News

Optimism

There must be something in the air – there is a need to feel optimism! A piece published in American J Epidemiol (2017) 185(1):21-29 has been widely reported- including in the Harvard News below. So take heart – Brexit and Trump are mere footnotes!

In these difficult times, it may be a struggle to maintain a glass half full view of life

A growing body of research indicates that optimism — a sense everything will be OK — is linked to a reduced risk of developing mental or physical health issues as well as to an increased chance of a longer life.

Their team analyzed data from 70,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, and found that women who were optimistic had a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death over an eight-year period, compared with women who were less optimistic. The most optimistic women had a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer; 38% lower risk of dying from heart disease; 39% lower risk of dying from stroke; 38% lower risk of dying from respiratory disease; and 52% lower risk of dying from infection.

Yes, you can acquire optimism.

Even if you consider yourself a pessimist, there’s hope.

1. Accentuate the positive. Keep a diary. In each entry, underline the good things that have happened, as well as things you’ve enjoyed and concentrate on them. Consider how they came about and what you can do to keep them coming.

2. Eliminate the negative. If you find yourself ruminating on negative situations, do something to short-circuit that train of thought. Turn on your favorite music, reread a novel you love, or get in touch with a good friend.

3. Act locally. Don’t fret about your inability to influence global affairs. Instead, do something that can make a small positive change — like donating clothes to a relief organization, helping a neighbour, or volunteering at an after-school program.

4. Be easier on yourself. Self-compassion is a characteristic shared by most optimists. You can be kind to yourself by taking good care of your body, eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Take stock of your assets and concentrate on them. Finally, try to forgive yourself for past transgressions (real or imagined) and move on.

5. Learn mindfulness. Adopting the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment can go a long way in helping you deal with unpleasant events. If you need help, many health centers now offer mindfulness training. There are also a multitude of books and videos to guide you.

pics by Kayla Lewkowicz and Big Think

 

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