Remove your shin guards and knee pads! Being an optimist is the key to invincibility. Well, almost.
Despite our best efforts to improve our health through sports and exercise, we’re at a constant risk of injury. But what if injury could be controlled by personality traits? Let’s dive into the health benefits of optimism.
The Health Benefits of Optimism
A recent UK study examined the effects of optimism on the predictability of injury and post injury performance, and found that as levels of optimism increased in sportsmen and women, the likelihood of injury occurrence decreased.
It seems that optimistic individuals are in active promotion of their health. They better manage rest and nutrition, and exercise at an appropriate intensity, frequency and duration. They’re also found to lack a stress response during demanding physical situations.
Optimistic individuals returning to their sport while still recovering are less likely to experience negative feelings such as dispiritedness, restlessness or isolation, which heighten the probability of repeat injuries.
Imagine a Future You to Benefit the You Now
Optimists and pessimists are characterised by general expectations that their outcomes will be respectively positive or negative. While research has shown that optimists experience better mental well-being than pessimists, it can be hard to become or remain positive about the future throughout life’s hardships.
Research has shown that imagining a best possible self (BPS exercise) can increase optimism. Imagining the best possible self involves thinking and writing about a future self characterised by ideal circumstances and achievements.
Researchers at Obero University found that students who thought, wrote and reflected about their best possible selves were more optimistic about their future than students who did the same about a typical day in their lives. The authors speculate that this is because picturing the best possible self is linked to goals.
One will experience greater optimism with increased progression towards a goal. Indeed, thinking about a positive situation is thought to have the same effect as behaviour that brings a goal closer, leading to increased confidence in one’s successes.
Being optimistic will help you to live a longer life
Numerous studies have found that optimism is consistently related to longevity, besides the physical and mental well-being benefits compared with pessimism that have been mentioned before.
A US study of nearly 100 000 students found that people who are optimistic are less likely than those who are pessimistic to die from Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) or from any other cause over an eight year period. Similar studies have also confirmed this link between optimism and good health.
The belief that good things will happen in life is called dispositional optimism and it has been strongly connected with improved recovery rates after surgery and improved cancer survival rates.
So what does this mean for you? What do you do on a daily basis in order to live a long and healthy life? Feel free to leave a comment below!
Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2001). Optimism, Pessimism and Self-Regulation. In E. C. Change (Ed.), Optimism and Pessimism: Implications for Theory, Research and Practice (pp. 31-52). Washington DC: American Psychological Society.
Hefferon, K., & Boniwell, I. (2011). Positive Psychology: Theory, Research and Applications, Berkshire: Open University Press.
King, L. A. (2001). The Health Benefits of Writing About Life Goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(7), 798–807.
Peters, M. L., Flink, I. K., Boersma, K., & Linton, S. J. (2010). Manipulating Optimism: Can Imagining a Best Possible Self Be Used to Increase Positive Future Expectancies?, Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(3), 204-211.
Scheier, M. E., & Carver, C. S. (1987). Dispositional Optimism and Physical Wellbeing: The Influence of Generalised Outcome Expectancies on Health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55(2), 169–210.
Wong, S. (2014, August 11). Always look on the bright side of life. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2009/aug/11/optimism-health-heart-disease
Wadey, R., Evans, L., Hampton, S. & Neil, R. (2012). Effect of dispositional optimism before and
after injury. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 45(2), 387394.
On a related note: