Did you know research states that people who are optimistic about their future lives tend to experience more positive emotions than those who are less hopeful?
Sounds exciting, right!
Optimism seems to be an essential ingredient for being happy. But how optimism affects happiness and our moods?
Like many of us, I, too, had the notion that happiness depended on circumstances. That, If I changed my circumstances, I’d be happy. But then I learned that happiness is dependent on my thoughts too. And I started to understand what it means to be optimistic and started working on the subtle aspects.
Research hints that an optimistic outlook can lead to higher levels of Subjective Well-Being (SWB). Optimism is associated with several positive outcomes, including life expectancy, health, and self-reported well-being.
In this post, you’ll learn how optimism affects happiness, why is optimism important, and how to cultivate optimism to regulate your happiness score.
What is the definition of optimism?
The American Psychological Association describes optimism as:
“n. hopefulness: the attitude that good things will happen and that people’s wishes or aims will ultimately be fulfilled. Optimists are people who anticipate positive outcomes, whether serendipitously or through perseverance and effort, and who are confident of attaining desired goals.
Most individuals lie somewhere on the band between the two opposites of pure optimism and pure pessimism. Still, they tend to demonstrate sometimes strong, relatively stable or situational tendencies in one direction or the other.”
In other words, optimism is the tendency to expect positive outcomes, even when they have not occurred previously. It is the expectancy of favorable results, whether or not the outcome is realized.
It is the faith that something better is around the corner. Optimists expect good things to happen, while pessimists assume bad things are sure to happen. Optimists have the edge over pessimists when it comes to dealing with their professional and personal lives.
Because optimists spend less time worrying about things that happen outside their control and more time focusing on the things they can influence. This shift in their mindset gives them the brownie points when it comes to being happy.
Why is optimism important?
Optimism can help you succeed in life.
Research shows that positive people get more than they give. They also tend to achieve more and stay healthier longer.
Just take a pause right now, and ask yourself – How do you feel when you’re optimistic vs. pessimistic? You will very well know that you feel better when you are confident and hopeful.
Optimism also helps you see the best in people and yourself.
When you approach life with optimism, you’ll notice that others have good qualities that they’re not necessarily showing you. And this will make you more likely to develop a healthier relationship with them.
Let’s find out why is optimism important –
Several studies have shown that optimism has a positive impact on physical health including cardiovascular health, balanced cholesterol levels. Their optimistic outlook, self-acceptance, forgiving attitude helps them manage stress better compared to pessimists.
In a study of more than 90,000 women with no prior heart ailments, researchers discovered that those with elevated levels of optimism had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease than women with low levels of hopefulness. Furthermore, resentful and skeptical women had a 16% greater risk of death than those with low levels of hostility and pessimism.
Upskilling and Career
Emotions, such as optimism, enable people to expand on their previous learning. Optimism gives them the desire to take up a new initiative or build upon the existing one, creating a willingness to upskill and venture beyond one’s daily responsibilities.
It enables people to look outside themselves, try out new adventures, and be open to making connections and relations.
Optimists have a hopeful view of the future and a tendency to believe that they are in control of positive events. Optimism boosts both creativity and productivity. People who have faith in the future can concentrate on completing tasks because they believe their creative ideas will be successful.
These individuals, even amidst a rough patch in their career or business, ensure they don’t lag behind and remain hopeful of success in the future.
People who are positive deal with the possibility of failure by focusing on any tiny progress or improved results they have achieved in the past that they can apply to future pursuits. Their attempt to focus on past achievements feeds them with the possibility that success is possible this time too and boosts their confidence and self-esteem.
To be able to focus wishfully on one’s end goal, one must have the self-esteem and confidence to believe that success is possible. Optimistic people do not let failure classify them; instead, they use it as a launching pad for future initiatives and opportunities.
The ability of optimists to see the good in others makes them likeable and helps them build more relationships. They are open to giving the benefit of doubt to others, which makes others see them as friendly and open-minded, be it in case of romantic relations or friendships.
