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What Do We Know, Positively?

Are you a “glass is half empty” kind of person or are you a “glass is half full” kind of person? Or, are you like me…a realist. I’m inclined to simply drink the glass of water while the “glass is half empty” and “glass is half full” folks sort it out.

We need people of all perspectives in the world. Good things happen and bad things happen. Does it make a difference how you view those happenings? Well, maybe it does. Right now there is more documented work attributing a negative attitude to decreasing overall health and not as much research studying the inverse. However, a push to understand the health benefits of a positive attitude is well underway.

It's tempting to just assume that "of course" having a positive attitude will result in greater health, but hold on. Here's a short excerpt from a Psychology Today article by David Rosen theorizing why this might not be the case:

“In view of its potential to impact health and wellness, optimism has remained a key topic of research activity. However, the impact of optimism on long-term health remains contested. On the plus side, it has been shown in studies that optimism promotes persistence in the face of serious health challenges such as cancer and encourages confidence in and adherence to complex, side effect heavy treatment regimens such as antiviral therapy. Conversely, many studies have shown that when optimism translates into a flawed belief of invulnerability in relation to an impending health threat defined as ‘unrealistic optimism’, this can decrease adherence to positive health prevention measures and can decrease commitment to attend future health screenings.”

I suppose this means that even a wonderful trait like optimism can be detrimental when used in excess. And yet, even with unclear evidence on whether having a positive attitude results in longevity, wouldn’t most of us prefer to be around someone who is upbeat versus someone who is crabby? One recent Remembered Well storytelling client summed it up well – “Don’t be crabby and gloomy all the time. Smile. Pass it on.” That’s a snippet of wisdom from a nonagenarian. In terms of anecdotal research, I’d say that attitude has served her well for 90 years and is a lesson to us all.

Sure, I may still opt to simply drink the glass of water but I’m also going to think about that water as quenching and refreshing instead of drab with an odd aftertaste. Why not? Why not choose to bring in a bit of sunshine and seek the positive side? Maybe one day they'll clearly reveal significant health benefits to this tactic. Regardless, it just might bring a smile to those around you today.