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5 Reasons People Have Low Self-Confidence

Understanding the causes of low self-confidence is a first step in boosting it.

The most important thing to know about low self-confidence is that it is not your fault.

The factors that contribute to low self-confidence combine and interact differently for each person. Your genes, cultural background, childhood experiences, and other life circumstances all play a role. But don’t lose heart — although we can’t change the experiences in our past that shaped us, there is plenty we can do to alter our thoughts and expectations to gain more confidence.

Genes and Temperament

Some of what molds our self-confidence is built into our brains at birth. I mention these factors not to overwhelm you, but to let you know that you shouldn’t blame yourself for your self-image.

Studies have shown our genetic makeup affects the amount of certain confidence-boosting chemicals our brain can access. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness, and oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” can both be inhibited by certain genetic variations. Somewhere between 25 to 50 percent of the personality traits linked to confidence may be inherited.

Some aspects of our behavior also stem from our temperament. If you’re naturally more hesitant and watchful, especially in unfamiliar circumstances, you may have a tendency called “behavioral inhibition.” When you’re confronted with a situation, you stop and check to see if everything seems the way you expected it to be. If something appears awry, you’re likely to move away from the situation.

Behavioral inhibition is not all bad. We need some people in the world who don’t impulsively jump into every situation. If you’re a cautious and reserved person, self-confidence may have eluded you. But once you understand yourself and the tools in this book, you’ll be able to work with your temperament and not fight it.

Life Experiences

A number of individual experiences can lead to feeling completely unsure of yourself or even worthless. Here, I’ll discuss a few.

Trauma. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can all significantly affect our feelings of self-worth. If you find yourself replaying memories of abuse or otherwise feeling tormented by or ashamed of your experiences, please consider seeking treatment from a licensed clinician.


Parenting style. The way we were treated in our family of origin can affect us long after childhood. For instance, if you had a parent who constantly belittled you, compared you to others, or told you that you would never amount to anything, you likely carry those messages with you today. A parent’s struggles with mental health and substance abuse can also change your relationship with the world.

Bullying, harassment and humiliation. Childhood bullying can leave a mark on your confidence when it comes to looks, intellectual and athletic abilities, and other areas of your life. Humiliating experiences in adulthood, including workplace harassment or a peer group that disrespects or demeans you, can also make you less willing to speak up for yourself or pursue ambitious goals.


Gender, race, and sexual orientation. Scores of studies show women are socialized to worry more about how they’re perceived and, therefore, to take fewer risks. Racial and cultural background and sexual orientation can make a difference, too. If you’ve been on the receiving end of discrimination, you may have internalized some negative, untrue messages about your potential and whether you “belong.”

Misinformation

Lack of self-confidence can come from not knowing the “rules” of the confidence game. For example, if we think we have to feel confident in order to act confidently, we set ourselves up for failure.

Perfectionism is another form of faulty thinking that contributes to low self-confidence. If we believe we have to have something all figured out before we take action, those thoughts can keep us from doing the things we value. Even learning and understanding what confidence is and isn’t is a big step toward boosting it.

The World Around Us

Many media messages are designed to make us feel lacking. Companies that want to sell you products usually start by making you feel bad about yourself, often by introducing a “problem” with your body that you would never have noticed otherwise. (The movie Mean Girls memorably skewered this idea: The main character, new to American high-school culture after years of homeschooling in Africa, is bewildered when her new clique stands around a mirror criticizing themselves. “My hairline is so weird,” says one. “My nail beds suck!” proclaims another.)

Now that social media has become ubiquitous, the messages hit closer to home. It’s easy to believe that everyone around you has the perfect marriage, a dream career, and supermodel looks to boot. But remember: What people post online is heavily curated and edited. Everyone has bad days, self-doubt, and physical imperfections. They just don’t trot them out on Facebook!

     “One reason we struggle with insecurity: We’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” —Steven Furtick

Anxiety and Depression

It’s common for anxiety and depression to go hand-in-hand with self-confidence issues. If you’ve already been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression and are working with a therapist, you could bring in your workbook and perhaps go through it together. It’s brave of you to address your self-assurance stumbling blocks, and building confidence will also help you lessen anxiety and depression.

