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Optimism, Mental Health and Physical Health Well-being

Optimism, Mental Health and Physical Health Well-being

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Optimism, Mental Health and Physical Health Well-being

Optimism, positivism, or positive thinking, is having the admirable quality of making lemonade out of lemons, turning pressure into power, or seeing a glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Optimism is commonly defined as ‘this world is the best possible world’ or ‘an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events to anticipate the best possible outcome’. In other words, optimistic individuals are positive about events in their daily life.

Many have regarded that ‘optimism’ or ‘positivism’ as a psychological phenomenon, leading to different view of its effectiveness. Regardless of the different views and comments, researchers have reported positive correlations between optimism with physical and mental health well-being.

Optimism VS Mental Health & Physical

Health Optimism has been found to be Positively Correlated with (i.e., the more optimistic you are, the more likely you will experience…)

• Physical well-being (Martinez-Correa, Reyes, Garcia-Leon, & Gonzalex-Jereno, 2006)

• Slower progress with carotid atherosclerosis after menopause (Matthews, Raikkonen, Sutton-Tyrrell, & Kuller, 2004)

• Better progression of illness in patients suffering from AIDS

• Efficacious immune system

• Positive coping strategies

• Better quality of Life (Scheier, Matthews, Owens, et al., 1989)

o Emotional

o Functional

o Socio-family well-being (Friedman, Kalidas, Elledge et al., 2006)

• Life satisfaction and Self-esteem (Lucas, Diener, & Suh, 1996)

• Quicker clinical improvement during hospitalization and quicker return to routine after discharge

• Healthy behaviors (e.g., abstain from smoking, moderate consumption of alcohol, brisk walking and regular exercise) (Steptoe, Wright, Kunz-Ebrecht, & Iliffe, 2006)

Optimism has been also reported to Negatively correlate with (i.e., the more optimistic you are, the less likely you will experience…)

• Depressive symptoms (Chang 7 Sanne, 2001; Hart, Vella, & Mohr, 2008)

• Suicidal ideation (Hirsch, Cornner, & Duberstein, 2007)

• Ignorance or avoidance from stressor and emotions (Nes & Segerstrom, 2006)

Why? How do pessimists view the world?

Pessimists tend to nurture little hope for the future and thus are more at risk for depressive and anxiety disorders, subsequently impairing their social functioning and quality of life. For example, pessimistic individual will react to a situation with sentiments of impotence and losses hope to it, which significantly worsened their quality of life. When in face with challenge, pessimists tend to cope with difficulties through denial or abandon impeded goals.

As compared to an optimist’s cognitive attribution, a pessimist will attribute an adverse event more internally, unchangeable, and pervasive. For instance, they would attribute that an unfortunate event most likely happened because of one own’s self (internal) because he/she always does the wrong thing or pick the wrong choice (stable/ unchangeable). He/ She will always fail whatever they do (pervasive)!!

How do optimists view the world?

In contrast, individuals that are optimistic tend to have more protective attitudes, are more resilient to stress and are inclined to use more appropriate coping strategies. For instance, optimistic individuals are more likely to engage in problem solving when faced with difficulties. They end to seek help, seek for further information, and avoid self-blame and escapism.

They tend to believe that positive events are more stable and more frequent than negative events. At such, they can avoid problems in daily life. They also incline to attribute that adverse events are external, unstable, and limited. Such mindset has led them to be able to cope with stressful situations more successfully than pessimists. For example, they would attribute that an undesirable event happened most likely caused by someone or something else (external) and that the situation would have been different if xxx appeared (unstable). The occurance of this unfortunate event must have been a coincidence (limited).

Positivism who can adapt and modify their objectives in different situations reduces the negative thoughts through self-regulation. They are able to disengage from an unrealizable goal and concentrate efforts on more attainable objectives, giving them a sense of purpose of life. Thus, individuals who succeed in staying positive will present with better quality of life and better physical health as compared to those who are not able to renounce their unattainable goals.

Staying Positive!!

Although staying positive does not guarantee or predict lower rates of certain illnesses such as cancer, studies have shown that keeping a positive spirit aids an individual to pursue with different coping strategies that helps in reducing or managing stressor. Many of times the success in performance in often mediated by positive coping strategies. Thus, it is important that one adopts coping strategies that are positive. For example, it has been confirmed that optimists tend to use coping strategies that focalize on the problem and not on other aspects. Optimists resort to adaptive strategies when coping is not suitable. For instance, they will resort to acceptance, humor the situation, and re-assess the situation in a positive manner.

Not only will positivism influence one’s coping strategies, it also exerts an indirect influence on the quality of life. The characteristic of a positive person emphasizes on positive aspects of life and alleviate an unchangeable situation with a sense of humor, thereby giving them a better quality of life.

It is apparent that optimism is a mental attitude that heavily influences physical and mental health, as well as coping with everyday events. As Winston Churchill says ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty’. Practice staying Positive~~

Are you a pessimist? Do you always see the worse in all situations? Fear not!! Evidence has supported that optimism can be trained or learned.

Let’s practice positivism together!

1. Simply smile more. It is found that smiling reduces heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations. Try watching some humor therapy, jokes, entertainment while you are experiencing stress or fuming over a work or family situation. It’s actually more difficult to not smile while watching a funny video!!

2. Practice reframing. Instead of cursing about the traffic jam, appreciate that you have a car to drive so you can listen to music or news while driving. Accept that there is nothing you can do about the traffic.

3. 3 Good things. A simple way to be optimistic is by thinking more about good things happening around us. Research shows that writing about things that went well and thinking about why they happened can increase our mood and help us feel more positive. Try writing down 3 good things that has happened to you once a week before going to bed and see how it changes you.

Use this sheet to get you started:


Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of Enthusiasm! -Winston Churchill


Contributed by:

Jolene Yeo

Psychologist of Spectrum of Life Integrative Wellness Centre