December 13th, 2016

Are you a pessimist or an optimist?

I’m a person who is always trying to find the bright side of things so most days, I try to think of something that can “up” my mood, such as the thought that there are now four years left until the next American election turmoil.

In other words, I would describe myself as an optimist and that’s a good thing because optimism has been linked in several studies to better health outcomes.

But what about the flip side?

What if you’re a pessimist, someone who feels the glass is never full enough?

Does that harm your health?

Well, according to an 11-year-long Finnish study of nearly 3,000 people, people who were judged to be pessimists based on psychological testing at the start of the study had a 2-3 times higher risk of dying from heart disease over the course of the study than did the rest of the study participants.

On the other hand, though, and frustratingly for me, optimists did not have a lower risk of dying during the study although I am optimistic that this latter finding is actually a mistake and to that end, another recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology did find that those study participants judged to be optimists when the study was launched did in fact live longer than those not as hopeful (the only caveat is that this was a study on only women, but hey, I’m very optimistic that the same thing holds true for men, too.

Anyway, the big question is can you change your personality and pass from the darker side to the lighter side?

This is very hard to answer from currently published studies – and if you’re a pessimist, I suppose you will say it can’t be done – but I believe you can work on your temperament and if not totally eliminate pessimistic feelings, at least temper them.

For some of us, it takes work for sure, but I am very hopeful that it can be done.

Happy holidays.

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