Questions to Consider:

Which of the contributing factors described in this section resonate the most with you?

What specific experiences in your life do you think had the biggest negative effects on your self-confidence?

Next Steps:

1. Take this self-confidence quiz. Self-confidence begins with knowing yourself. You might also enjoy spending some time answering these questions designed to help increase your confidence level.

2. Learn why self-confidence is so important. Start here.

3. Avoid these self-confidence traps (“13 Things the Most Confident People You Know Never Do”).

4. Try these four proven approaches to increase your confidence level.

Adapted from The Self-Confidence Workbook: 
A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem.
Copyright © 2018 by Barbara Markway and Celia Ampel.
 
About the Authors
Barbara Markway, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience. 
She is the author of four psychology books and has been featured in media nationwide.
 
In Print:
The Self Confidence Workbook: 
A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem
Online: Dr. Markway online
  
Greg Markway, Ph.D., is a psychologist and has coauthored three books, including Painfully Shy.
In Print:
Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life
Dec 07, 2018


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Get Out of Your Comfort Zone, Now

By: Jordyn Cormier     June 5, 2016

We all strive for comfort constantly: softer chairs, bigger cars, more easily prepared meals. But our endless quest for comfort is harmful. Over time, the fortress of comfort we build around ourselves begins to strangle our happiness.

When we fall into the security of comfort—be it a cushy job, an intimate relationship or a steady routine—we gradually begin to lose that vibrancy, that creative spark that drives us to seek out new experiences. But life, at its core, is about experience and energy. It is what drives us. Would you rather spend your adventure on this planet safely watching a fancy television or would you rather do something memorable and amazing that makes you a little uneasy?

Stop claiming you’re too busy.

Experience is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer. But, so many of us shy away from them out of fear or uncertainty. We are afraid to leave the pink, fuzzy walls of our comfort fortress.

Work and ‘busyness’ are too often utilized as a veil to protect us from anything new and uncomfortable. In fact, each of us almost certainly has something we have wanted to do, only to keep putting off until the perpetual tomorrow because we are too busy right now. Busyness is an excuse to stall your hopes and dreams. Your schedule should not control you. You control your life.

Maybe you want to take dance classes, but feel too out of shape for an open class. Perhaps you want to go back to school, but feel too old. Or, you want to travel to Patagonia and fly fish for a month… Guess what, you’re not too busy, old or out of shape for anything. And once you push past the fear of novel discomfort, you’ll begin to enjoy yourself and thrive.

comfort-is-the-enemy-of-achievement

Embrace discomfort.   

Speaking of the concept of comfort, I write this from inside a crunchy, frost-glazed tent, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains at around 11,000 feet. This is my latest location on my solo cross country road trip. Considering comfort, one thing is for certain—I am currently, in every sense of the word, not comfortable. I am shivering much more than I’d prefer (a classic form of physical discomfort, although not necessarily what we are discussing here. It’s nothing some hot black coffee won’t fix in the morning).

More importantly, this adventure fills me with discomfort on a very regular basis. Every new city I visit fills me with a sense of uncertainty as I scramble to find lodging and friendly faces. The start of every new experience makes me question every decision I’ve made. Every time a mass of clutter spills out of my hatchback makes me miss the days when I had a closet and wasn’t so dependent on my car for survival.

But, even now, beneath my flimsy sleeping bag and six layers of wool and down, breath coalescing into tiny clouds around me, I feel an empowering sense of fulfillment. Yes, I long for a warm bed and a good night of sleep. But, I do not long for the monotony of routine. I’ve met incredible people, seen breathtaking landscapes and done things by myself I never thought I would have the courage to do in a zillion years. Being a little cold and a little uneasy—in other words, embracing discomfort—is a small price to pay for the pure joy of living life.

Take the plunge. 

I am absolutely not saying you have to go pitch a tent in the mountains, strategically set up between plops of frozen Grizzly bear poop. That is not for everyone. But, it is important to allow yourself to drift outside of your standard comfort zone so that you can continue to grow as an authentic human being.

