I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a tough year – from the never-ending political cycle, to terror attacks, Zika, Brexit, Syria, shootings and a variety of natural and man-made disasters – it’s safe to assume our collective nerves are shot. However, the New Year could, and probably should, offer us all a new beginning. In fact, taking an optimistic view of year to come could actually help us be happier and healthier.
According to a new study published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, women who have a positive outlook have a much lower risk of dying from serious illnesses, especially cardiovascular diseases. The study finds that a higher degree of optimism coincided with a lower mortality risk from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection.
If your cup isn’t naturally half full, don’t worry. Optimism isn’t necessarily inherent, it is a talent you can pick up along the way. Researchers from the Harvard study report that it has been demonstrated in randomized trials that optimism can in fact be learned. And from a family, community, and global standpoints, if associations between optimism and broader health outcomes are established, it may lead to novel interventions that improve public health and longevity.
WebMD defines a pessimist as someone who tends to habitually explain the events in their lives in a way that makes them seem dire. They tend to blame themselves, while assuming that whatever went wrong will stay wrong — and bring everything else down with it. A pessimistic outlook is typical of the 50% of Americans who assume things are always getting worse.
Martin Seligman, PhD, and author of Authentic Happiness, writes that optimism is the exact opposite of pessimism, and optimists approach problems from a position of empowerment. Some see overcoming adversity as a challenge, one that they will gladly attempt to conquer. Optimists are more resilient in the face of disaster or tragedy and are happier with their lives in general. One reason for this is optimists learn to cope well and make connections with others who help and support them.
That’s what Leading Women and the women helping women movement is all about – helping women connect and lead a life of empowerment!
How we view our lives and the world we live in not only makes a difference in our health, it can make a difference in how we relate to ourselves and others. My co-author Kristin Andress writes that, “When you focus on mastering your mind, and thus your perceptions and perspective, you discover different paths in the landscape of your possibilities.”
Framing and reframing your experiences can prevent you from spiraling into a vortex of anxiety or despair. The ability to catch yourself when you get that sinking feeling lies in being aware that it is happening, and choosing to pause and select a new perspective. This is much more than seeing the glass half full or making lemons into lemonade. It is a matter of deciding how you will integrate your way of “being” into your life and lifestyle. The power to reflect on your perspective and reframe it gives you an opening to see the world, other people, and yourself in different ways. Typically it is also a much more peaceful and satisfying way.
2017 is a brand new year, and the perfect time to take control of our power and perception, learn to master optimism, and in turn have happier, healthier lives. We can also reach out and connect with other women and help them find a way to take control of their lives. We are all sisters; when we connect, we truly can change the world!