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Optimism – Quality Of Life

Optimism, the opposite of pessimism,  may be thought of walking around displaying a silly grin- a Pollyanna-not so.

Learned Optimsm1: “Seligman [originator of learned optimism] thought to apply the question to real life: what makes a person pick themselves up after rejection by a lover, or another keep going when their life’s work comes to nothing? He found that the ability of some people to bounce back from apparent defeat is not, as we sentimentally like to say, a ‘triumph of the human will’. Rather than having an inborn trait of greatness, such people have developed a way of explaining events that do not see defeat as permanent or affecting their basic value. Nor is this trait something that ‘we either have or we don’t’; optimism involves a set of skills which can be learned.”

“Conventional thinking is that success creates optimism, but the evidence laid out by Seligman shows the reverse to be true: on a repeat basis, optimism tends to deliver success.”


Alex Lickerman, M.D. 2 “Optimism, isn’t just defined as the tendency to expect things to turn out better than probability predicts, nor is pessimism defined only as the tendency to expect things to turn out more poorly. Both terms are also used to describe the way we think about the causes of adversity, pessimism, in particular, being defined as the tendency to think about them in a way that makes us feel powerless. A pessimistic self-explanatory style, then, describes the tendency to attribute the causes of adversity to forces that are internal (“This is all my fault”), universal (“This affects absolutely everything”), and immutable (“This isn’t changeable”).

Optimism in health

Jarod Hall 3 “Optimism and health appear to be at least moderately correlated. Optimism has been shown to explain between 5–10% of the variation in the likelihood of developing health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and depression. Furthermore, optimists may respond better to stress. Pessimists, on the other hand, demonstrate higher resting levels of cortisol, as well as trouble regulating cortisol in response to stressors.”

Optimism can be learned4

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)5 aims to make the cognitions more positive, thereby reducing distress and fostering renewed effort toward desired ends. Beliefs about one’s future would certainly be an important subset of the cognitions to target for change in such therapies. From a cognitive-behavioral view, the key is to train oneself to think the way optimists think and act the way optimists act.”

     That is the way CBT works at Counseling on Demand– learning optimism and practicing, practicing, practicing.

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1.Tom Butler-Bowdon, citing Dr. Martin Seligman, Cognitive Psychologist,—learned-optimism.html

2.Alex Lickerman, M.D. former director of primary care, and assistant vice president for Student Health and Counseling Services at the University of Chicago and  author of The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self

3.Jarod Hall, The Role of Optimism in Patient Outcomes

4.Martin Seligman, author, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life:

5.Op.Cit, Hall

I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!