What is Optimism and What Does It Mean To Be Optimistic?
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill.
According to Winston Churchill’s quote, optimism and pessimism are a matter of perspective on seeing the world. Are you an optimist who has a positive outlook on things, even when things are not going your way? Or do you always assume the worst-case scenario no matter what situation you are in?
Most of us tend to fall into one of the two categories: optimists or pessimists.
In this article, we will discuss the concept of optimism as well as the key personality traits of an optimist. You will also learn about the benefits of optimism and the risks of being overly optimistic.
If you think you are more of a pessimist, we will also show how to change your mindset to more of an optimist.
What Is Optimism?
Optimism is a positive state of mind signified by positivity and faith in one’s ability to succeed and have a bright future. Optimists believe that life will be better, whilst pessimists believe that only bad things will happen.
Optimism refers to one’s confidence that the results of any situation will be mostly good and favorable. Some psychologists suggest that optimism is much more of an explanatory style.
They argue that optimism manifests itself in how individuals interpret the reasons for things that happened to them. Optimists tend to perceive unpleasant experiences caused by temporary, specific and external circumstances.
As such, they are more welcoming and accepting of the idea of change. Optimism does mean fantasizing or engaging in wishful thinking based on groundless evidence. Optimists have a more positive perspective and a longer lifespan than pessimists.
They are also more tolerant of the negative consequences of sickness, stress, and depression. Optimistic attitudes are also associated with various benefits, such as reduced stress levels, higher perseverance to achieve goals, etc.
However, optimist needs to be mindful of not having unreasonable expectations about how great their future will be. Being overly optimistic may make optimists take too many risks, especially their wealth and wellbeing.
9 Benefits & Impact of Optimism
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of being optimistic. Here is a list of nine benefits you get to enjoy for having an optimistic mindset.
- Improved Physical Health
- Increased Performance
- Improved Mental Well-being
- Less Stress
- Happier in Life
- Receive More Job Offers and Promotions
- Better Coping Skills
- Great at Bouncing Back From Adversity
Improved Physical Health
Past studies demonstrated that optimists tend to have stronger physical health than pessimists. Optimists are more likely to have a 50% lower risk of heart problems and higher cancer survival rates. They also have lower cholesterol levels too.
Optimism triggers various processes, some of which are physical and others are behavioral, to keep us healthy. An optimistic explanatory style strengthens our immune system. It also protects us from contagious illnesses and lowers breast cancer relapse risk.
Research showed that optimists have longer lifespans and are less likely to die from accidents or hostile situations. They are more likely to take preventive measures to protect themselves from any harm.
A study conducted by Martin Seligman, a psychologist on sports teams, discovered that the more optimistic teams developed more positive chemistry and performed better than the pessimistic ones.
Optimistic sports teams are more likely to grow and develop year after year. Optimistic athletes also perform better, especially when the stakes are high.
Another study found that pessimistic swimmers who were made to feel they had performed poorer than they had were more likely to do worse in the future. Optimistic swimmers do not experience such vulnerability.
Improved Mental Well-being
There is a significant positive relationship between optimism and coping mechanisms, which indirectly impacts the quality of life. Optimistic individuals are more likely to seek social support and focus on the positive elements of stressful events.
Studies have shown that optimists enjoy a better quality of life than pessimists. Optimism also has a significant positive effect on mental well-being.
Optimists have a never-say-die attitude. They will not give up as quickly as pessimists. They are more likely to persevere than falter in the face of failure or setbacks.
Instead, they will take it as a learning opportunity to improve themselves and look for different ways to solve the problems. As a result, they are more likely to succeed in everything they do.
Optimists are also less stressed than pessimists. They tend to expect positive things to happen because they believe in themselves and their skills. Negative things are viewed as minor obstacles that are easily addressable.
On the contrary, good things are regarded as signs of better things to come in the future. They are also comfortable taking more risks to produce more positive outcomes in their life.
Happier in Life
Optimists are happier because they visualize happy moments more vividly and anticipate them to happen sooner. Such positive visualizations create a feeling of excitement and anticipation.
The feeling grows stronger when we visualize the happy moments as more satisfying and vivid. Furthermore, the more we believe that the happy moments will happen sooner, the happier we are.
