How Optimistic Are You?

I read an interesting article that struck a cord with me and I though it would be worthy of sharing. It is in the April 2011 issue of O magazine about Optimism and feeling good. Dr Seligman, PhD. an expert in the field of positive psychology said, “When it comes to our health there are essentially four things under our control;

  • the decision not to smoke
  • a commitment to exercise
  • the quality of our diet
  • our level of optimism

Optimism is at least as as beneficial as the others. Scientists don’t yet fully understand the biological mechanisms at work . They know negative feelings like stress,worry and sadness cause a spike in the hormone cortisol. A rise in cortisol suppresses the immune system. It’s important to stay positive and be optimistic for our mental and physical health.

Tips on how to stay positive and healthy

  • Express yourself. When you clear your head good things happen to the rest of you. Journal your thoughts or talk to someone.
  • Try Meditative Exercise. Meditative exercise like yoga, tai chi have all sorts of health benefits including a boost to your immune system.
  • Seek help if you need it. People who are  not coping well emotionally and are clinically depressed don’t heal as well.
  • Lean on your friends. People with strong social ties are better at warding off infection and have lower stress levels.
  • Look on the bright side. People who score low on positive emotions were three times as likely so succumb to sickness in a study by Sheldon Cohen, PhD. Cohen says, “We all have the ability to choose an optimistic mind-set and with practice, we can get better at it.

There was a quiz to take to see how optimistic you are. You can take the How Optimistic Are You? quiz on line by clicking here.


How To Be An Optimist

Optimism is something we can improve with practice. Here are five exercises rooted in scientific studies to help train your brain. By Susan C. Vaughan, MD   See the article here.
O, The Oprah Magazine |  From the February 2002


If you serve up a smile to people, they usually bounce it back. Hit them with a snarl and watch them scowl instead. Research shows that facial expressions and the moods that accompany them are contagious, probably because they evolved as a means of nonverbal communication between people. You can use the infectious effects of a grin to jump-start an optimistic outlook in yourself by sending others what you want them to lob back at you. A kind word to the man behind the deli counter can get your day bouncing in the right direction.


There’s another reason for putting on a happy face: It influences your brain in a positive way. In one study, subjects who were asked to hold a pen in their mouth (causing them to inadvertently make the facial muscle movements characteristic of a smile) rated cartoons to be funnier than did other subjects, even though they were unaware that it was the smile that was boosting their reaction. There’s an interesting biological reason for this effect: When you feel down, your brain tells your face you’re sad and your facial muscles respond by putting on a depressed expression—and convey back to the brain that, yes, you’re feeling blue. Consciously changing the facial muscles so they don’t correspond to what you’re feeling is a way of sending a different message: “Hey, it’s not so bad down here after all.” The brain will respond by beginning to change your mood accordingly.


Research shows that it’s not what happens that determines your mood but how you explain what happens that counts. If an optimist encounters a computer program she can’t figure out, she’s likely to say, “Either the manual is unclear or this program is hard or maybe I’m having an off day.” The optimist keeps the failure outside herself (“the manual”), specific (“this program”), and temporary (“an off day”), while the pessimist would make it internal, global, and permanent. When success occurs optimists say, “Of course dinner turned out; I’m a good cook,” while pessimists say, “Boy, was I lucky today,” literally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If you start to speak to yourself in a more positive way when you succeed and fail, you’ll gradually become more optimistic.


It’s easy to be envious: Compare yourself to those with thinner thighs and fatter bank accounts and you’ll always come up wanting—and pessimistic. But the corollary is also true: No matter how bad things get, there’s always someone who’s worse off. In one simple study, subjects were randomly divided into two subgroups. One group was to finish the sentence “I wish I were a ______.” The other was asked to complete the sentence “I’m glad I’m not a ______.” When individuals rated their sense of satisfaction with their lives before and after this task, those who completed the “I’m glad I’m not a ______” sentence were significantly more satisfied than before.


