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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

On Being Optimistic

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 24th 2012

On Being OptimisticDo you have a sunny disposition?

1. Do you see the glass as half full when it's half empty?

2. Have you read "The Power of Positive Thinking," by Norman Vincent Peale?

Optimistic Definitions and Quotes:
1. "A disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.

2. The belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the

3. The belief that goodness pervades reality.

4. "Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can't be done." Bo Bennett
All of these are descriptions of what it means to be optimistic. To be optimistic is to believe the opposite of Murphy's Law. Murphy's law is famous for it's pessimism: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." How many times have you heard that one A variation of that is this well known quote: "No good deed shall go unpunished."

There is some research evidence that optimists live longer and have fewer health problems. That makes sense because, being optimistic means that they most probably take good care of themselves by following a good diet, getting exercise and not smoking. It follows that, being optimistic, these people feel happier than pessimists. The natural conclusion from all of this is that pessimists are more likely to feel depressed as compared to optimists.

Perhaps it's the pessimist in me that thinks, "So what if optimists live longer. What can I do about it? Where am I supposed to get optimism if it isn't me? There is nothing I can do about it." This is just another pessimistic conclusion because there are things we can do about it. In other words, it's possible to learn to think more positively or optimistically about things.

Followers of cognitive behavioral therapy believe that many of our emotions stem from behavior and thinking. That is a basic premise of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. In this way, it's our negative thoughts and behaviors that impact our emotions. Regardless of how you feel inside, it promotes better mental health to present a smiling face to the outside world. Even if that may seem like faking it, practice and repetition will gradually change the feeling state.

This same principle is true for thinking. Replacing a negative thought with one that is positive will result in better feelings. For example, if you fail at something do not give up. If we fail at something, too many of us convince ourselves that it's hopeless. A more optimistic thought is, "I will continue to try because I just might succeed." Ultimately, it's the combination of trying and thinking that leads to a more optimistic way of looking at things, fail or not.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peal's book, "The Power of Positive Thinking," is both spiritual and psychological in promoting a happier way of thinking and feeling.

Are you and optimist or pessimist? Do you see the glass as half full or half empty? Either way, your comments and questions are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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