When bad things happen, it’s hard to look on the bright side. We are biologically predisposed to ruminate on issues and stay vigilant against perceived threats. But in a world where we don’t have to worry about carnivorous animals lurking around every corner, looking on the bright side and staying optimistic is important.
Benefits of Being an Optimistic Person
Optimism has many side effects: better relationships, improved mental and physical health, and better quality of life. Research suggests that more optimistic people are more effective at coping with stress. If you believe that the future is bright, what you’re going through today isn’t as difficult to handle. Optimists also have greater social support and increased relationship satisfaction. Having a positive attitude and noticing the good things about a person or situation will attract others and make them want to be around you. Optimists have a greater quality of life and well-being, are happier and are less likely to be depressed. They also have better physical health with a more robust immune system response (i.e., less likely to get sick), a decreased likelihood of having coronary heart disease, and a longer life expectancy.
What do Optimists do Differently?
For starters, they think about and perceive challenging situations differently. They are better able to identify problems, which may help them effect change, leading to better outcomes. They are more likely to see a situation as a challenge rather than a threat, making it easier for them to act on problems. They can identify what they can control or change in a situation, which may help them stay energized and focused on problem-solving. Pessimists, on the other hand, are more likely to focus on what they can do nothing about. Talk about discouraging!
Optimists also behave differently than pessimists. They are more approach oriented and come up with strategies to create change. They are more likely to take action by seeking information, asking for help, and using that help to their advantage. Pessimists are more likely to withdraw and avoid the situation rather than dealing with it. Optimists tend to use humor as a coping strategy and are more likely to exercise and have a healthy routine, both of which are linked to better health outcomes.
Optimists see situations as external and unstable and find specific ways of explaining setbacks. In other words, they believe that external factors caused an event (e.g., other people, circumstances), they focus on fleeting and temporary things that you may have some control over (i.e. things you can change), and they see that setbacks are from specific causes that won’t lead to negative outcomes in other areas of life. On the other hand, pessimists view situations as internal, stable, and global. They think that they are the cause of good/bad things happening, their brains focus on things that are unchangeable, permanent, and that you can’t do anything about, and they believe that whatever caused the problem will impact every area of your life.
Are you an Optimistic Person?
Optimism exists on a continuum, so where do you stand? Take a close look at how you explain the causes of the good and bad things that happen to you. Most people have a habitual, reflexive way of thinking, so recognizing where you stand on the continuum is important for becoming more optimistic and more resilient.
If you find yourself leaning towards the more pessimistic end of the spectrum, don’t be discouraged. TLC-VR is here to teach you more about optimism, help you think more optimistically, and help you become more resilient in the face of challenges.