How To Turn Healthy Optimism Into Real-Life Health, Wellness, & Success
Pessimism Can Be A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Yet The Power of Positivity Comes With No Guarantees
Against All Odds, We’re Have More Healthy Optimism Than Ever
As individuals and a community, we’re cultivating more positive energy than ever, with about 80% of us feeling positive about and making big plans for the future . That’s despite facing down high levels of debt and unemployment, rising costs of living, and a growing existential threat from environmental, political, and public health crises. Newly dubbed the “Optimistic Generation,” more than half of today’s working-age and young adults believe we’ll do a lot better than older generations think .
And with that attitude, we’ll probably get there!
That’s because healthy optimism is more than just a mindset; it’s an essential part of cultivating resilience, confidence, decisiveness, and ambition . Though opinions remain divided about exactly why that is, there’s a wealth of evidence to back up the idea that optimism affects physical health in ways that have a major impact on real-life goal setting and achievement. Consequently, healthy optimism can impact much more than just your attitude, ultimately helping you to be happy in the present and build a future you can be happy in.
What Is Positive Energy & How Do You Cultivate It?
Generally speaking, positive energy (a.k.a healthy optimism) is a kind of intentional, enthusiastic optimism. Though it has long been simplified to mean a “glass half full” ideology, there is more to positive energy than just thinking happy thoughts!
For one, cultivating positive energy is not the willful dismissal of unpleasant or negative realities, as some people say. It’s not about being delusional or ignoring facts. Rather, it’s a process of learning how to be happy before being perfect, which requires that you examine situations critically without being critical. That is, to cultivate positive energy, you must learn to challenge negative thinking and must be willing to work towards identifying and seizing opportunities even when faced with adversity . In that way, healthy optimism is the opposite of delusion; it requires that you engage with the facts of a situation rather than with your feelings about/because of it.
How Positive Energy/Healthy Optimism Fits With “The Power Of Positive Thinking”
The difference between healthy optimism and unhealthy (or unrealistic) optimism is relatively straightforward. Where healthy optimism comes from challenging your negativity bias, identifying the opportunity, and working hard to be happy with the truth of your reality, unhealthy optimism comes from putting on blinders so you can be happy believing a better-sounding lie about it. Both in life and love, as well as in career, education, and financial investments, believing in the impossible in this way can create long-term problems even if it has the same short term benefits as healthy optimism [5, 6].
All that being said, we’re not here to tell you that the “power of positivity” is enough to get you where you want to be. Yet you can absolutely learn to wield positive energy with intention so that you both engage with the reality of any given situation and remain able to recognize the opportunities that arise from it and the things you can be grateful for about it.
In that sense, positive energy and the power of positive thinking have a kind of square-rectangle relationship; while all positive energy showcases the true power of positivity, not all attempts at practicing the power of positivity actually involve cultivating positive energy!
How Optimism Affects Physical Health
Optimism affects physical health in a myriad of ways. Mainly, maintaining a positive outlook by bringing positive energy to situations can dramatically increase a person’s longevity (enabling them to live from 15-40 years longer) . It also improves their physical health and immune strength so they experience fewer chronic or acute illnesses during their lifetime. What’s more, healthy optimism has been empirically linked to lower rates of depression and anxiety (and reduced symptoms of both) as well as lower general levels of distress .
There are several different explanations for how optimism affects physical health in these ways. The most widely accepted explanations suggest that healthy optimism not only provides literal physical health benefits (like boosting immune function), but it also can be a health-promoting behavior that enables people to live a healthier lifestyle and motivates dedication to recovery from illness and injury .
Additionally, healthy optimism tends to be somewhat mutually exclusive of other mindsets that have negative health consequences, like cynical hostility and chronic stress. Cynical hostility, for one, not only undermines the ways optimism affects physical health but also dramatically lowers feelings of social support/increases feelings of isolation . Similarly, optimism affects physical health in ways that are almost directly oppositional to the effects of chronic stress . Consequently, it’s fair to say that healthy optimism not only leads to a healthier life, but overall improved quality of life as well!
How Healthy Optimism Can Fuel Your Growth
Most directly, healthy optimism/positive energy can empower you to achieve more of what you want in life by helping ensure you’re still here and healthy enough to pursue it. What’s more, the ways that optimism affects physical health described above all have a direct effect on a person’s ability to and motivation for goal setting and achievement.
For example, people who practice healthy optimism tend to have an easier time learning how to be happy (because they perceive their quality of life as being better). This same type of healthy optimism can make people less vulnerable to physical health and psychosomatic symptoms that prevent goal achievement and diminish persistence (like body aches, fatigue, digestive distress, and poor sleep quality) .
What’s more, people who cultivate positive energy experience fewer emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety and have generally lower risk perception, both in everyday life and during high-stress and high-stakes situations . As a result, people who demonstrate healthy optimism are more likely to take appropriate and meaningful risks to help advance their careers, finances, and social lives. This explains why optimistic Millennials and Gen Z adults tend to be happy with setting their sights on innovation, with more than half planning to start their own business someday !
The Best First Steps For Cultivating The Positive Energy You Need To Be Happy
If you want to take advantage of all the ways optimism affects physical health (and physical health impacts future opportunities), the best place to begin is wherever you are:
If you often react with pessimism: try challenging your negativity bias — acting in good faith, aligning your current attitude with how you wish you felt and asking “what if exactly what I want to happen, happens?” — can be an excellent beginning to a healthy optimism habit .
If you feel self-doubt and high anxiety: learn to prime your attitude by using more intentional language in your self-talk and practicing self-compassion [15, 16].
If you struggle to feel positive: Many experts recommend building healthy optimism by practicing more mindful behavior, like keeping a journal, expressing gratitude, and intentionally looking for things to be happy about every day .
If you sense your positive energy waning: find opportunities to be charitable, help others, or even surprise a loved one; all help boost positive energy .
If you’re just not sure how to be happy: Work with us! Here at Prism Vibes, we specialize in helping people discover how to be happy by achieving your best self!