Pessimists can’t stop depressing facts or negative thoughts from poking into their consciousness, but they can choose not to dwell on them. If you look through a camera lens, you’ll find that when one part of the picture is in focus, the other areas blur a bit. (This is a distortion, sure, but sometimes we need to sustain the idea of being in a protective bubble to feel optimistic.) This active self-direction of your own moment-to-moment perspective allows you to create a new life story, one in which you take charge of your emotions and actions. Since research shows that those who feel they have a better sense of control tend to be the most optimistic, why not take charge of where your psychological lens is focused?

Nutmeg Notes

I can’t help but think about how all of this relates to having a healthy life, eating well and either losing weight or maintaining weight loss.

If we focus on what we can’t have:

  • We have a feeling of deprivation.
  • If we dwell on how it’s not fair that some of us have to be diligent about what we eat and exercise while others can eat whatever they want and stay thin, then of course that is going to lead to more negative thoughts.
  • It leaves us with a sense of hopelessness which leads to more gloom and doom.
  • We feel powerless and out of control.

The good news is, we can change that thought process around into a positive one.

  • We can choose to focus on the fact that at least we have control over how we fuel our bodies.
  • Think about the wide variety of delicious tasting food we can eat that are also good for us!
  • Know that we are increasing our chances of fighting off infections and even preventing ourselves from having weight related health issues.
  • By living a life filled with healthy choices we are improving the quality of our life.
  • At the end of the day there are no regrets when the choices we make are healthy ones.

I took the How Optimistic are you quiz. I scored a 5 which according to the answer key means; From your perspective, things usually work out. Your ability to focus on the potential for good allows you to see the best in yourself too. This kind of optimistic bias can promote well-being. People who score in this category tend to be more outgoing, more resilient and happier! 🙂

Of course there is always room for improvement. I am a work in progress. I have not always had an optimistic outlook when it comes to my weight issues. I think that is part of the reason I yo-yo dieted for most of my adult life. In the past if I couldn’t be “perfect” with my food plan I would give up. If I gained a few pounds I would go into a negative thought process and think “Here I go again, I knew I would fail and fall back into my old habits.” Then I would feel discouraged and give up only to gain tons of pounds back. What we think does become our reality.

This little weight gain I have had has not derailed my positive outlook. I chose to look at it as temporary gain. It is a natural part of maintenance to gain a few pounds. The trick is to not let a few pounds turn into more and to not let negative thinking take over.

Oh and I am happy to say that I have lost 1 pound of my 6 pound gain! Yippee! Just 5 more to go. My jeans already fit better too. Gotta love that!

Put on your happy face, focus on the good choices you are making and keep moving forward!


Add Your Thoughts

How optimistic are you?

Have you noticed that if you smile at someone they usually smile back?

If you take the Optimistic Quiz and want to share your results come back and let me know.

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  1. Dawn Hutchins says:

    I definitely have my moments but overall I feel like I am pretty optomistic. During weak moments I always do a gratitude list and then feel better. You are so right, it absolutely relates to weight loss to get you through those times of plateau and even gain.

    1. Tami says:

      A gratitude list is a wonderful way to reset our frame of mind. Positive thinking can take some effort but it is so worth it! 🙂

  2. Karen says:

    I am not by nature an optimist. I do think it can make a difference though. Yep, I’ve noticed the smiling thing:)

    1. Tami says:

      Karen is your husband an optimist? It seems that often times we marry someone who is the opposite of ourselves.

      My hubby took the test and we scored the same. I have always thought he was more optimistic than me. In reality I think we bounce back and forth depending on what is happening in our lives. 🙂

  3. Helen says:

    About half the time they smile back… the other half say, “What’s so funny?” Growl, growl, scowl.

    I work on being optimistic as I’m generally a glass half empty person. Of course I love being around optimistic people as long as they are realistically optimistic and not just sunshine and rainbow and kittens. Those types just annoy me lol!

    1. Tami says:

      Helen, you said,”About half the time they smile back… the other half say, “What’s so funny?” Growl, growl, scowl.”

      I had to laugh, that’s not very optimistic! You are right though, not everyone smiles back but I don’t let that bother me, I smile at them anyway. If I get a grumpy clerk in a store, I sometimes ask them if they are having a difficult day and it’s surprising how many times it turns them around.

