in his book
‘The Motivated Mind’ reports research into the differing mental habits of
optimists and pessimists showing it’s all in how we interpret past successes
bad happens to a pessimist, they assume it is representative of a pervasive
problem. This can lead to ‘catastrophising’ – allowing a setback to have disastrous
implications for the rest of your life. To compound the problem a pessimist
will also assume that a problem encountered is permanent and personal.
happens to an optimist, they do the exact opposite. An optimist tends to
restrict the event’s implications, avoid taking it personally and assume it is
only a temporary state of affairs.
happens to an optimist and a pessimist? Reverse the patterns seen above. An
optimist will let it spill over into other areas of their life as well as
assuming it’s personal and permanent.
claim that optimists suffer from ‘False Hope Syndrome‘ – but that’s just
typical of their negative thinking!
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from
University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.