Receive More Job Offers and Promotions
A positive attitude is just as crucial as a well-prepared resume when it comes to job searching. Individuals who are optimistic and believe that good things will happen have a greater chance of securing new jobs than those who see things negatively.
Optimistic employees are happier at work and receive higher salaries than pessimists. They are also more likely to be promoted frequently in their organization.
Great at Bouncing Back From Adversity
Optimists do not see roadblocks or setbacks as failures. We are not saying that optimists will not feel stressed, anxious or uncertain when things go south. But it is more about their ability to be resilient and how quickly they bounce back from adversity.
Optimists are more flexible and willing to adapt and make changes when facing difficult situations. They do not dwell on their mistakes for too long. Instead, they pick themselves up quickly by accepting and learning from their mistakes and then moving forward.
Better Coping Skills
Optimists manage their stress better and take a more proactive approach to deal with challenges or setbacks. Optimists are wired to think positively and look at the brighter side of things when things are not going well.
Optimism is related to how we perceive and believe the future will be. If we think that everything will turn out fine in the end, we will find it easier to cope with our current situation.
5 Risks Examples for Being Overly Optimistic
- Optimism bias
- Stress-related health issues
- Relationship issues
- Friendships suffer as a result of disillusionment
- Poor risk assessment
Excessive optimism can drive people to exaggerate their chances of experiencing positive events. According to the theory of optimism bias, people tend to underestimate their likelihood of encountering unfavorable consequences.
It can lead to individuals taking unnecessary risks that raise their odds of experiencing a negative outcome. An example of optimism bias is individuals’ estimation of how long they need to perform a future task.
They tend to underestimate the time required to complete the job most of the time. Being too optimistic may lead you to believe that everything in your life will be perfectly coordinated. Thus, making you fall victim to the planning fallacy.
Predicting what will happen in the future is challenging since many external elements can influence the outcome.
Stress-related health issues
The blinded optimists may feel intimidated in their attempts to satisfy their unrealistic goals. They may also become upset when things do not go as planned. Long-term stress may be detrimental to your mind and body.
Because of the overly optimistic view, these optimists may overlook the minor yet critical issues in their life. As time goes by, these minor issues will accumulate and intensify.
Eventually, these issues become significant issues that cause a great deal of stress or cannot be solved. They then contemplate why things didn’t go as well as they had imagined. Their insistence to predict the future through their overly optimistic lens will ultimately drive them insane.
The blinded optimists may force their partners to adapt to their overly optimistic perspective of life. These partners have no other options but to face real-world issues alone.
Extremely optimistic individuals also tend to ignore others’ negative and unpleasant emotions. Their insensitivity to others’ feelings makes it difficult to become emotionally flexible.
Such behavior may result in them losing the ability to see other people’s genuine negative emotions. Furthermore, it may cause misunderstandings that are difficult to handle, especially with their romantic partners.
Friendships suffer as a result of disillusionment
If those around an optimist have doubts about their optimistic outlook, the optimist may become disillusioned. Optimists often enjoy the presence of like-minded individuals because of ‘shared illusion’.
When someone challenges the optimist’s way of thinking, they may assume their friends to be a pessimist. They think that their friends no longer share their ambitions and goals with them.
Extreme optimists may consider others less humane due to uncertainty about how a situation may turn out.
Poor risk assessment
Optimists are confident that everything will work out as expected and don’t care to plan or budget. In general, saving money for emergencies goes against the optimist’s philosophy.
They prefer living in the moment and believe that they will not meet any unfortunate events. When it comes to project management, extreme optimists tend to overestimate profits and underestimate expenses. They may be unable to balance risk and reward in a project and may accept too risky projects.
How to Recognize Optimistic Personality Traits
Here is a list of personality traits that optimists tend to have in common:
- You see difficulties as temporary setbacks and opportunities for growth.
- You tend to recover from setbacks more quickly than others.
- You keep yourself focused and active in what you do because you believe good things will happen.
- You look at the bright side of things and anticipate everything to turn out positively in your favor.
- You feel confident that you can handle anything that life throws your way.
- You believe that everything happens for a reason, be it a good thing or a bad thing.
- You are grateful for the beautiful things that happen in your life.
- You are constantly looking for new ideas to get the best out of every opportunity, problem, or situation.
- You have an optimistic outlook on life and towards the people around you.
- You take full responsibility for every action and mistake you to make.
