Can Optimism Improve Your Health?
“A cheerful heart is good medicine,” a wise Israelite king wrote some 3,000 years ago. (Proverbs 17:22, American Standard Version) Today doctors are recognizing the wisdom of those inspired words. But a “cheerful heart” may not come naturally to many of us.
Few of us are able to escape the pressures of everyday life, which can lead to frustration and a pessimistic outlook. Nevertheless, recent studies indicate that despite the difficulties, optimism is worth cultivating.
Optimism is described as “a hopeful view or disposition; a tendency to expect a favourable outcome.” When an optimist has a setback, how does he feel? He does not see the defeat as a permanent one. This does not mean that he denies reality. Rather, he accepts and examines the matter. Then, as circumstances allow, he takes action to change or improve the situation.
A pessimistic person, on the other hand, often blames himself for adversity. He assumes that misfortune is permanent and that it comes from his own stupidity, incompetence, or poor image. As a result, he resigns himself to failure.
Does optimism affect our health and well-being? Yes. In a 30-year study of over 800 patients by the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.A., scientists found that optimists had better health and lived significantly longer than others. The researchers also noted that optimists coped better with stress and were less likely to develop depression.
Being optimistic, however, is far from easy in a world where problems seem to multiply. Not surprisingly, many find it hard to think positively. What can be done to tackle this problem? In the accompanying box, you will find some ideas that may help you.
While a cheerful disposition will not cure everything, it can contribute toward a healthier and more satisfying life. The Bible says: “For the sorrowing every day is evil, for the joyous heart it is festival always.”—Proverbs 15:15, The Jerusalem Bible.
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Some Suggestions for Being More Optimistic*
◼ When you find yourself thinking that you won’t enjoy something or you won’t succeed in some project, reject the thought. Focus on the positive.
◼ Try to enjoy your work. Regardless of your job, look for aspects that you find satisfying.
◼ Look for friends who view life positively.
◼ Deal with the situations that you can control; try to accept those you cannot.
◼ Every day, write down three good things that happened to you.
The above list is partly based on a publication prepared by the Mayo Clinic.