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If your outlook on life is bright and sunny, rather than dark and gloomy, you have a head start towards health and well-being. On the other hand, if you’re a pessimist you may want to lighten up and develop a positive mental attitude. You’ll reap many rewards.

Benefits of optimism

According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers have found that positive people enjoy:

  • Less depression and distress
  • Increased resistance to colds
  • Better mental and physical well-being
  • Increased lifespan and lower risk of death
  • Better coping skills during stressful periods

Nobody is sure what mechanism is involved. Maybe optimism reduces stress, which makes it easier to refrain from smoking or drinking or binge eating, say. Stress hormones, unfortunately, drive unhealthy habits.

It starts with positive self-talk

What’s self-talk? That’s the radio station in your head that’s always broadcasting either happy talk radio or doom and gloom programming. If you’re pessimistic – always seeing the glass as half-empty rather than half-full – then your station is likely glued to KSAD.

Tune into the voices in your mind and see if you can identify the positive from the negative. They may sound something like this:

  • You enter the cafeteria and see a small table of co-workers. Just as you approach they quickly get up and scramble. They must really not like me, you think.
  • Your shift supervisor commends you on some recent accomplishments, and makes one suggestion for improvement. You glow for hours thinking about the well-deserved kudos.
  • The alarm doesn‘t go off and you wake up late. Traffic is horrible and you barely make it to work on time. You just know it‘s going to be a humdinger of a day.
  • In the evening, after a crazy-busy shift, you reflect on the happenings. There were high points and low, but overall, it was a good day and you go to sleep satisfied with yourself.

What’s your default station setting in these examples? Are you satisfied with it?

In part two of this post on optimism, I’ll cover how to tweak your self-talk so that it supports you in enjoying a positive outlook and experiences in life. Stay tuned…

Jebra Turner is a health reporter and former H.R. director for an ergonomics-focused firm, where she oversaw workplace health and safety training programs for staff and clients. She lives in Portland, Oregon, but you can visit her at www.jebra.com.


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