Research has indicated that optimism is associated with having a greater sense of happiness in a relationship, irrespective of whether either one or two of them are upbeat and positive.
Now that you know why is optimism important let me help you find out how optimism affects happiness.
Read about how to improve resilience and be more optimistic.
How does optimism affect happiness?
Optimism helps you see opportunity where others see doom and gloom. Also, optimistic people are more likely to take action on opportunities that other people dismiss as impossible.
Find out below how:
Optimism boosts your thoughts:
When we think positively about the future, we prefer to focus on the positive possibilities. Positive thoughts can bring happiness into your life. A cheerful attitude can help to fill life with kindness and make life’s path more enjoyable. One can bargain better with life’s hardships by having faith, hoping for the best, and focusing on what action he can take.
Studies reveal performing positive activities on purpose, for instance, practicing gratitude or being kind to yourself and to others can boost positive moods and happy emotions.
So even if you take up an activity, little skeptical about the outcome, you will end up gaining something due to your optimistic outlook.
Optimism easily lets you deal with stress:
Stress is more or less part of everyone’s life, but it is crucial how they deal with it. Optimistic folks don’t overthink things and don’t let stress get the best of them. They believe in themselves and pray and hope for better circumstances, compared to their pessimistic peers.
Optimists focus on the positive aspects of a situation, while pessimists tend to dwell on the negative.
Optimism elevates mental health:
Loneliness is caused by pessimism and other negative influences, thus to avoid these harmful emotions, one should endeavor to avoid negative thinking and have an optimistic view.
People who have a positive view are more socially engaging than those who have a negative outlook, and social interaction is tremendously beneficial for our mental health.
It makes us feel needed, boosts our self-esteem, improves our mood, helps us bond with others, and reduces stress levels.
Optimistic folks are confident about themselves:
Optimistic persons have faith in themselves and are ready to take on any task. They are not reliant on fate since they are confident in their talents.
They enjoy happier relationships:
Having a positive outlook on life is critical to having a happier relationship.
Optimistic persons notice and appreciate the positive aspects of others, which contributes to their partner’s enhanced well-being.
Optimistic individuals are more successful at work:
Optimistic people are more effective at work because they do not succumb to complaints about their jobs and instead focus on the positive aspects.
They have better interpersonal relationships at work because they do not see the negative side of other people. Instead, they see the positive aspects and make friends where they can.
Now you have a clear picture as to how does optimism affects happiness. So, if you want to gain an advantage of opportunities right in front of you, let me share with you how to cultivate optimism.
How to cultivate optimism?
Here’s how to cultivate optimism and have a cheerful outlook:
Think of something uplifting that happened today or this week:
It can be something as modest as “I paid off my debt from last month” to something big like “I landed a new client.”
When you think about something good that happened recently, it helps to balance out the bad stuff in life.
Start a gratitude journal. Or just think and note about three things you’re grateful that you have every day. Turn this into a habit and see the difference for yourself within a couple of weeks.
Reframe Your Thinking:
Shift your perspective consciously, and attempt to think about some joyful thoughts. Make a conscious effort to see the better side of things. This will not only help you deal with pessimism in the short term, but it will also teach your mind to think positively in the long run.
Other than the above-listed techniques, take care to avoid the negative stuff on TV such as crime series, news channels, etc., avoid the company of negative folks, be honest with yourself, and admit the things you can change and some which you cannot.
All these simple tricks will help you deal with stressors efficiently and assist you in becoming more hopeful.
Recommended read on the powerful benefits of emotional intelligence.
What does the world gain from optimism?
People who are optimistic, for example, live longer, have a healthier body and mental life, have a more robust immune system, and are happier.
Being positive makes it easier to deal with complex events, which decreases the negative health impacts of stress on the body.
According to research, those with a positive attitude have better cardiovascular health and a stronger immune system, earn more money, and have more effective relationships.