Stop hiding behind your busyness and take time to think about what you want out of life. A lot of us drift through our days on autopilot, which is much easier than pushing yourself and confronting your insecurities. I urge you, push your perceived boundaries. Go do that thing you’ve always wanted to do… today! Go sign up for a month of dance classes! Go make time in your schedule for that trip you want to take! Go see that new movie even though you have no one to go with! You’ll walk away with a more enlightened perception of your life, and, most importantly, a sense of empowerment and joy.

The best experiences in life make us uncomfortable at first. But, when that discomfort subsides, that is when true, passionate living begins.


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4 Science-Backed Tips For Achieving Your Dreams

by Dr. Emma Seppälä    February 9, 2016

Whether it’s New Year’s resolutions or any other milestone we want to achieve, most of us give up on that career goal, diet, mindfulness practice, or exercise regimen we committed to however long ago. All too often, our efforts fail, and we find ourselves unable to detach our backsides from the sofa and our hands from the chocolate.

There’s a scientific reason for this. You’ve basically got self-control fatigue. The good news, however, is that research also shows that keeping your resolution doesn’t have to be hard.

In a classic study by willpower psychologist Roy Baumeister, researchers baked chocolate chip cookies, filling their lab with a wonderful aroma. They then brought in research participants. Some participants were invited to eat the chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of chocolates laid out before them. Others were invited into the same delicious-smelling lab but told to eat the unappetizing radishes that were displayed right next to tempting cookies and chocolates.

Then both groups were given an exercise: to work on a puzzle that was, unbeknownst to them, unsolvable. The researchers found that participants who had exerted self-control by eating radishes and avoiding the tempting cookies and chocolates gave up trying to solve the puzzle much more quickly than those who had eaten the chocolates (or a control group that had not been shown the chocolates or radishes).

Why is this? Self-control actually exhausts us, it’s a limited resource like gasoline or the charge on your cellphone. The more you use it, the less you have it. Researchers have found that it literally depletes your blood sugar. Ever wondered why you are more likely to binge on ice cream at night? Self-control literally gets depleted as the day goes on

After all, we are using self-control all day long at work.

From dawn to dusk we do our best to:

1. Control our impulses.

This could mean staying on task as opposed to giving up or giving way to distractions (like checking Facebook) or temptations (like leaving work early to meet friends).

2. Control our performance.

This means persisting and giving your best despite feeling tired.

3. Control our behavior and emotions.

This could be maintaining a professional tone and demeanor even when the work atmosphere is unpleasant or your colleagues or managers make decisions you do not agree with.

4. Control our thoughts.

We fight to focus on our work despite the many daydreams, thoughts, and fantasies that pop into our minds.

focus

Here’s how to stop letting willpower fatigue get the best of you.

1. Remember, the morning is golden.

Self-control is stronger In the morning since you’ve had all night to replenish it. What does this mean?

If you are resolving to exercise more, do it in the morning.

If you are trying to stick to a diet, make your meals for the day, and make sure you throw everything that’s not on your diet out of the house.

If your goal is to write a book or finish a huge work project (or do your taxes early for once!), set aside the first hours of the day to do so.

2. Manage your energy by staying calmer.

Staying calm makes you powerful. Research shows that Americans prefer “high-intensity” emotions like excitement, or even stress. Think about it: people drink coffee and wait until the last minute to do things because they depend on adrenaline to get their work done. The consequence of both excitement and stress, however, is that they fatigue the body. And the more tired you are, the less self-control you have. So, you need to manage your energy.

You plug your cellphone in to charge it: Do the same thing with yourself. In particular, participate in activities that help you stay calm so you won’t get depleted so fast: yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Do this even if it means taking a break in the middle of the workday. Why? Research shows that when you do something liked meditation or prayer — even for a short while — it can fill your self-control tank back up.

3. Relax in other areas of your life.

Don’t make too many resolutions or try to exert self-control in too many new areas of your life at once. Keep things easy and relaxed in some domains (e.g., let the house be messy) so you’re not draining yourself by employing self-control in every aspect of your life and at all times of the day. Choose where self-control is important (e.g., at work) and give yourself some slack in the rest of your life.

