We have a famous inventor to thank for saying something often used to encourage someone to stay optimistic after a failure or disappointment. Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another one opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
Bell was a prolific inventor. When he invented the telephone, he changed how people communicated. Before Bell invented the telephone, the fastest method to send a message was by using Morse code through telegraph lines, and before that, smoke signals, riders on horses, and even pigeons. While some inventions get lost in time, others make a mark on history, and some are significant enough to change many aspects of our daily life. Despite his many successes, he also encountered many failures.
A recent Texas A&M University Health Center study indicates that optimism in older adults can help decrease the negative effects physical limitations may have on life satisfaction.
What is an optimist? The word “optimism” comes from a Latin word that means “the best.” Focusing on optimism helps reflect on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative ones. Optimism is all about how we perceive things. Are you surprised to learn that scientists and researchers have studied how an optimistic attitude affects our daily life? It turns out that an optimistic attitude helps us be happier, more successful, and healthier.
Optimistic people have SUPERPOWERS!
Optimism builds resilience. According to the podcast, Tune into Leadership, it strengthens us to try again rather than give up. It allows us to keep our goals and dreams in play and to act on the motivation to keep working toward them. Because of this, optimistic people feel more in control of their situations and have higher self-esteem.
Our brain rewards us for being optimistic. Our brain produces something called “Dopamine,” which allows us to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. When you feel good that you have achieved something, it’s because you have a surge of dopamine in your brain.
Optimism can protect against depression and make people more resistant to stress. Optimism may even help us live longer because, according to the research, optimistic people are better at fighting illnesses.
At what age are optimism and happiness the highest? This might surprise you-scientists from the Brookings Institute found that optimism and happiness peaked around 21 and then dropped steadily until age 40. But past middle age, the pattern began to reverse, gradually climbing back to its highest point at age 98!
Optimistic people live longer-have stronger immune systems, and have lower stress and pain levels. One large study published in 2018 determined that optimists have a life span of 11% to 15% longer than average and are more likely to live to age 85 or older. Optimism isn’t about ignoring the bad stuff (that’s denial). Optimism defines how we interpret and think about ourselves and our world. What can we do to become more optimistic?
Set aside each day to reflect on what you are grateful for and write it down. Research shows that people who practice gratitude and write it down have a more positive outlook on life. If you don’t want to keep a written journal, write a short statement on your daily calendar.
Exercise increases feel-good endorphins, and research has shown that movement has multiple health benefits.
Research has also shown us that exercise increases serotonin production and suppresses stress hormones, directly affecting our ability to practice optimism. Join a fitness class or “move naturally” (walking, working in a garden, or helping someone with a chore.)
Pat yourself on your back.
Identify the obstacles you have already overcome and allow yourself to feel success or happiness. In other words, pat yourself on the back for all your life and daily successes!