They're like night and day: Optimists manage to maintain a sunny outlook, even in the worst of times; pessimists assume the darkest possible outcomes, even when things are going their way. Which one are you? A growing body of research suggests that your answer could affect not only your attitude, but also your health, success, and longevity.

A Harvard study that tracked 99 students found that those who were optimists at age 25 were healthier at ages 45 and 60 than their pessimistic counterparts. Research conducted at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, suggests that pessimists may be more likely to develop dementia and Parkinson's disease than those who look on the bright side. And additional studies have linked pessimism with increased stress, lower incomes, greater disease risks, decreased immune-system functioning, and a shorter lifespan.

Which One Are You?

Not sure which camp you fall under? According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, optimists tend to be:


  • Less passive than pessimists.
  • Less likely to develop negative responses to problems or issues.
  • Less likely to suffer from depression.
  • More likely to practice preventative health measures.

Perhaps most characteristically, optimists generally view obstacles as temporary challenges that motivate them to take action. Pessimists, however, view the same setbacks as hopeless, permanent problemsthe kind of thinking that can often lead to failure.

How to Become an Optimist

If you're a pessimist, there's good news: It's never too late to change your outlook. You don't have to wear rose-colored glasses; the key is to simply transform your negative thought patterns into positive ones until it's second nature to you. Follow these five guidelines to start seeing a silver lining:

1. Try alternative thinking: Create multiple solutions for a problem, then work to fix it.
2. Compare and contrast: It may sound unkind, but comparing yourself to others in worse situations can lift your spirits and make you appreciate your life.
3. Relax, relax, relax: Try exercise, yoga, and even smiling to lighten your mood.
4.Write about it: Write about your issues, then reason through your less optimistic thoughts until you have a more realistic vision of what has happened and what will happen.
5. Put your mind to it: Remember The Little Engine That Could? Let I think I can, I think I can become your new mantra. That way, you'll know that if you set your mind to something, you can do it.