Are optimists healthier? Well, spend an hour at an old folks’ home and you’ll get your answer in person. You’re going to find grouchy pessimists there as well as cheerful optimists. The ones who enjoy their days, smiling and laughing, will tell you they feel good! They’ll remind you of the Eric Idle song from Monty Python’s Life of Brian movie that says, “Always look on the bright side of life.” The ones with a scowl and nothing but complaints will literally talk your ear off about their problems, including many health ailments. Now who would you rather be around?
Optimists have been studied to see if their health truly was better than others, and the results were a resounding… YES! Researchers at the University of Illinois studied over 5,100 adults over 11 years. They took into account seven metrics used by the American Heart Association– things like blood pressure, body mass index, dietary intake and physical activity. Ultimately, this study found that there was a correlation between an optimistic attitude and improved cardiovascular health. The conclusion was this: optimists may be twice as likely to be in “perfect” heart health compared to pessimistic people.
What does being optimistic do for your body? It can help keep down your blood sugar and total cholesterol levels. It can strengthen your immune system and lower rates of depression. And it can kind of “mask” the effects of bad experiences.
Think of it this way: if something bad happens to a person, how will they react? Will a pessimist’s “blood boil?” Probably. An optimist, meanwhile, frames the bad experience in their mind as more neutral, such that they don’t get “all worked up over it.” Now the body can only take so much stress before parts start to wear out, so it makes sense that optimists do, indeed, live healthier lives.
How’s your attitude? Are you surrounded by optimists or pessimists? You know, they say you’re a lot like the five people you spend the most time with, so be careful who you choose for your inner circle. Anytime you can choose optimism, do so.