4. Focus on the end goal.

As neuroscientist Elliott Berkman points out, “when you are working on things you really want to be working on, you are less likely to become depleted.” He argues that if you remember what the end goal of your resolution is — presumably — something you want, you can muster up the energy it takes to exert that self-control.

By following these tips, you’ll see that it is possible to keep you resolutions, to have more willpower, and to achieve your goals. So go ahead and make the most of those mornings, stay chill, cut yourself some slack, and keep your eyes on the prize.

Emma Seppälä is a psychologist and the Science Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford’s School of Medicine.  This article is excerpted from her just-published book “The Happiness Track: How to apply the science of happiness to accelerate your success,” published by HarperOne, 2016.


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Top 10 Healthiest New Year’s Resolutions

This year, pick one of these worthy resolutions, and stick with it. Here’s to your health!

New Year, healthier you

New Year’s resolutions are a bit like babies: They’re fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain.

Each January, roughly one in three Americans resolve to better themselves in some way. A much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions. While about 75% of people stick to their goals for at least a week, less than half (46%) are still on target six months later, a 2002 study found.

It’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm months after you’ve swept up the confetti, but it’s not impossible. This year, pick one of the following worthy resolutions, and stick with it. Here’s to your health!

Lose weight

The fact that this is perennially among the most popular resolutions suggests just how difficult it is to commit to. But you can succeed if you don’t expect overnight success. “You want results yesterday, and desperation mode kicks in,” says Pam Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women. “Beware of the valley of quickie cures.”

Also, plan for bumps in the road. Use a food journal to keep track of what you eat and have a support system in place. “Around week four to six…people become excuse mills,” Dr. Peeke says. “That’s why it’s important to have someone there on a regular basis to get you through those rough times.”

Stay in touch

Feel like old friends (or family) have fallen by the wayside? It’s good for your health to reconnect with them. Research suggests people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t.

In fact, a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking, and even more than obesity and lack of exercise, a 2010 study in the journal PLoS Medicine suggests.

In a technology-fixated era, it’s never been easier to stay in touch—or rejuvenate your relationship—with friends and family, so fire up Facebook and follow up with in-person visits.

Quit smoking

Fear that you’ve failed too many times to try again? Talk to any ex-smoker, and you’ll see that multiple attempts are often the path to success.

Try different methods to find out what works. And think of the cash you’ll save! (We know you know the ginormous health benefit.)

“It’s one of the harder habits to quit,” says Merle Myerson, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals, in New York City. “But I always tell people to think of how much money they will save.”

Save money

Save money by making healthy lifestyle changes. Walk or ride your bike to work, or explore carpooling. (That means more money in your pocket and less air pollution.)

Cut back on gym membership costs by exercising at home. Many fitness programs on videogame systems like Nintendo’s Wii Wii Fit Plus and Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect Your Shape Fitness Evolved can get you sweating.

Take stock of what you have in the fridge and make a grocery list. Aimless supermarket shopping can lead to poor choices for your diet and wallet.

goals

Cut your stress

A little pressure now and again won’t kill us; in fact, short bouts of stress give us an energy boost. But if stress is chronic, it can increase your risk of—or worsen—insomnia, depression, obesity, heart disease, and more.

Long work hours, little sleep, no exercise, poor diet, and not spending time with family and friends can contribute to stress, says Roberta Lee, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City, and the author of The Super Stress Solution.

“Stress is an inevitable part of life,” she says. “Relaxation, sleep, socializing, and taking vacations are all things we tell ourselves we deserve but don’t allow ourselves to have.”

Volunteer

We tend to think our own bliss relies on bettering ourselves, but our happiness also increases when we help others, says Peter Kanaris, PhD, coordinator of public education for the New York State Psychological Association.

And guess what? Happiness is good for your health. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions were about 20% less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. Other research suggests that positive emotions can make people more resilient and resourceful.

“Someone who makes this sort of resolution is likely to obtain a tremendous personal benefit in the happiness department,” Kanaris says.

Go back to school

No matter how old you are, heading back to the classroom can help revamp your career, introduce you to new friends, and even boost your brainpower.

