Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Women's health centre

How to be more optimistic

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Are you a glass half empty kind of person? Do you imagine the worse case scenario? 'It's bound to rain when I go on holiday', or 'I'm not going to get that new job'.

Or do you tend to look on the bright side of life and feel that things will always work out just fine? 'I won't need my umbrella' or 'I'm going to give that interview my best shot'.

Whichever you are, there seem to be definite advantages to thinking positively.

Benefits of optimism

Most of the evidence points to optimism being better for you.

A study from the University of Pittsburgh in the US suggested that women who are optimistic and expect good things to happen have a 30% lower risk of heart disease.

Research in 2014 at University College London found that as they get older, optimists tend to maintain better physical function and live longer than pessimists.

"There are lots of health benefits to being an optimist," says positive psychologist and author of Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression, Miriam Akhtar.

She says: "You have better physical and psychological wellbeing and are less prone to depression."

"You'd think pessimists would be the ones at the doctor's all the time but in fact optimists are more likely to have health check-ups as pessimists tend to bury their heads in the sand," she adds.

One downside of being an optimist is you may be more likely to engage in risk taking behaviour thinking you'll be OK. "Optimists also think they have a below average risk for cancer and heart disease," says Miriam, "so they are more shocked when things go wrong but they are better equipped to recover from difficult experiences."

Can you learn to be more optimistic?

Yes. The good news is our brains are not totally hardwired for optimism or pessimism, so you can learn to accentuate the positive.

"Optimism is a personality trait but it's also a skill you can learn," says Miriam, who regards herself as a natural pessimist but a practising optimist. So how do you do it?

Challenge your opinions

Optimists and pessimists have different styles of thinking, according to Miriam.

Her theory is that when a negative event happens a pessimist tends to blame themselves whereas an optimist doesn't take it personally. Pessimists think a negative event is permanent, and an optimist regards it as temporary.

A pessimist thinks of a negative event as pervasive "everything is ruined," says Miriam, but an optimist can contain it and say it's not affecting all parts of my life.

If you try to think in a different way about an event it may help you look on it in a less negative light.

"Challenge your opinions and ask yourself: what's the evidence for it being your fault, being permanent or affecting everything in your life," says Miriam.

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
Treating your child's cold or fever
fifth disease
Illnesses every parent should know
spoonfull of sugar
Surprising things that harm your liver
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
What your nails say about your health