Can optimism help young adults thrive?

Looking at the glass as half full is paramount to success and longevity

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How many times have you heard that ‘we are what we eat’? How often have you been reminded that exercise plays a huge part in prolonging our life?

It probably is true.

However, an essential ingredient in increasing your chance of acquiring those extra years isn’t on your table, shopping basket, nor at your local gym! According to a 2019 Nurses’ Health Study and a Veterans Affairs Normative Aging survey, examining more than 69,000 women and 1,400 men, respectively, it is the psychological state of optimism that is integral to success and longevity. This could be due to optimists being less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety. The expected increase in life span, 11-15% on average, is a good enough reason to try and see the bright side of life. However, this is easier said than done as last year’s Deloitte Global Millennial Survey revealed that the positive economic sentiment –an economic indicator that measures how optimistic consumers feel about their finances and the state of the economy – among millennials is at its lowest in six years. This survey also featured 13,416 millennials across 42 countries, finding that social media is not having a positive impact; Although when asked about their personal use of digital devices and social media, 71% of millennials said they feel fairly positive or very positive, a deeper dive into the data reveals a far more complex picture for those born between 1981 and 1996. Specifically, nearly two-thirds (64%) of millennials said they would be physically healthier if they reduced their time spent on social media, and six out of 10 millennials said this reduced time would also make them happier people – and these findings were obtained before all the recent lifestyle changes, resulting from the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

But can an optimistic frame of mind be created regardless of your surroundings? And besides a few extra birthday candles, why should young adults bother to look at the glass as half full?


It can be a powerful tool against anxiety

“Optimism — and healthy life choices — can undoubtedly alleviate certain mental health issues.

Research shows that 40% of one’s attitude (e.g. optimistic versus pessimistic) is due to a person’s chosen behaviours, making optimism an essential tool for overcoming difficult times and dealing with anxiety.”

Dr. Carla Marie Manly – Clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear


It inspires hard work and achievements  

“In 2011, I developed flesh-eating bacteria in my body; this put me in a coma for 3 weeks and the hospital for 3 months, as I recovered from the amputation of both hands and feet. The recovery was long and hard.

I believe that my optimism and positive attitude made all the difference in my healing.  And it gave encouragement to my 3 teenagers at the time that, through an optimistic outlook, I was willing to do what was necessary to rebound. Optimism is the key and children learn by observing. Today, my kids, all in their 20s, are thriving with positive mindsets and are willing to work hard to achieve their goals.”

Wendy Wallace – Author, quadruple amputee and blogger at OneExceptionalLife.com


64% of millennials say they would be physically healthier if they reduced their time spent on social media – Photo: © Marcio Delgado


Storytelling can help with an optimistic mindset

“Having presented to over 50,000 students across the USA and abroad, the one takeaway message that repeats itself, no matter the city, is the power of telling our own true story; allowing for students to embrace their hardships with an optimistic mindset; and, preparing them to thrive in life.”

Isaac V. Serwanga – TEDx  motivational speaker and founder of Inform & Inspire


We can learn optimism
“People from difficult circumstances, poverty, abuse and other oppressed communities, can develop a learned helplessness. They just can’t see their way out. However, with the right help, training, community support, or counselling, we can develop what Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, described as learned optimism. It shows that depression and pessimism can be overcome with a positive attitude and focusing on one’s strengths, rather than flaws.”
Lynell Ross – Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Managing editor at Zivadream.com


It can be a tool for success

“Besides its significant impact on our overall well-being, making us healthier and even increasing our life span, optimism can help us thrive and exceed our expectations. Optimistic people are more likely to succeed in life because they look at unfortunate events as something that’s not permanent and something they are expected to overcome. Unlike them, pessimistic people look at unfortunate events as something permanent, which they use as evidence to substantiate their theory that terrible things only happen to them.”

Lina Velikova – MD, PhD and medical advisor at Supplements101


We must learn to let go

“Start by letting go of the things you do not control. Be it the past, people, or circumstances, you cannot change because the time and effort you spend worrying over or being distracted by the past are things you can do absolutely nothing about. It is time wasted; it only causes undue stress, a loss of energy and focus. We need to live now, in the present, and stop trying to re-live yesterday or pre-live tomorrow.”

Nate Battle – Health & Well-being life coach

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