3 Rules For Middle Age Happiness
Here are 3 rules for middle age happiness and optimism, if you’re someone between adulthood and old age, who is trying to strike a balance between optimism and reality –
Exercise of The Three Gifts
Each evening before you go to bed, note down three pleasant things that happened during the day—it might be anything from attaining a goal to relishing your meal. Then consider why that happened—maybe your family stepped in to help so you could work more, or perhaps your roommate bought you something for your meal.
A Gratitude Visit
Draft a letter to someone you owe gratitude to but haven’t adequately acknowledged yet. Describe your thankfulness at length, focusing on specific details and the influence these people have had on your life, no matter how little or extensive.
You don’t even have to send the note or see the person concerned to experience the benefits of gratitude. However, you can mail them if you want, which would be a genuinely great act of expressing thankfulness. I’m sure they would appreciate it as well.
Mental Subtraction Of Positive Events
Counting your blessings has been shown to improve your well-being; but, a little refining can make it much more beneficial.
You can consider the positive aspects of your lives in terms of their existence or absence. Instead of appreciating, “I have a fantastic job., you can take it this way, “Imagine if I didn’t have this fantastic job.”
Mental subtraction is the term for this approach. According to studies, this method outperforms simply thinking on the presence of pleasant things in life.
Why? Because it goes against the natural desire to adjust to and take for granted the positive things in our lives.
Because it goes against the natural desire to adapt to and take for granted the positive things in our lives.
We can jot down three things for which we are grateful once a day. Those things should be something that we take for granted every day, such as clean air, clean water, air conditioning, electricity, and so on. When these things aren’t present, they’re usually evident.
Now, assume that these things are no longer present. Consider how they could have been genuinely absent. How would your life have been like without these things?
Steps to do the Mental Subtraction Exercise
1. Take a minute to reflect on a positive event in your life, such as a professional or educational accomplishment, a special moment with your loved one, or a memorable trip.
2. Consider when this event occurred and the circumstances that made it feasible.
3. Consider the possibility that this occurrence would not have occurred if you hadn’t happened to learn about a job opportunity, for instance, at the proper time.
4. Make a list of all the conceivable events and decisions, big and little, that could have stopped this accomplishment from happening.
5. Consider how different your life would be now if you hadn’t had this remarkable occurrence and all of the benefits that followed.
6. Remind yourself that this event did occur and consider the positives it has brought you. Now that you’ve examined how things could have gone differently remember that these advantages were not predetermined in your life.
Allow yourself to be grateful for the events that occurred.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is learned optimism?
Martin Seligman, the pioneer of Positive Psychology, coined the term “learned optimism” to describe the idea of building a positive outlook.
He explains that if we have a more constructive view of life, we will be better positioned to improve our holistic health. Learned optimism is a theory that, among other things, we can modify our mindsets and behaviors by identifying and correcting our pessimistic self-talk.
What is an example of optimism?
Publishers rejected “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling 12 times before one accepted it. This can be a landmark example of optimism, of believing in oneself and putting in constant efforts.
What causes optimism?
Genetics, surrounding environment such as family, friends, teachers, media, and socio-economic status influence optimism to a certain extent.
Is hopefulness a feeling?
There is a mixed response to it by different studies. Some say hope or hopefulness does not meet the definition of emotion in the strictest sense. At the same time, some mention it to be an emotional state.
If you are wondering what is the power of hope, then it would be fair to say that it is a subjective state capable of influencing one’s outlook on life. It is capable of producing a certain mood—but lacks the intensity and power of reactive emotions.
Is optimism a weakness or a strength?
Well, it depends on how you see it. If you are sitting idle, just fantasizing about your dreams, goals; unfortunately, you will not see promising results. You are turning optimism into a weakness.
While with a hopeful outlook, if you are taking steps towards your goals, addressing your obstacles, you are slowly building a great future.
So, my friend, it’s all up to you, up to us, how we view it and how we will make the most of it.
You can try out these amazing authentichappiness.org tests by the University of Pennsylvania to get a hold of what’s going on within.
P.S This piece of content is for educational and informational purposes and is not a replacement for professional consultation.