Evidence from research on happiness
People often go through a very pessimistic phase after a brain injury. Of course, this is hardly surprising since the injury presents so many hard challenges and failing experiences. It’s also important to focus on failing experiences to find out why things have gone wrong. Analysing the reason for failure is an important first step in finding solutions, so we definitely need to focus on negative experiences.
However, getting stuck in a pessimistic frame of mind is not good for health. There is no doubt that optimists live longer than pessimists. One reason is that optimism strengthens our immune system. That’s the system that kills cancer cells and stops us having colds.
In one study, researchers gave the cold virus to paid volunteers – one group were optimistic and the other tended to be pessimistic. The graph below shows that pessimists caught the cold much more often.
Take home message: It’s not always possible to be optimistic, but it is possible to try to be more optimistic where possible.