Do you consider yourself a pretty happy person? Do you consider yourself an optimist? If you do, that’s wonderful because happy, optimistic, well-adjusted people are healthier! I am reading an excellent book, Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin and chapter 7 talks about the importance of happiness and optimism in preventing disease. I found her description of how optimists and pessimists think to be very interesting so I thought I’d share it here.
Basically it all comes down to how you explain bad events to yourself and how permanent, pervasive and personal your perception of the event is.
Pessimists view a negative event as permanent, as in “it’ll always be this way;” pervasive as in “this will ruin everything;” and personal, it becomes all your fault. The result is feeling hopeless. Even though the event – which could be anything from losing your job, making a mistake, breaking up with someone – inevitably happens to everyone at one time or another, the pessimist perceives it’s only true for them. On the other hand, when something good happens pessimists believe it’s only temporary, specific and out of their hands. So even with something good – they feel hopeless and helpless! A recipe for illness.
Optimists are the exact opposite – they see the bad events as temporary, specific and external to them and the good events to be permanent, pervasive and the result of their own wonderfulness! No wonder numerous studies find optimistic people are healthier, have stronger immune systems, recover better from surgery and live longer.
Studies also revealed that optimism can change over time but the way people view bad events seems to remain fixed throughout their lives. It’s not written in stone though – you can teach yourself to be more optimistic.
So which are you – an optimist or a pessimist?