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Description: What do you think and what have your read or heard about the possibly contrasting life circumstances and futures of optimists and pessimists? The idea that it matters has been around forever (you know that some line, “grey skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face”). Ah but what I hope you are thinking is something like “It is all and only correlational!” and yes that is largely true. People who experiences better outcomes in their life challenges might develop a feeling that their luck will continue whereas those who do not fair so well, like Martin Seligman’s dogs, learn to be helpless or pessimistic. All true BUT think for a minute about how one might design a research strategy to see if there is a direct (causal) effect of optimism on wellbeing or at least to figure out how optimism tweaks the sorts of thoughts, plans, and behaviors or habits that can be shown to be causally connected to wellbeing. Once you have given that some thought have a read through the article linked below for a brief overview of some of recent thinking and even research into these questions.

Source: Looking at the Bright Side May Be Good for Your Health. Jane E. Brody, Personal Health, The New York Times.

Date: Januar27, 2020

Photo Credit:  Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, did you follow how the researchers whose work was discussed tried to unpack the important questions of just HOW optimism could lead to or at least support better behaviors or habits? As well, there is the possibility that pessimism drives stress response which, in and of themselves, create wear and tear on our systems. So perhaps optimism in and of itself does not do much for us. However, what the research described in the linked article suggests is that if we open and unpack the bundle of stuff that is optimism, we may find some very useful suggestions and maybe even a few positive gifts for better living. Digging in might be worth it (just what an optimist might say)!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. If we say that past statements and finding regarding the positive impact of optimism on health and wellbeing are correlational does that mean we should just stop looking at the question of how optimism might play in matters of health and wellbeing?
  2. If optimism does not directly cause better health and wellbeing what sort of research should we do in this area?
  3. What would boosting optimism and its connected benefits involve/require?

References (Read Further):

Rozanski, A., Bavishi, C., Kubzansky, L. D., & Cohen, R. (2019). Association of optimism with cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA network open, 2(9), e1912200-e1912200.

Huffman, J. C. (2019). Optimism and Health: Where Do We Go From Here?. JAMA Network Open, 2(9), e1912211-e1912211.

Trudel-Fitzgerald, C., Millstein, R. A., von Hippel, C., Howe, C. J., Tomasso, L. P., Wagner, G. R., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2019). Psychological well-being as part of the public health debate? Insight into dimensions, interventions, and policy. BMC public health, 19(1), 1-11.

Boehm, J. K., Chen, Y., Koga, H., Mathur, M. B., Vie, L. L., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2018). Is optimism associated with healthier cardiovascular-related behavior? Meta-analyses of 3 health behaviors. Circulation research, 122(8), 1119-1134.

Lee, L. O., James, P., Zevon, E. S., Kim, E. S., Trudel-Fitzgerald, C., Spiro, A., … & Kubzansky, L. D. (2019). Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(37), 18357-18362.

Kim, E. S., James, P., Zevon, E. S., Trudel-Fitzgerald, C., Kubzansky, L. D., & Grodstein, F. (2019). Optimism and Healthy Aging in Women and Men. American journal of epidemiology, 188(6), 1084-1091.