Optimism is good for your health. So why are people so pessimistic?

            In his terrific book “Learned Optimism” Martin Seligman, a pioneer on the principals of positive psychology, explains the principals of optimism and how optimism is an attitude towards life that can be learned.


             In other words, optimism is a choice we make.

            Optimistic people are healthier and happier then those who are more prone to negativity and pessimism, and live better lives. This is not just pop psychology, this is now considered science thanks largely to the work of thought leaders like Seligman.

               If you have not read this book, it comes highly recommended.

          But you know this already. Right? Everybody knows this. While Seligman and others who have studied the principals of positive psychology have given scientific credence to this belief, it really is just common sense – optimism is good for you. It makes you happier.

              So…why are so many people pessimistic?

            Lots of reasons actually, among them the fact that there is an overwhelming negativitiy bias in our media. Bad news sells. Big time. The badder the news is, the bigger treatment it gets. So a typical “news cycle” is often one bad piece of news after another. No wonder we get depressed. No wonder we develop a negative mindset towards everything.

              Want to get a quick following on social media? Spew out hatred, negativity and virol and you are well on your way in all likelyhood. Make a reasonable, thoughtful comment on an important issue and it’s probably largely ignored. People are more drawn to negative comments than they are positive ones – just check reactions to the COMMENTS area of any website for proof of that. It takes maybe 50 positive reviews to offset the review of one hater, at least in the minds of some people.

          The great comedian Larry David talked about this topic once. He was at a baseball game at Yankee Stadium and was put on the Jumbotron so the crowd could see he was there, as is often the case with celebrities.

            New York fans can be rough, but they responded with a standing ovation for David, which he happily acknowledged.

            Leaving the game later, as he was waiting for his car to be brought to him, another car drove by. The driver rolled down his window and yelled “You suck David!” and sped off.

            David’s car then picked up his group and on the drive home, David complained bitterly about the one guy who yelled at him. His friends admonished him, telling him he’d gotten a standing ovation at Yankee Stadium! Why, they told him, let one guy upset you so much and ruin your night?!

            Why indeed. But we are all guilty of that sometimes - focusing on the negative instead of the positive, even if the positive far outweighs the negative.

            Another reason many of us don’t choose optimism – we don’t understand what it really is.

            Optimism is not thinking everything is good. It is looking for the good in everything. Optimism is not ignoring bad things, it’s a way of dealing with them. Optimism is not an “unrealistic view” of the world, it is very much grounded in realism.

            Optimism is not Pollyanna thinking. It is a way of looking at life based on gratitude, positivity and faith. Living optimistically makes perfect sense and is really just the logical way to live.

            And of course, here’s the biggest reason to be optimistic:





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           Have a terrific week!


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Optimism is good for our health. So why are we so pessimistic?


Copyright © Roger Lajoie 

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