Learned optimism requires developing the ability to view the world from a positive point of view. By challenging self-talk and replacing pessimistic thoughts with more positive ones, people can learn how to become more optimistic.
Learned optimism health and motivational benefits
There are very worthwhile benefits to becoming a more optimistic person. Some of the many advantages of optimism that researchers have discovered are:
Better health results
One study found that people who were more optimistic at age 25 were much healthier later at the ages of 45 and 60 than were more pessimistic people.
Studies have shown that optimistic people tend to live longer than pessimists.
Lower stress levels
Optimists not only experience less stress, they also cope with stress better. They tend to be more resilient and recover from setbacks more quickly, rather than becoming overwhelmed and discouraged by negative events. Optimists focus on making positive changes that will improve their lives.
Becoming more optimistic can also help you maintain motivation when pursuing goals. When trying to lose weight, for example, pessimists might give up because they believe diets never work. Optimists, on the other hand, are more likely to focus on positive changes they can make that will help to reach their goals.
In one study, children with risk factors for depression were placed in a training program where they were taught skills related to learned optimism.
The results of the study revealed that children with the risk factors were much more likely to show symptoms of moderate to severe depression at a two-year follow-up.
However, those who had received training in learned optimism and anti-depression skills were 50% as likely to develop such depression symptoms.
Optimists and pessimists tend to differ in terms of style, or how they go about explaining the events that take place in their lives.
Optimism vs Pessimism
Pessimists tend to believe that bad things are simply bound to happen, that they are at fault, and that negative outcomes will be permanent. Optimists, on the other hand, expect that good things will happen to them.
They tend to see setbacks as temporary events caused by circumstances. Rather than giving up or feeling helpless in the face of failure, optimists view it as a challenge that can be overcome or fixed.
Can you learn optimism?
While it may be clear that optimism can be beneficial, the question becomes whether people can learn to be more adopt a more positive perspective. Indeed, can even the most pessimistic of people adjust their perspective of things.
Are people born optimists, or is it a skill that can be learned?
Researchers suggest that in addition being partially hereditary, optimism levels are also influenced by childhood experiences, including parental warmth and financial stability.
Martin Seligman, Psychologist, Educator and Author, suggests that it is possible to learn skills that can help you become a more optimistic person. Anyone can learn these skills, no matter how pessimistic they are to begin with.
People who are optimistic can further improve their own emotional health, while those who are more pessimistic can benefit by lowering their chances of experiencing symptoms of depression.