A 2007 study found that middle-age adults who had gone back to school (including night school) sometime in the previous quarter century had stronger memories and verbal skills than those who did not. What’s more, several studies have linked higher educational attainment to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“You are gaining a sense of accomplishment by gaining new knowledge, and you are out there meeting people and creating possibilities that were never there before,” Kanaris says.

Cut back on alcohol

While much has been written about the health benefits of a small amount of alcohol, too much tippling is still the bigger problem. (In fact, binge drinking seems to be on the rise.)

Drinking alcohol in excess affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and can increase the risk of depression, memory loss, or even seizures.

Chronic heavy drinking boosts your risk of liver and heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and mental deterioration, and even cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and breast.

Get more sleep

You probably already know that a good night’s rest can do wonders for your mood—and appearance. But sleep is more beneficial to your health than you might realize.

A lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. And sleep is crucial for strengthening memories (a process called consolidation).

So take a nap—and don’t feel guilty about it.

Travel

The joys and rewards of vacations can last long after the suitcase is put away. “We can often get stuck in a rut, and we can’t get out of our own way,” Kanaris says. “Everything becomes familiar and too routine.”

But traveling allows us to tap into life as an adventure, and we can make changes in our lives without having to do anything too bold or dramatic.

“It makes you feel rejuvenated and replenished,” he adds. “It gets you out of your typical scenery, and the effects are revitalizing. It’s another form of new discovery and learning, and great for the body and the soul.”

by Alyssa Sparacino


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6 Ways to Set Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

By Anne Harding  Reviewed by Justin Laube, MD   10/2/2015

Explore the psychology behind goal setting and learn how to make it work for you.

Once you set your goal, use implementation intentions to help you grab opportunities to reach it, and overcome or sidestep obstacles that could keep you from achieving it.

Want to make big or small changes in your life?

It may seem like a simple idea, but setting goals is a great first step — and understanding the psychology behind setting and reaching goals will greatly increase your chances of achieving them.

“It’s important to know what you want to do, but it’s even more important to know how you want to get there,” says Peter Gollwitzer, PhD, a professor of psychology at New York University in New York City. Dr. Gollwitzer developed the concept of “implementation intentions,” which are “if … then …” plans designed to help people achieve goals.

Extensive research shows that using this strategy helps people achieve goals ranging from getting more exercise, to expressing themselves more effectively.

Forming implementation intentions makes achieving goals easier because it allows you to anticipate opportunities to move toward your goal, and to recognize potential obstacles and distractions.

For example, if your goal intention is to eat more vegetables, an implementation intention for eating in a restaurant could be, “If the waiter approaches the table, then I will ask him what vegetables they have today.” Another might be, “If I get hungry between meals, then I will snack on carrots and celery.” The second implementation intention (snacking on carrots and celery) requires you to do a little planning and preparation by making sure you have veggies cut up and ready to eat in your fridge.

“For all of these critical situations, you can make plans, and these plans are best when made in an ‘if…then …’ format,” Gollwitzer says. “It’s a different kind of action control: It’s not top down by your good intentions, it’s bottom up from your opportunity. You don’t have to think.”

Here’s more about how you can use the science of motivation and goal setting to achieve your own aspirations:

1. Accentuate the Positive

Before you can implement your intentions, you must set your goals. And the way you set them is important, says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at the Montefiore Medical Center and associate professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “It’s better to set a goal on something positive that you do want, rather than something negative that you don’t want,” Dr. Rego says. “Sometimes people get caught in the trap of focusing too heavily on the negatives in their lives.”

So for example, if you want to lose weight, rather than having “I want to stop eating junk food” as your goal, it could be, “I want to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.”

“It’s just turning from what’s there that I’m unhappy with to what I want to strive for that would enhance my life in some way,” Rego explains.

goals
Align your goals with your values.
If your goals are in line with who you are
— and who you want to be —
they’re easier to achieve.

2. Be SMART

Goals should also be “SMART,” Rego and other experts on motivation say. This acronym, borrowed from the business world, stands for “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.” A non-SMART goal could be, “I want to weigh what I did in high school.” The SMART version could be, “Over the next month, I want to lose 2 pounds per week.”

