Are you an optimist or a pessimist? If you want to be happier and healthier, optimism is the way to go. Colin Powell once said that perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. I don’t know about you, but I would love to multiply positive things in my life.
When I swim my laps, if I have a choice, I will always choose to swim in the lane that has the most sun. I like the light, and I love the way the water drops sparkle when I bring my arms out of the water and the water drops back into the pool. It is a simple little thing, but it makes me happy.
The other day I had just finished my laps and saw an elderly gentleman about to get into the pool a few lanes over where the sunshine hadn’t yet hit the water. “You can have this lane,” I said, “there is sun over here.”
He scowled at me, ” That’s okay, I prefer the darkness.” I thought it was an odd comment.
I have no idea why this gentleman chose to dip his toes into the dark lane. Perhaps he was avoiding melanoma- though to be clear, it is an indoor pool, lit from a window on the side of the building. Perhaps he has sensitive eyes and can’t take the light. Maybe he is just a grumpy old man.
Some people like to grumble about those who are cheerful and look at the bright side of things. The children’s book character Pollyanna was highly optimistic, but today, the term “Pollyanna” often refers to people who out of touch with reality or unrealistic in their beliefs. News anchor Katie Couric was famously attacked for being perky. A fellow teacher once glared at me while we were on morning hall duty and muttered, “do you have to be so damn happy all the time? You’re making the rest of us look bad.”
Pessimists are often filled with negativity. They are skeptical and distrusting. Most likely they are afraid, and have been disappointed or hurt in the past. It is a form of self -preservation to have lower expectations because then you will not be as deeply affected by negative outcomes. Pessimists are not encouragers, they will not share your big dreams or fuel you with excitement about your future prospects. Pessimists appear to be unhappy most of the time.
Some people choose to live in the light. They are cheerful. They share brightness, kindness and laughter. When you are with them you feel better. They see the best in you, and help you to shine. They are the encouragers, the positive dreamers. Optimists are hopeful and confident that things will work out in the future. Optimistic people are more resilient than their more pessimistic counterparts. We all have adversity in our lives, but optimistic people recover more quickly.
There are many other benefits to being an optimist. Scientists have linked optimism to better health. Positivity reduces the effects of stress. Those who have an optimistic outlook on life have better immune systems, better heart health, higher pain tolerance and better outcomes with medical procedures. Do you want to have a healthier pregnancy or a better results from cancer treatment? Be optimistic. Optimism lowers your risk of a heart attack and even increases our overall longevity.
Even if optimism is not our natural outlook on life, we can be intentional about trying to have a more positive outlook. If you want to be more optimistic, try some of the these things:
See the best in people. Everyone has positive attributes.
Be kind. Its good karma.
Share joy. Happiness is a choice.
Be grateful for the things you have.
Look for opportunity in challenges.
Stop focusing on the negative things in your life.
I like to believe that I am an optimist by nature. My childhood report cards are filled with comments like, “a happy girl” and “has a cheerful disposition.” Once, at a high school class reunion, we opened a time capsule. In it, someone had written prophecies for the future. Mine said, “Michele is still smiling.”
There have been times when I have felt overwhelmed by stress and reacted negatively. They weren’t my best times, and I have learned that being pessimistic doesn’t serve me well. When negative forces are at play, it is hard to see the good in life and even harder to be happy. I redesigned my entire life to live more simply, happily and well. There is no room for pessimism.
I choose to swim in the light. How about you?