What Is Optimism?

Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." Research shows that, on average, human beings are hardwired to be more optimistic than not. It's an admirable quality, one that can positively affect a person’s mental and physical health. Optimism can also help reduce a person’s stress and increase longevity. Some optimists consistently ascribe benevolent motives to others and interpret situations in the best possible light; others simply disassociate their internal mood from external circumstances, no matter how sticky. Being optimistic is not necessarily always the "best" strategy, though. Research shows that tempering a sunny disposition with a small dose of realism, or even pessimism, might be the best way to build resilience and achieve one's goals.


The Pros and Cons of Optimism

Optimism doesn’t mean engaging in wishful or fantastic thinking. It’s a way of looking at the world that gives more agency to the optimist as being at least partly responsible when life is going well. Optimists have healthier outlooks and tend to live longer than their more pessimistic counterparts; they also are less susceptible to the negative effects of illness, fatigue, and depression. However, an unrealistic belief that a person’s future will be full of only positive events can lead them to take unnecessary risks, particularly with their health and finances.  


Positive Psychology, Personality

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