- You are more resilient and satisfied with your life in general.
How Does Optimism Affect Romantic Relationships?
In romantic relationships, being optimistic positively impacts the couple’s overall health. Happy couples are more likely to collaborate and have more satisfactory outcomes than pessimistic couples.
Couples who share similar positive expectations may work together to accomplish their goals. One study found that optimistic couples are more likely to report higher overall happiness in their relationships.
They perceived each other to communicate more positively during a disagreement. Furthermore, male optimists’ relationships tend to last longer than male pessimists’.
Optimists also believe they receive more love and encouragement from their lovers. As a result, both optimists and their partners are happier and more satisfied in their relationships.
Optimism influences the result and length of a couple in romantic relationships. As we can see, there are various benefits that optimism can bring to a romantic relationship.
But you need to be wary of not being overly optimistic. Excessive optimism can result in unrealistic expectations that neither you nor your partner can meet.
Couples who are too optimistic may not have the necessary problem-solving during challenging times. It can result in disappointment and negative relationship satisfaction.
Can a Pessimist Become an Optimist?
Studies suggest that optimism has around a 25% chance of inheritability. The other 75% may be influenced by external factors such as socioeconomic status.
Another study found that participants who went through two months of mindfulness training reported that their positive-negative emotions ratio is changed. The participants felt less depressed, more motivated, and happier due to the training.
This means that you can rewire your brain to be more optimistic by actively restructuring your mental processes. These studies show that there is an opportunity for you to become more optimistic. So, if you are a pessimist who sees the worst in most things, there’s still hope.
Here are some methods that you may incorporate into your daily life to help you become more optimistic:
Mindfulness activity is an excellent approach to counteract the inclination to dwell on stressful situations, fertile ground for negativity. This conscious effort will help change your perspectives towards the positive end.
It may also rewire your brain to think more optimistically. Furthermore, when you consciously reframe situations to a more positive view, you train your brain to respond positively to negative experiences.
Surround yourself with like-minded individuals
As the old saying goes, “Whom you spend time with is whom you become”. If you want to become more positive, look at the people you often spend time with daily. If you spend most of your time with pessimistic people, it is not a mystery that you feel more negative.
Start connecting with optimistic individuals. Once you surround yourself with happy people, you will feel the world around you changes. You can’t help but be influenced by the positive energy these people are radiating outwards.
You can do this by journaling. It is a popular method to write down what you are grateful for each day. The good thing is it only takes you a few minutes every day to practice gratitude journaling.
Gratitude journaling will help you reflect on the positive things that happened to you and nurture a positive mindset. It is also the best way to conclude your day.” Writing in a gratitude journal increases an individual’s feeling of optimism.
Identify and accept what you can and cannot control
Learn to accept what you have control over and what you can’t control in any situation. By doing so, you will become better at coping with the uncertainty that life throws at you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Optimism
Is optimism positive or negative?
Optimism is neither positive nor negative. It’s a matter of finding the right balance between being optimistic and pessimistic. Optimism is linked to many benefits such as improved physical and mental well-being, reduced stress levels, longer lifespans, etc.
However, being overly optimistic has its disadvantages too. It may lead to unrealistic expectations of yourself or others, taking on too many risks, etc.
What causes a person to be optimistic?
Studies suggest that optimism has around a 25% chance of inheritability, and the rest is influenced by external factors such as socioeconomic status. If you are wondering if you can learn to be optimistic, the answer is “Yes, you can!”.
Can being overly optimistic ever be harmful?
Yes, being overly optimistic can be very harmful. You are less inclined to consider the possible risks and plan any preventive measures to reduce those risks.
Excessive optimism will also make you ignore others’ negative and unpleasant emotions. You will also become more stressed in the long run if you cannot satisfy your unrealistic expectations.
Who is more likely to be optimistic: men or women?
In general, studies have found that men tend to be more optimistic than women. Similarly, another study suggested that during good economic times, women are less optimistic than men. However, during an economic downturn, the gender differences in optimism disappear.
How can optimism help protect against doubt and despair?
As some psychologists suggest, optimism is much more of an explanatory style. They argue that optimism manifests itself in how individuals interpret the reasons for things that happened to them.
Optimists tend to perceive unpleasant experiences are caused by temporary, specific and external circumstances. Thus, protecting them from feelings of doubt and despair.
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