by Lauren Kelly (’25) | February 14, 2022
The difference between optimists and pessimists lies in how they cope with difficulty. Glass half full or half empty? After a setback, is there potential for growth or only chance of failure? Luckily, optimism is a trait that can easily be learned. Dr. Arpana Iyer, an American Board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist, describes optimism as “try[ing] on a positive lens.” Positivity and negativity are contagious, so surrounding ourselves with positive influences increases the possibility of our overall happiness. Limiting the amount of time spent interacting with negativity in the media or personal relationships also develops a positive worldview.
We perceive optimists as those who view the world in the “most favorable, positive light possible, however, that doesn’t mean they don’t acknowledge the negatives,” says Dr. Iyer. Instead, they view situations as temporary and look forward to positive ones in the future. Our thought processes can be altered. It’s also important to find a purpose for living and working, which can help us see the glass as half full instead of half empty.
The roots of one’s optimism and pessimism can stem from the earliest of childhood experiences. Babies born into a relaxed and loving atmosphere tend to see the world positively, whereas those coming from dysfunctional households lose their optimism at an early age. Optimism is also known to be twenty-five percent influenced by other factors such as socioeconomic status. But overall, an optimistic person can more easily adapt to and thrive in uncontrollable circumstances.
Optimism not only helps our mental well-being but also our physical resilience. Individuals with an optimistic outlook on life are proven to “have better cardiovascular health and a stronger immune system,” as well as longer lifespans, writes NBC journalist Brianna Steinhilber. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study showing that “most optimistic women [are] thirty percent less likely to die from any of the serious illnesses including cancer, heart disease, and stroke.” As students, we should try to practice mindfulness to focus on optimistic thinking; I recommend expressing gratitude in a journal to avoid ruminating over daily stressors.
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