27 Oct OPTIMISTIC ATTITUDE
is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. www.janfowler.com. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.
BY JAN FOWLER
“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” Harry Truman
For many years now, we’ve all known that daily exercise, sound nutrition, and good genetics help add years to our life. But research is now turning up surprising new evidence which points to other factors that also contribute to longevity. And at the top of that list is an optimistic attitude!
Having had the opportunity to interview quite a few men and women who’ve lived beyond the 100-year mark, I’ve observed that some of their stand-out characteristics include a strong will to live, an amazing capacity for resilience, but most of all, an optimistic outlook. Yes, theirs seems to be an inspired way of thinking, to which I would add that they also seem to exude a sense of peace and love, plus easy laughter and friendly smiles.
At a past event I attended a glamorous civic gala where I had the good fortune of being seated next to a very friendly couple who were the billionaire owners of a world-wide chain of famous restaurants. As our conversation unfolded, I overheard them refer to various opportunities which they had encountered in business over the years. At one point, the wife chuckled, “Now so-and-so was a real opportunity for us, wasn’t he?” to which her husband quickly and jokingly nodded in agreement. Then to avoid having me feel left out of what was obviously an inside joke, the wife politely leaned in to me to whisper that their definition of an “opportunity” was a person (who, in this case, was one of their many restaurant managers) that others would typically label as a problem.
She quickly added that both she and her husband always made the effort to choose their words carefully so as not to taint their thinking with negativity. “What others interpret as problems, we see as opportunities” she explained. “It helps remind us to always stay open-minded to the hidden possibility of success.” Later, it dawned on me that I had been privileged to glimpse an insight into one of the many powerful secrets behind this couple’s ability to build their international empire. They forced themselves to stay focused on positive, rather than negative, outcomes.
The proven benefits of optimism are very far-reaching. It’s been shown that positive-minded people are better able to cope with the adversities of life. Moreover, optimists have greater happiness, healthier hearts, fewer problems with their blood pressure, are at a lower risk for stroke, and live longer lives. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to learn that Positive Psychology classes are now being taught at more and more universities.
Gratitude is also associated with optimism. It’s been determined that grateful people are happier, receive more social support, are less stressed and less depressed. Recent research indicates that optimists and pessimists approach problems differently so their ability to cope successfully with adversity differs as a result.
One long-term study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that optimistic people had a 19% chance of still being alive thirty years later. (The only other single protocol found capable of producing results of this level of significance was restricted calorie intake.) According to comments made by a staff psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic, “It tells us mind and body are linked and that attitude has an impact on the final outcome, death.”
Optimism is Good for Your Health
According to a series of studies from the United States and Europe, optimistic people cope with disease better, recover from surgery faster, are healthier, and live longer than pessimists. In 2010, researchers studied the results of 83 scientific studies which measured the effects of optimism on health and wellness. They concluded that those with a more optimistic outlook had a better overall outcome than those who were pessimistic. Another study found evidence that optimism can protect against the development of chronic diseases (Matthews, Raikkonen, Sutton-Tyrell, & Kuller, 2004).
Optimism can also have a positive effect on a person’s immune system. One study which immunized elderly adults for influenza (Kohut, Cooper, Nickolaus, Russell, & Cunnick, 2002) found that the optimists had greater antibody production and better immune outcomes when their immune response to the vaccination was measured two weeks later.
That levels of happiness and optimism was something that could even be measured was doubted for so many years. But now, a considerable number of books have been written about happiness and its positive effects upon us. To read uplifting stories, tips, and examples of the benefits of appreciating the sunny side of life or to learn more about the building blocks of success and happiness, you might start with:
The Contagious Optimism book series by David Mezzapelle; Stumbling on Happiness, a prize-winning book by social psychologist Daniel Gilbert, known as “Professor happiness”; Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Claremont University psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, noted for his work in the study of happiness, creativity, and the theory of flow.
Or you may go online to visit http://www.abundantoptimism.com/
I hope you enjoy reading about different ways in which we may all be able to take control of our own medical, social, and psychological destinies by thinking, believing, and envisioning positive—and more joyful—outcomes of our life’s circumstances. I, for one, am a strong proponent of happiness, optimism, and humor as good medicines for whatever ails us!
“The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness! You have to catch it yourself.” Benjamin Franklin
Jan Fowleris author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So.California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. www.janfowler.com. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“CHANGE YOUR THINKING… CHANGE YOUR LIFE.” Ernest Holmes, Founder: Science of Mind Philosophy