A key strategy for building SMART goals is to break a large goal into smaller pieces. “By doing that and setting smaller targets, the goal is within reach, and yet it’s still a challenge,” Rego says. And achieving smaller goals can help push you forward to the next step. “If you can set a goal and achieve it, you get a boost in your motivation, and a general good feeling about yourself and the world you’re living in,” he adds. “If you set a goal and you blow it, it saps your strength.”

3. Align Your Goals With Your Values

Know why a goal is meaningful for you. “It’s important to ask yourself, ‘How does this fit into the bigger picture in my life, why am I doing this, is it really a goal that’s based on a value I have, or is it something I feel I should or must do?’” Rego says.

Ensuring that your goals are in line with who you are — and, especially, who you want to be — makes it much easier to stay committed to these goals, and to ultimately achieve them, says Lateefah Watford, MD, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Jonesboro, Georgia. “Goal-setting has to be a very personal thing. You can’t align your goals with those of your mom or your best friend or your cousins,” Dr. Watford says. “You have to do what works for you.”

4. Be Kind to Yourself

There will almost certainly be slips or missteps on the path to achieving your goals, and the important thing is to not beat yourself up about them. “We all have that inner voice that comments on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Rego says.

View any bumps along the way as chances to reassess and readjust your plans. “Maybe you do need to tweak the goal a little bit, but you also need to look at the failure as a learning opportunity,” Watford says.

5. Just Do It

Don’t wait for motivation to strike, or that thing you want to do may never get done. “Rather than waiting until you feel like doing it, the magic is to start doing it and then see how you feel,” Rego says.

So if you’re struggling with a writing project, for example, tell yourself you’ll sit down at the computer and write for five minutes. “Often, people are thinking, ‘I can’t do that.’ It may be that their bar, or their standard, or their goal is too high or big. Just keep reducing it until you say, ‘That I can do right now,’ and do it,” says Rego.

6. Keep Your Goals to Yourself — or Not

If a goal is strongly tied to your identity — say, for example, you want to be fit and attractive, and you set the goal of hitting the gym every day for an hour — you may be setting yourself up for failure if you tell other people about it, Gollwitzer’s research shows.

By “showing off” your goals, he explains, “You feel that you’re already there and that you’ve reached the goal, so you can slack off a little. What we find is that when people announce their identity-related goals, they feel they’ve reached them. There’s a sense of goal attainment or goal completion.”

But Rego and others argue that the benefits of letting other people know about your goals outweigh the downsides — as long as you choose the right people to tell. “By sharing goals and reaching out for assistance, and asking people for support, you not only learn how to do it [work towards goals] more effectively, but you also gain a support team that can help you in achieving these wonderful goals you’ve set,” Watford says.

And here, implementation intention can help. Gollwitzer’s research shows that using this strategy erases any negative effects of publicizing your goals.


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The Benefits of Optimism

Staying positive can improve stress management, productivity, and your health

By Elizabeth Scott, M.S.   Stress Management Expert    April 02, 2015.

Do you know someone who seems to always have a smile and a positive thought? Or are you yourself one of those people who is full of optimism? Hardships are seen as ‘learning experiences’ by optimists, and even the most miserable day always holds the promise for them that ‘tomorrow will probably be better.’

If you always see the brighter side of things, you may feel that you experience more positive events in your life than others, find yourself less stressed, and even enjoy greater health benefits.

This is not your imagination.

Researchers like Martin Seligman have been studying optimists and pessimists for years, and they have found that an optimistic world view carries certain advantages.

The Benefits of Optimism

Superior Health

In a study of 99 Harvard University students, those who were optimists at age 25 were significantly healthier at ages 45 and 60 than those who were pessimists. Other studies have linked a pessimistic explanatory style with higher rates of infectious disease, poor health, and earlier mortality.

Greater Achievement

Seligman analyzed the explanatory styles of sports teams and found that the more optimistic teams created more positive synergy and performed better than the pessimistic ones. Another study showed that pessimistic swimmers who were led to believe they’d done worse than they had were prone to future poor performance. Optimistic swimmers didn’t have this vulnerability.

