"We observed that the optimist is about 35% less likely to have major heart complications, such as heart death, stroke, or heart attack, than the pessimists in each of these studies," says cardiologist Dr. Alan Rozanski. professor of medicine at the Icahn Medical School in Mount Sinai, who is the lead author of the study.
In fact, the more positive a person is, the greater the protection against heart attacks, stroke and any cause of death, said Rozanski, who is also the chief academic director of the cardiology department at Mount Sinai St. Luke.
"The more pessimistic (the person was), the worse the result," he added.
Traits of optimists
"Optimists also tend to have better coping skills and are better at problem solving," he continued. "They are better at what we call proactive problem solving or anticipation, and then actively take steps to fix them."
But do not confuse optimism with happiness, because there is a key difference.
"Happiness is emotion. It's transient, "said Rozanski. "People may have more moments of happiness than others … but it's just a description of feeling.
Optimism, however, is thinking," says Rozanski.
"That's how you look at the world," he says. "Optimists are people who expect good things to happen to them, and pessimists are those who expect bad things to happen to them. "
In other words, happiness may come and go, but optimism is a trait of character – this one. which can be measured fairly accurately by a series of statements
s called the "life orientation test."
The test includes sayings like, "I am a believer in the idea that 'every cloud has a silver lining,'" and "If something can go wrong for me, it will happen." You evaluate the statements on a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree and the results can be added to determine your level of optimism or pessimism.
What if you take the test and find yourself pessimistic? Studies show that you can actually learn to be a positive person.
"People can change their thinking patterns, but like everything else, this is a muscle that needs to be developed," Rozanski said.
Another technique is to practice gratitude. Just taking a few minutes each day to record what makes you grateful can enhance your life prospects. And while you're at it, list the positive experiences you have had that day that can also increase your optimism.
"Finally, we know that cognitive behavioral therapies are very effective treatments for depression; pessimism is on the way to depression, "Rozanski said. "So you can apply the same principles as we do in depression, like paraphrasing. You learn that there is an alternative way to think or rephrase negative thoughts and thus make great progress with a pessimist."