With the deepening climate crisis and unprecedented political uncertainty dominating the headlines, it can sometimes be hard to remain upbeat about the state of the world.
And while some of us might shrug and get back to an unending diet of negative news feeds, there are clear health benefits to maintaining a positive outlook. In a recent study by the University of Illinois it was found that optimistic people were more likely to live healthier and longer lives – smiling their way beyond 85 years in many cases.
Heart health is the key indicator according to the study, with positive people being twice as likely to have good ‘cardiovascular score’ compared to those who see the glass as half empty. That’s good news, but the study also suggested it’s easier to be negative about a situation than it is to be positive. So, how can we change our approach?
- Optimists are often better at regulating their emotions. When trouble arises, they tend to resort to adaptive strategies that focus on emotions, for example, humour, acceptance and a positive re-assessment of the situation.
- Positive people don’t just expect good things will happen – they actively take steps to make them happen.
- If we believe we can obtain our goals, we are more likely to persevere when difficulties arise.
- Consequently, optimistic people produce less cortisol and adrenaline – stress-related hormones that increase blood pressure.
However, if you are struggling to be a glass-half-full kind of person, research has found that using relatively simple techniques can help:
- Although you may struggle to find the time in your week to get your heart rate up, exercise will release endorphins to boost your mood.
- Disconnecting is key for our wellbeing. Having a digital detox for a few days has been found to increase happiness.
- Making friends is good for you. Even life-long pessimists will benefit from a friendship group that includes an optimist and can help boost your mood.
Not all of the techniques above are entirely practical – digital detox, how? Yet, within the workplace, optimism and performance have been found to have a positive association. So, in the words, of Eric Idle, ‘always look on the bright side of life.’
Ellie Stone is an account executive at Camargue