Optimism is a hopeful, positive outlook on the future, yourself, and the world around you. It is a key part of resilience, the inner strength that helps you get through tough times.
By definition, optimism helps you see, feel, and think positively. But it has extra benefits you might not know about—optimism helps keep up your physical health too.1
You don’t have to be a "born optimist" to use the power of optimism. In daily life, or when faced with a crisis, you can choose a positive viewpoint to make the most of what life brings your way.
Even if you tend to focus on the negative side of things, "realistic optimism" can work for you.
With realistic optimism, you don’t just expect the best and hope that things will go well. Nor do you let yourself see and expect only the worst. Instead, you look at the "big picture," the good and the bad. You then:
For example, let’s say you are about to have a knee surgery. You can choose to be optimistic about your recovery, rather than let fear or hopelessness take hold. Imagine how you want to feel 6 or 12 months after surgery—strong and active. Picture what you want to be doing, how you want to be moving around. Keep these positive, hopeful pictures in your mind.
A positive attitude can also help you keep up a positive mood, which can help with healing. But optimism alone is only part of a good recovery. It’s also important to know what to do, such as physical therapy exercises, and what to be careful about. And if you need support or advice, you can plan ahead with the right people before the surgery.
When practicing optimism, remember to keep a flexible frame of mind. Expect change, and be ready to adjust to it.
Whenever you’re having trouble with thinking negative thoughts, expecting the worst, or feeling powerless, try any of these exercises for a few days.
Kubzansky LD, et al. (2001). Is the glass half empty or half full? A prospective study of optimism and coronary heart disease in the normative aging study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 63(6): 910–916.
February 19, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health
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