Optimism Carries Many Positive Qualities
  Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
 In this century, we gained an impressive amount of knowledge and insight into the mental afflictions, such as depression, anxiety, and anger.  But, we have hardly scratched the surface in exploring the positive characteristics, such as hope, integrity, and self-control.  However, recently, in order to find a cure for depression, researchers have begun to take a keen interest in investigating one of the marvelous human qualities, the optimism.  
 Optimists not only have a lower risk of depression during their lifetimes, but have better overall health and coping skills compared with pessimists.  Optimism, hope, and personal control seem to go together.    

Optimists seem to develop a sort of immunity from depression because they are less likely to blame themselves for misfortunes in their life.  I know skeptics will say that such an optimism will prevent one from assuming responsibility for one's behavior.  On the contrary, optimists are observed to be prudent, realistic, and highly attentive to their health and safety.  

Research shows that optimists have healthy eating habits.  They are less likely to use alcohol and tobacco.  When they fall sick, they take adequate rest instead of pushing themselves.  They take the required treatment. 

Optimists are observed to stay away from perilous places.  They shy away from rowdy parties and bars. Optimists seem to know how to take care of themselves.  

Pessimists, on the other hand, tend to disregard or not care to avoid the perils. According to psychologist Peterson of Michigan University, pessimists tend to prefer potentially dangerous situations.  They are more likely to become ill or be involved in accidents.  
To nurture optimism is to nurture hope, altruism, and inner strength. Optimists can persevere in face of obstacles and hardships, perhaps, telling themselves, "I know it will get better."  While pessimists are likely to quit at the first obstacle they face, perhaps, telling themselves, "I knew it all along.  It will never work."

Optimism may have a relationship with strong faith.  According to researcher Shethi-Iyengar of M.I.T., people who are heavily involved in their religion appear to be more optimistic than people who are less devout.  Those who spend more time in being involved in prayer and other religious activities are more optimistic than those who are less involved in similar activities.  

A criticism leveled against optimists is that they are out of touch with reality.  I wonder if the critics are pessimists themselves.  Perhaps they believe that reality itself is grim and depressive.  Therefore, if you know reality, you can't help but be depressed.  According to the current research, this assumption is not valid.  Optimists are more likely to pay attention to reality and to the risks involved than do pessimists.  So, don't worry, be happy.  Optimism does not equal denial of reality.

Researchers have also noted that optimism helps as a buffer against abnormal grief.  Optimism helps soften the hardship of bereavement, according to psychologist Nolen-Hoeksana of University of Michigan.  Sixty-five percent of optimists who lost a loved one reported that they found something positive in the loss.  Some felt they learned to value their relationship even more.  Some learned to be more patient.  It appears that when life hands out the proverbial lemon to optimists, they make lemonade of it.   

Myth:  "Optimists bury their head in the sand."  Fact:  Optimists keep their head above the negative view of reality.  Optimism is linked with hope, faith, perseverance, and personal control over one's life. Therefore, if someone tells you that optimists live in a fool's paradise, don't let it stop you from making a "fool" of yourself.  For you know that the one who thinks, "things will work out and I will work my way out," wins. 

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