From the Principal

The Benefits of Being an Optimist


Martin Seligman is an American psychologist who is a strong promoter of positive psychology and well-being.Researchers like Seligman have been studying optimists and pessimists for years, and they have come to the conclusion that, being an optimist brings with it a range, physical, psychological and relationship benefits throughout a person’s life. Many studies have been carried out showing the effectiveness of optimism as a psychological phenomenon. Optimism is commonly understood to be a term that embraces two closely correlated concepts: an inclination to hope and the tendency to believe we live in wonderful times.

Optimists are variously described as being people who see the brighter side of things, who see the glass as half full rather than half empty and people who see hardships as learning experiences. People who see life in a positive light are shown to be more optimistic, less stressed and enjoy better health than pessimists.Seligman studied sporting teams and found that optimistic teams performed better, were more resilient and were generally more successful. This research has led companies in the US to look at hiring optimists and, unsurprisingly, the results have been very positive.

So what are the benefits of optimism for the individual? The first is that in longitudinal studies optimists have been shown to be healthier and to live longer than pessimists. Similarly, they are shown to have greater persistence and are more likely to achieve because of it. Optimists tend to experience less stress and when they are stressed they have superior coping skills than less optimistic people. This is thought to be because they believe in themselves and their abilities and they expect good things to happen. They see negative events as minor setbacks that can be easily overcome and are learning opportunities.

Because of their unique view of the world, some of the world’s great leaders have been identified as optimists. It is hypothesised that they have the capacity to see a bigger picture when it comes to overcoming the impossible. Think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the amazing work she did internationally from simple beginnings. Such leaders seemingly overcome the impossible to rally people toward a better future. As Winston Churchill, a staunch optimist is quoted as saying, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Churchill was seen as a realistic optimist meaning that he was focused on addressing the negative to increase the chances of positive outcomes.

So to summarise, life is better when we can focus on the positive. The benefit of optimism is that anyone can be an optimist. Pessimism is not a permanent state, nor is it an irreversible position. In fact, it really is quite easy to resolve. We simply need to recognise positivity in our lives and come to appreciate all that is good. We also need to recognise that likes attract and being optimistic in turn attracts optimists to us. Finally, we need to recognise that each of us has the power to change and this change is a choice we make.We need to decide which person we want to be, the positive version of ourselves where the light of optimism brightens our pathway or the pessimist who walks head done trying to avoid the potholes.

Have a great weekend

Dr Frank Pitt



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