Does It Really Pay Off to Be an Eternal Optimist?

Does It Really Pay Off to Be an Eternal Optimist?

Hint: yes it does!

Optimism isn’t the same as “positive thinking”. Optimism is, in a way, positive. But real optimism is grounded in reality.

If you get this balance right, then optimism has numerous benefits. And not just the obvious ones liked improved mood and more happiness!

Check out this Psychology Today article by Susan Krauss Whitbourne for more …


  • Being an eternal optimist may lead you to be the target of other people’s jokes, but might there be some benefits.
  • A new, 25-year study of optimism, psychological well-being, and health shows why being an optimist is actually an advantage.
  • You may not realize it but deep down, you may already have some of those beneficial optimistic qualities.

If anyone’s ever criticized you for being an eternal optimist, you might have wondered whether you should perhaps be more of a realist. After all, optimism can lead people to make potentially ill-informed decisions, taking away from their ability to adopt a more reasoned approach. If you’re constantly thinking the best of people and situations, might you be more likely to be blind-sided by those situations that don’t quite merit your trust?

Psychology itself doesn’t provide a clear answer about the possible benefits and risks of a chronically happy approach to life. Although there is evidence that being an optimist can help you feel better physically, mentally, and even cognitively, few studies actually examine what the long-term implications are of always seeing the bright side of life.

Tracking Optimism Over 25 Years

To help address this question, data from the Rochester Adult Longitudinal Study (RALS), is making it possible to investigate the developmental course of optimism over a 25-year period along with measures of health and well-being. The RALS, which I began along with my College of New Jersey collaborator Alan Waterman in the late 1970s (Whitbourne & Waterman, 1979) now is being continued under the auspices of a team of personality researchers headed, in the optimism study, by Michigan State University’s Jeewan Oh (2022).

One question driving the Oh et al. study was whether optimism as studied over the course of the years, among the same individuals, would show the slightly inverted U-shaped pattern reported elsewhere in large-scale survey studies, in which people of different ages are compared at the same point in time. By following individuals over the decades, it was possible to see whether people actually changed relative to themselves. In other words, once an optimist, always an optimist?

The second question Oh and our research team investigated was whether being optimistic over the long haul could, as shorter-term studies suggested, produce better health in later life. The unique design of the RALS made it possible to predict health outcomes of the participants over adulthood from optimism scores obtained as early as the college years.

Participants in the Oh et al. study consisted of 984 alumni from the University of Rochester divided into cohorts based on their year of graduation (1960s, 1970s, and 1980s). At their first optimism assessment, averaging across all cohorts, they were 32 years old and 47 percent were women…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE