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Is Your Glass Half Full or Half Empty?: 9 Ways to Be More Optimistic

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to have a zest for life while others think that nothing ever goes their way? Who would you rather hang out with? Who would you rather date? Research on optimism vs. pessimism has a clear answer for you.

People who are more optimistic, as compared to more pessimistic, experience a wide variety of health, social, and emotional benefits because of their positive outlooks on life (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992; Taylor, Kemeny, Reed, Bower, & Gruenewald, 2000). In fact, research has shown that people who are more optimistic posses higher levels of physiological well-being (Kivimaki, Vahtera, Elovaini et al., 2005) and are better psychologically adjusted (Carver & Gaines, 1987; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 2001) than those who are more pessimistic. Dicke (1998) found that optimisits are even preferred as romantic partners over pessimists by most individuals, regardless of their own level of optimism or pessimism. 

In addition to these benefits of being optimistic, there is also a social stigma associated with being more pessimistic (Carver, Kus, & Scheier, 1994; Hewleg-Larson, Sadeghian, & Webb, 2002). Researchers have discovered that pessimistic people are socially rejected because individuals feel that pessimists are hopeless, sad, and depressed (Hewleg-Larson et al., 2002). Research has also revealed that strangers, family, and friends all negatively view people who are unsatisfied with themselves or their lives (Furr & Funder, 1998). Furthermore, if others perceive a stigma (like pessimism) as controllable, individuals holding that stigma are perceived even more negatively than if the stigma they possess is perceived as uncontrollable (Crocker, Major, & Steele, 1998).

Need help becoming more optimistic? Follow these 9 tips and you could be on your way to enjoying all of the benefits that optimists enjoy everyday.

·      Aspinwall, L. G., & Taylor, S. E. (1992). Modeling cognitive adaptation:  A longitudinal investigation of the impact of individual differences and coping on college adjustment and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 989-1003.
·      Carver, C.S., & Gaines, J.G. (1987). Optimism, pessimism, and postpartum depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 11(4), 449-462.
·      Carver, C. S., Kus, L. A., & Scheier, M. F. (1994). Effects of good versus bad mood and optimistic versus pessimistic outlook on social acceptance versus rejection. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 13, 138-151.
·      Crocker, J., Major, B., & Steele, C. (1998). Social stigma. In D. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, and G. Lindsay (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (4th edition, Vol. 2, pp. 504-553). New York: McGraw Hill.
·      Dicke, A. K. (1998). Optimism and its effect on romantic relationships. (Doctoral dissertation). Texas Tech University, Texas.
·      Furr, R. M., & Funder, D. C. (1998). A multi-modal analysis of personal negativity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1580-1591.
·      Hewleg-Larson, M., Sadeghian, P., & Webb, M. S. (2002). The stigma of being pessimistically biased. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 21, 92-107.
·      Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. (1994). Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): A reevaluation of the Life Orientation Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1063-1078.
·      Taylor, S. E., Kemeny, M. E., Reed, G. M., Bower, J. E., & Gruenewald, T. L. (2000). Psychological resources, positive illusions, and health. American Psychologist, 55, 99-109.
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