What is Optimism & How Can You Benefit?

What is Optimism & How Can You Benefit?

What is Optimism & How Can You Benefit?

“What we want is not blind optimism, but flexible optimism – optimism with its eyes open. We must be able to use pessimism’s keen sense of reality when we need it, but without having to dwell in its dark shadows.” – Martin Seligman

Have you ever been felt down or stuck in negative thoughts? Perhaps you found yourself thinking, ‘I know I’m meant to be optimistic, but it’s impossible to see the bright side of this situation!’

Being optimistic doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time or delusional about the real issue at hand. Optimism can be realistic.

What is Optimism?
Optimism is a contributor to developing wellbeing and resilience.
Optimism relates to hopeful expectations in each situation, and to general expectancies that are positive (Carver & Scheier, 1981).

Optimism is applied to the way people routinely think about the causes of both positive and negative events. It is associated with higher levels of motivation, achievement, and physical wellbeing.

The benefits of being more Optimistic:

  1. Better health
  2. Longer & happier life
  3. Less stress & anxiety
  4. Successful career
  5. Better relationships
  6. More resilient
  7. Cope better with failure
    (Adapted from the Centre for Confidence- www.centreforconfidence.co.uk)

Can you be too Optimistic?
There are times in life where things are really challenging, or even terrible. Are these situations, putting on a pair of rose-coloured glasses might seem absurd and unrealistic. Blind unrealistic optimism could be dangerous. Sometimes we need a little negativity to protect us from risk. Seligman (1991) refers to this as “flexible optimism”
An example is being tempted to spend money on things outside of your budget. You might explain this spending money by thinking that maybe your salary might increase, and you may be able to afford the ‘wants’ as well as paying off your mortgage (needs). What if it doesn’t increase?

What is pessimism?
Pessimism is the tendency to believe that if something can go wrong it will.
Optimism relies on the assumption that what people expect in their future derives from people’s view of the causes of events in the past. The theory behind this holds that optimism and pessimism are defined by patterns of explanation for bad outcomes that are unstable and specific versus stable and global, respectively. (Peterson & Seligman, 1984; Seligman, 1991).

For example, if you have an overcontrolling and negative boss at your workplace then, moving to a new company you may be pessimistic and assume that the boss there will be just as bad, when in fact you have never met them, and they could be a much better leader (optimistic).

The cost of being too Pessimistic:

  1. Depression
  2. Earlier death
  3. Inertia in the face of adversity
  4. Lower immune system
  5. Not performing well at work
  6. Poor relationships
  7. Ill-health, physical & mental
    (Adapted from the Centre for Confidence- www.centreforconfidence.co.uk)

Is there evidence
There have been over 20 years of solid research on optimism as a psychological concept.

Recent research studies indicate that college students with a pessimistic explanatory style of coping, experience more psychological and physical problems than those with a positive explanatory style. Alternatively, college students who are optimistic experience less stress and depression and are more likely to seek social support.

Appli has put together a Mental Fitness Toolkit with strategies to assist you to form healthy habits and improving wellbeing. You can shop our toolkits here.


Scheier, Michael & Carver, Charles. (1985). Optimism, coping, and health: Assessment and implications of generalized outcome expectancies. Health psychology: official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association. 4. 219-47. 10.1037//0278-6133.4.3.219.

Seligman, M. E. P., (2006). Learned Optimism: how to change your mind and your life. New York: Vintage Books

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. (1984). Causal explanations as a risk factor for depression: Theory and evidence. Psychological Review, 91(3), 347-374. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.91.3.347

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