It’s not just a theory that it’s better to be optimistic than pessimistic. Researchers have studied it for more than 40 years among almost 7,000 men and women and have found it to be true.
It’s the reason why the articles that I write are usually upbeat ones. Yes, I do make exceptions, like the cold water I threw on the chance that optical technology will lead to a successful non-invasive meter . My goals are to be both realistic and upbeat without being Pollyannish and to give you what we journalists call “news you can use.”
I certainly don’t want to encourage anyone to ignore the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes. We have an awfully serious and insidious disease that can creep up on us when we are not watching out for the terrible complications of high blood glucose. But the strange thing is that if we look at the up side of our life, we have a much better chance of controlling our diabetes and avoid those complications than when we are pessimistic.
A new study reports that optimists may enjoy longer lives than pessimists. Researchers at North Carolina’s Duke University studied nearly 7,000 men and women who in the 1960s enrolled in the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina. Those who were optimistic then had a lower risk of dying over the next 40 years than their more pessimistic classmates.
The most pessimistic study participants were 42 percent more likely to die of any cause than the most positive participants. There are several reasons why.
Optimists are less likely to suffer from depression than then pessimists. Their mental health can affect their physical health. This might lead them to live a healthier lifestyle, where they pay more attention to their diet and exercise habits than the pessimists.
The study used a standard personality test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. It can gauge someone’s tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic. Of the about 7,000 people in the study, 1,630 participants scored as pessimists and 923 participants scored as optimists. Most of them were somewhere in between.
The researchers suggested that we can become more optimistic by using integrative therapies such as anger management therapy and meditation to boost our positive emotions. Maybe so. But my personal philosophy is simply to fake it until I make it, as the saying goes and as some self-help gurus recommend.
It works for me. A lot of the time when I am depressed, I can just ignore it and put on a sunny face and utter sunny words. That alone often changes my mood. It’s funny how I can fool myself into thinking that I am feeling fine. This is what I mean by faking it until I make it.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.