Research like this has led some companies to go out of their way to hire optimists – a practice that seems to be paying off.

optimism

Persistence

Optimists don’t give up as easily as pessimists, and they are more likely to achieve success because of it. Some optimistic businessmen, like Donald Trump, have been bankrupt (even multiple times), but have been able to persist and turn their failures into millions.

Emotional Health

In a study of clinically depressed patients, it was discovered that 12 weeks of cognitive therapy (which involves reframing a person’s thought processes) worked better than drugs, as changes were more long-lasting than a temporary fix. Patients who had this training in optimism had the ability to more effectively handle future setbacks.

Increased Longevity

In a retrospective study of 34 healthy Hall of Fame baseball players who played between 1900 and 1950, optimists lived significantly longer. Other studies have shown that optimistic breast cancer patients had better health outcomes than pessimistic and hopeless patients.

Less Stress

Optimists also tend to experience less stress than pessimists or realists. Because they believe in themselves and their abilities, they expect good things to happen. They see negative events as minor setbacks to be easily overcome, and view positive events as evidence of further good things to come. Believing in themselves, they also take more risks and create more positive events in their lives.

Additionally, research shows that optimists are more proactive with stress management, favoring approaches that reduce or eliminate stressors and their emotional consequences. Optimists work harder at stress management, so they’re less stressed.



Sources:

Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E.; Vaillant, George E.; Pessimistic explanatory style is a risk factor for physical illness: A thirty-five-year longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 55(1), Jul, 1988. pp. 23-27.

Peterson, C. (2000). The future of optimism. American Psychologist, 55, 44–55.

Solberg Nes, L. S., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2006). Dispositional optimism and coping: A meta-analytic review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 235–251.


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5 Thoughts That Can Get You Through (Almost) Anything

Collected over a lifetime, advice to keep you moving forward. 

Post published by Meg Selig on May 06, 2015 in Changepower

I’ve been given a lot of advice in my life, some good, some bad, most forgettable, and some…outstanding. I’ve previously written about one unforgettable piece of “advice” (it wasn’t exactly advice) from my father. Now I’m adding 5 more nuggets to the list. The words of wisdom below are so concise and powerful that I find myself reciting them in my mind at least a few times a week. See if you feel the same way.

As I wrote down these 5 gems to share with you, I realized they all had some common elements. Maybe you’ll pick up a pattern as you read. If not, I’ll reveal it at the end.

1. “Do what makes you feel best about yourself.” 

A friend once gave me this advice. I took it to heart as a reminder to live up to my own values whenever possible. When your life is in sync with your values, you have peace of mind.

2. “Just do the best you can.”

The mother of a friend of mine gave her this advice. Thanks to this gem, my friend works hard but never feels compelled to be perfect. I’ve adopted this advice as one of my own personal mottoes.

bullseye

3. “Set your own standards and work up to them.”

This piece of advice, offered by my partner, reminds me to…well, first of all, HAVE some standards, and, second, work up to—or in some cases, down to—them. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to have high standards for everything, just the few things of vital importance to me.

4. “Do what makes sense to you.”

This advice, also from my partner, might be my favorite. For a lot of tasks, chores, and choices, there is no one right answer or one right way to go. “Do what makes sense to you” helps you cultivate judgment and problem-solving skills. Whether you are making a large or small decision, this motto can strengthen your unique ways of meeting life’s challenges.

5. “Welcome mistakes and learn from them.”

I learned this from life and from my psychology reading (with a particular nod to the research of Carol Dweck). When I was younger, I didn’t have the courage to take risks and bounce back from failure. I was too concerned with protecting my ego. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that a mistake is just Reality’s way of teaching you something important. (But it’s up to you to figure out what that important thing might be.)

Did you pick up the common threads? All of these advice nuggets help you explore your own identity, rather than directly tell you what to do. This kind of advice strengthens the self and gives you confidence to make future decisions based on what you’ve learned has and hasn’t worked for you in the past. As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” This advice gives you the ways and means to do just that.