Health & Fitness

Optimist or Pessimist? 7 Benefits of Both


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Good news, optimists: your glass-half-full attitude has some major benefits to your health and happiness, just as you cheerily always assumed would be the case. Pessimist? Before you grumble “I knew it,” read on—there’s a bright side to always looking on the overcast side. Unfortunately.

Pessimists have better relationships

Optimist couples may seem disgustingly happy with each other all the time, but it’s pessimists who may actually have stronger relationships. Research suggests that optimism can be a “liability” in relationships, keeping couples from being pro-active when it comes to problem-solving. One study even found that couples who force themselves to stay optimistic during a rough spot in their marriages are doing more harm than good. Pessimists, on the other hand, have low expectations going into a marriage and experience more success and satisfaction as a result.

Optimists have better heart health

Optimists have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health, according to an 11-year study of over 5,000 adults. They also had better blood sugar levels and cholesterol. No wonder they’re so cheery all the time.

Pessimists may live longer

Heart health aside, there may still be a silver lining in never looking for the silver lining, at least according to one study of 40,000 Germans—pessimists who underestimated their future life satisfaction actually had a smaller risk of death within the 10-year study than optimists did. “Perceiving a dark future may foster positive evaluations of the actual self and may contribute to taking improved precautions,” the researchers wrote.

Optimists are more resilient

Not only do optimists look on the bright side, they’re also likely to bounce back more quickly than pessimists. It’s not because they’re delusional, researchers say. Rather, they have a “growth mind-set”—instead of believing that a negative event (say, dropping the ball at a job interview) is a reflection of themselves, they believe that their abilities can be developed.

Pessimists can be more persuasive

Working on a job application? Ask your most pessimistic friend to help you with your cover letter. Researchers have found that they may be better at delivering a persuasive message than optimists, thanks to a different informative processing style.

Optimists have better immune systems

A positive attitude may strengthen the immune system, according to a study of 124 law students as they experience classes, tests, and internships. As optimism experienced a boost, immunity did too. And as optimism dropped, the immune system weakened.

Pessimists make more responsible decisions

Optimism may lead to making riskier decisions, according to The Atlantic. Blame it on optimism bias, “the flawed reasoning that one has lower-than-average odds of experiencing negative events,” writer Lindsay Abrams explains. “Not wearing a bike helmet increases the risk of injury or death in the event of an accident, but it’s human for helmet-eschewers to believe that their personal risk is less than that of other, helmet-less riders.”

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