      I have never really known anyone who was a rainbows and kitty’s everything is always lovely kind of person. It seems impossible to be like that 24/7.

      Hope you are having a wonderful day! 🙂

  4. Jan says:

    I am tend to no be optimistic, or to put a positive spin on it: I tend to be more pessimistic, or rather realistic. I do try to reframe my thinking more positively – but it is an effort.

    As a side note: Martin Seligman is very respected in the world of psychology, and his recommendations are almost always based on evidence (unlike many psychologists who pen self-help books).

    1. Tami says:

      Jan thanks for the information about Martin Seligman. Good to know. I love learning about how the brain works. It’s fascinating.

      When I read about how what we eat affects our brain, our mood and our desire for more of the same it helped me immensely to understand the desire to eat outside of hunger. It isn’t all about will power after all! That’s another post!

      Hope you are having an amazing day! 🙂

  5. renee@mykitchenadventures says:

    yay for losing one pound already…on your way.

    I will take that test…i try to remain optomisitic most of the time, I think. one thing I can add is surround yourself with optimistic ppl and try to stay away from pessimism…both are contagious. 🙂

    1. Tami says:

      Thank you Renee!

      I like what you said, “surround yourself with optimistic ppl and try to stay away from pessimism…both are contagious.”

      This is so true. I have found this to also apply to positive vs negative spins with blogs too.Misery loves company they say and it is true.

      Hope you day is going well! 🙂

  6. Ann says:

    I took the quiz and I was totally shocked at how right it was. It said I am generally hopeful, I tend to be overly aware of possible negative outcomes. That leads to a less positive outlook and then less motivation. Less motivation leads to less chance of success. How very true. And on the mark for me. Great article. I’ve worked hard to change these attitudes, but it’s not my nature to be “chipper”.

    1. Tami says:

      Ann that was very interesting! Awareness is key to making change.

      Dawn suggested keeping a gratitude journal to help see things in a more positive light. It’s a great idea.

      Hope you are having another amazing day! 🙂

  7. Roz says:

    Hi Tami, LOVE this post. I’m trying REALLY hard to be optimistic these days. I have some challenges in my life, but REFUSE to let is get me down. I’m also doing yoga, surrounding myself with positive people and leaning on my friends. I think everyone could take this info and run with it. And the world would be a happier, healthier place. Thanks!!!!

    1. Tami says:

      Roz I felt your enthusiasm in your response and you know what, it is contagious!

      You are so right with what you said, “I think everyone could take this info and run with it. And the world would be a happier, healthier place.”

      We just have to pass the information along and help those around us to make the change!

      Knowledge is power!

      I hope you are having an amazing day! 🙂

  8. Jody - Fit at 53 says:

    What a fantastic post!!! Thx Tami! Honestly, I am not an optimist by nature, like Karen. Lots of negativity in the house growing up.. my mom did mot like herself so you kind of learn the vibe. I have been working as an adult to do better…. sometimes better than others… I will have to read your links after some sleep! 🙂

    Thx Tami!

    1. Tami says:

      Jody growing up in an environment like that does have an impact on who you are. At least you have the awareness of what is happening and that you need to work on being positive.

      I have always found you to be optimistic in your blog posts!

      Do take the test if you have time. it’s fun to see the results.

      I hope you are enjoying some sunshine! 🙂

  9. Cammy@TippyToeDiet says:

    A friend says I am “obnoxiously optimistic”, but I took the quiz anyway because I love quizzes. 🙂 I didn’t see a number score, but it said I had a positive, healthy outlook. I’ll take it.

    My biggest helper in maintaining optimism is the mantra “something wonderful will happen”. I try to repeat it a few times each morning to remind myself to be open to (and present for) all the nice things that will happen that day. Since those almost always outnumber the bad things, I like to keep them at the forefront. 🙂

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Cammy. The number score results must have been only with the magazine test. I love your attitude and your mantra. What a wonderful way to start your day as you say, “thinking that the nice things almost always outnumber the bad things!” Imagine the difference in all of our lives if everyone started out their day thinking like you. Thanks for sharing this.

      Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

  10. Dr. J says:

    Don’t worry, be happy 🙂

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