Recently, my girlfriend introduced me to her new grandson. This three month old miracle smiled up at me, and I was mesmerized.  As I held him and looked into his eyes, I saw the wonder, the beauty, and the innocence that all newborns seem to possess. 

He was laughing and cooing as I talked to him.  The trust, curiosity, and positive expectation that shone in those beautiful blue eyes touched me deeply and connected me with that pure, hopeful place inside each of us. 

That sweet baby’s face stayed with me for days.  Children give me hope and fuel my optimism.  They come into the world open, joyful, and expecting that we will care for them.  In most cases, those expectations are fulfilled, and if the child is nurtured and loved, the child brings a positive expectancy, and a natural enthusiasm to life.  We can all learn from children and tap into that fresh outlook of optimism. If we do so, we can improve the quality of our lives.

As an Optimist, You’ll Live Longer

Optimists live seven years longer than pessimists, according to a study done at Yale University, analyzing 600 people.  Those who viewed aging from a positive perspective live, on average, 7.5 years longer than those who did not. That’s nearly a full decade gained from a positive outlook.

Further studies corroborate this.  Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes published a Denmark study, which found that optimistic cardiac patients with heart disease live longer than pessimistic patients.   Harvard and Boston University evaluated 1306 men for health and attitude, none of whom had heart issues when the study began. Over the next decade, the pessimistic men were twice as likely to develop heart disease than the optimistic men.

The same is true for women.  The National Institutes of Health studied 100,000 women, and discovered that there is a strong correlation between optimism and a person’s risk of death from cancer, heart disease, or early demise.  Pessimistic women had a 23% higher risk of dying from a cancer-related condition. 

Even doctors benefit from optimism. You’ve heard that attitude is everything; when it comes to your health and longevity, it’s the truth.

Optimists Have Happier Relationships

Want a peaceful, more loving marriage? Be an optimist and look for the good in your partner.  It will pay off, according to researchers from Stanford University.  And that’s true even when only one partner is optimistic.  Part of this is due to partners having positive expectations of each other, perceiving a good support system, and believing the other person is truly invested in the relationship.  This minimizes conflict and promotes a happier relationship.

Optimism at Work

How does optimism play out at work?  No matter what the economy is doing, there are always certain people who thrive.  It has a lot to do with attitude and perspective.

Dr. Martin Sullivan of the University of Pennsylvania spent 20 years interviewing 350,000 executives and learned something fascinating: the top 10% of performers think differently from others: They are all optimists!  

The most optimistic sales agents sell 88% more than the most pessimist ones,according to work done by Martin Seligman at Met Life, as shared by Sean Achor in his book, The Happiness Advantage.  

And optimistic managers fare far better than pessimistic ones.  Graduates of the Applied Positive Psychology program at Univ. of Penn., Greenberg and Arakawa, studied managers, and found that optimists are far more effective guiding employees in productivity and goal achievement.  Optimistic managers tend to be engaged, which produces engaged employees.  Gallup has shown that engaged employees are much more productive and effective than disengaged employees.  Their improved performance increases profitability. 

How to Develop Your Optimism

I have long been inspired by optimists who deal with very challenging circumstances, like Michael J. Fox, who perseveres in spite of his Parkinsons Disease. His positive outlook and sense of humor are contagious and have everything to do with his longevity.

Did you know that optimism is only 25% inherited and 75% learned? So you can actually train yourself to be an optimist. Here are a few ways to do that:

• Ask people, “What’s the good news?” Listen and celebrate that news.
• Read inspirational stories and biographies
• Watch uplifting movies and tv shows. One of my favorites right now is God Friended Me.
• Avoid negative, complaining, and judgmental people, and try not to be one yourself.
• Take care of yourself so you feel good, and radiate a more positive outlook
• Surround yourself with upbeat, proactive, successful people
• Laugh often, especially at yourself

You can live a longer, happier and healthier life — just choose to be an optimist!

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  • Snowden McFall

    Six time author, professional speaker, owner of Fired Up! Professional Speaking

    Snowden McFall,M.A.T, stress speaker, 6 time author and coach, is a 25+year entrepreneur who gives motivational speeches and corporate trainings. Her newest book is Stress Express: 15 Instant Stress Relievers. The SBA named her National Women in Business Advocate of the Year which led to a White House ceremony & Congressional luncheon in her honor. Snowden has appeared on 327 radio shows, CNN Financial News, The Home Shopping Network and Bloomberg Television. Featured in Success Magazine, Investors Business Daily and as an expert on burnout, Snowden can be found at