Optimism vs. Pessimism and how it affects your health.

The US News report published this morning shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has read about the correlation between stress and heart health. The study is quite straightforward: It says be happier and stress less, and your heart will endure less stress thereby keeping it healthier longer. Doctors have been warning us for years now about the negative effects stress can have on our hearts, but what about the potential positive effects of stress?

To start, let’s discuss the origin of stress. “Stress less” is a concept easy to type, less easy to practice in day-to-day life. One study argues that stress may be inherent in your personality, dependent on the glucocorticoid receptors your brain has learned to use which relied heavily on how much stress you endured as a baby. Generally, our brains memorize stress and continue to produce it based on the history of production, an attribute we often characterize as a personality trait.

Psychology Today seems to argue that there is more choice involved. The German study referenced proved that “…pessimism about the future may encourage people to take fewer risks, be more vigilant about their medical health, and generally take more safety precautions.” A point made we had trouble disbelieving. The article went on to claim that, of the large pool of people studied, the ones who had the highest expectations for their future, were often the ones let down the most as years progressed, leading them to be the group that died earlier or became disabled sooner than the less idealistic group. That leads us to our next question: Are idealism and optimism the same thing? If idealism is a lack of knowledge or perception of things as they are, does being optimistic constitute that behavior? What if an optimistic lifestyle involves understanding the possible negative outcomes, yet choosing to focus on the possibilities instead?

“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” – Winston Churchill

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