Happiness For Dummies
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Beyond the simple reality that optimists are happier people (and happiness is what you’re striving for), optimism has other benefits as well. So, if you want to achieve greater happiness, try being optimistic for a day.
  • Optimists enjoy a greater degree of academic success than pessimists do. Because optimistic students think it’s possible for them to make a good grade, they study hardier and they study smarter. They manage the setting in which they study and they seek help from others when they need it. (Optimism, it turns out, is almost as predictive of how well students do in college as the SAT.)

  • Optimists are more self-confident than pessimists are. They believe in themselves more than fate.

  • Optimists are more likely to be problem-solvers than pessimists are. When pessimistic students get a D on a test, they tend to think things like: “I knew I shouldn’t have taken this course. I’m no good at psychology.” The optimistic student who gets a D says to herself, “I can do better. I just didn’t study enough for this test. I’ll do better next time.” And she will.

  • Optimists welcome second chances after they fail more than pessimists do. Optimistic golfers always take a mulligan (a redo swing without penalty). Why? Because they expect to achieve a better result the second time around.

  • Optimists are more socially outgoing than pessimists are. Socially outgoing folks believe that the time they spend with other human beings makes them better in some way — smarter, more interesting, more attractive. Unfortunately, pessimists see little, if any, benefit from venturing out into the social world.

  • Optimists are not as lonely as pessimists are. Because pessimists don’t see as much benefit from socializing with others, they have far fewer social and emotional connections in their lives, which is what loneliness is all about.

  • Optimists utilize social support more effectively than pessimists do. They aren’t afraid to reach out in times of need.

  • Optimists are less likely to blame others for their misfortune than pessimists are. When you blame someone else for your troubles, what you’re really saying is, “You’re the cause of my problem and, therefore, you have to be the solution as well.” Optimists have just as many troubles as pessimists throughout life — they just accept more responsibility for dealing with their misfortune.

  • Optimists cope with stress better than pessimists do. Pessimists worry, optimists act. A patient with coronary heart disease who is pessimistic “hopes and prays” that he doesn’t have another heart attack anytime soon. The optimistic heart patient leaves little to chance — instead, he exercises regularly, practices his meditation exercises, adheres to a low-cholesterol diet, and makes sure he always gets a good night’s sleep.

  • Optimists are more likely to engage in preventive healthcare than pessimists are. Pessimists are always waiting to see how their health turns out, whereas optimists take a more hands-on approach to preventing illness.

  • Optimists are more likely to follow through with rehab after a heart attack than pessimists are. If you don’t believe rehab is going to do you any good, what’s the point? With some patients, you have to first rehabilitate the mind (change to a more optimistic outlook) before you can rehab the body.

  • Optimists have more robust immune systems than pessimists do. The essence of health psychology and behavioral medicine is the belief that mind and body are inextricably connected as a result of the way people live their lives. If you live a robust, healthy, and happy life — which is easier to do if you’re optimistic — you will have a robust immune system, that invisible shield that keeps you well.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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