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Optimism and Health

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Optimism and Health
Lump E. Mayberry III
PSY/220 - POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY: WHAT'S RIGHT WITH ME
Instructor: Alan Coffin February 9, 2014

Optimism and Health
Optimism is easily described as an attitude or point of view that allows individuals to view their life experiences in a positive fashion. Many perceive optimism as a valuable quality or characteristic to have when dealing with everyday life situations whether they are positive or negative. Researchers have gone a step further in suggesting the presence of optimism may also have positive effects on both physical and psychological health.
Optimists expect good things to happen to them and this positive attitude tends to have positive effects on not only their mental process but also their physical well-being. According to Rasmussen, Scheier, and Greenhouse (2009) optimism plays a significant role in physical health. The majority of their studies related to this research revealed that optimists as compared to pessimists tended to show lower levels of pain and physical handicaps. While the extent of the link between optimism and physical health still seems to be somewhat gray area, it is important to understand that a multitude of studies conducted under Rasmussen, Scheier, and Greenhouse’s research have shown the link does exist. These studies have varied in method conducted, factors, participants, and methods of analyzing results so they have covered just about every possibility and situation.
According to one study conducted on the effects of optimism on the heart it was found that the presence of optimism lowered the risk of a cardiovascular event by almost 50 percent as compared to those who were more pessimistic. Sheier (1989) goes on to conduct more extensive research on the heart as well as heart surgery and recovery. The overall notion is that people who have positive expectations about their recovery tend to recovery better and faster. The same type of evidence is present in sports, especially in the National Football League. Over the past few years, there have been a number of measures and precautions taken to ensure the safety of the players. Nonetheless, it seemed the number of injuries and more importantly, the number of gruesome injuries, seemed to sky rocket despite the newly implemented precautions. What is important to note is how fast and often the players seemed able to recover from their injuries. Injuries that once ended careers were not even keeping players out of play for a full season. The factor that present amongst all the various injuries was the optimism that the individual player would not only recover, but return to player in better condition than they were before. At this point, another aspect of optimism reveals itself. As mentioned with the athletes who developed and portrayed a sort of mental toughness, optimism not only seemed to affect their physical states but also their psychological states as well. Nicholls et al (2007) notes that mentally tough individuals have strong confidence in themselves and believe they control their own destiny. This is valuable when facing various forms of distress. Because stressors and other forms of distress often result in negative outcomes it is important to have a positive view or expectancy when coping with these types of issues. In others words, athletes who are injured must believe they can recover from that injury before they can ever start the often long and tough recovery process. If they are less than optimistic their recovery may not be as successful or as fast. Another example of this are Olympians who practice their whole lives for one or two opportunities to compete and be successful. If they were not optimistic, they would give up on their life long dreams to compete on the global stage. In everyday life, optimism allows individuals to deal with stressors and other negative experiences with a positive attitude. This allows the individual to see the silver lining in the dark cloud. Individuals are better able to see the good in things rather than just the negative. The individual has the opportunity to view the situation, identify the related factors, devise a means of addressing the issue, and grow as a person in the process.
Optimism has been linked to both physical and psychological health. Those who possess and display optimism tend to live healthier and more balanced lives. Positive thinking has been shown to increase and promote good physical health and stronger psychological processes through the learning and use of coping strategies and decision making. In Henry Ford’s words, “if you think you can do a thing …... you’re right.”

References
Nicholls, A. R., Polman, R., Levy, A. R., & Backhouse, S. H. (2007). Mental toughness, optimism, pessimism, and coping among athletes.
Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/science/article/pii/S0191886907004175
Rasmussen, H. N., PhD., Scheier, M. F., PhD., & Greenhouse, J. B., PhD. (2009). Optimism and physical health: A meta-analytic review. Annals of
Behavioral Medicine, 37(3), 239-56. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12160-009-9111-x Scheier, M. F., Matthews, K. A., Owens, J. F., Magovern, G. J., Lefebvre, R. C.,
Abbott, R. A., & Carver, C. S. (1989). Dispositional Optimism and Recovery From Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: The Beneficial Effects on Physical and Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1024-1040. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.57.6.1024 .

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