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Optimism and Wellness

By November 13, 2011 - 9:51am

Optimism . . . the cup is half full! It is one of the 24 strengths that have been identified by positive psychologists. The Values in Action Institute defines it as:

"Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about."

Martin Seligman (in his book entitled Flourish) uses it to discuss the definition of "positive health". He states, " . . . subjective assets: optimism, hope, a sense of good health, zest, vitality, and life satisfaction" are possible positive independent variables that are part of positive health."

Why is optimism important to positive health? Optimism is interesting, because optimists actually think they can control things they cannot. (I believe that comes from Seligman's book "Learned Optimism".) I am an optimist. My mom always told me that if wishes were horses, I would have a million. Oh, yes, I would - and if only I could have controlled my ability to have horses! (BTW, I did end up with two horses when I was a teenager. Mom's boyfriend was an auctioneer and got them for me as a present. I wonder if my optimism had some influence on that? Hmmmmm.)

Pessimists are more grounded in reality. They clearly don't think they can wish about horses and have them appear. That is not realistic. It drives me a little nuts to work with a team of pessimists, because how can a team accomplish a stretch goal if they see improvement as impossible? And, guess what, optimists and pessimists ARE both right - so being the one optimist on a team is. for me, like being a passenger on the Titanic.

So, back to wellness. There is a fair amount of research about optimists doing more to take care of themselves because they think they can impact their own health outcomes through action. I have osteoporosis - but I believed I could influence it through health choices. Those included lifestyle changes and medication. It meant giving myself daily injections for 2 years.

It took 4 years, but my bones are a lot better. If I was not an optimist, would I have selected the same path for my wellness plan?

Optimism is important to health and wellness. Optimism is also somewhat genetic - and is like a weight set-point. So in those with a lower set-point, how might optimism be maximized so that health goals can be reached? How could a wellness coach help you to feel more optimistic about accomplishing your health goals?

Visit the post with photos - http://midwifeofchanges.blogspot.com/2011/11/optimism-and-wellbeing.html

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