By Sunny Simon

I get the biggest kick out of my friend David. He has a quiz addiction. The other day David stated a quiz declared him a member of the obsessive compulsive disorder tribe. No gray areas, he scored 100%. We lovingly teased him. It was unnecessary to take a quiz to learn what we all knew to be true.

Rarely do I get sucked up into quiz mania, but today I stopped mid-page in a Success magazine to test my score on “The Optimism Quiz,” a short test by David Mezzapelle, author of the Contagious Optimism book series. According to Mezzapelle, an individual whose results fall in the range of 37 – 50, is an optimist possessing “strong positive qualities including gratitude, hope, altruism and persistence.” My score was 45. On a bit of a roll (David would be proud) I took another short personality test revealing basically the same results.

Wanting to do a deeper dive on the subject of optimism, I did some research. The first thing I wanted to know was I a natural born optimist, or did I learn it. My findings reported genetics do play a minor role, approximately 20%. Made sense to me that I inherited some of those genes as my positive-thinking mother was truly a glass half full person.

The good news, touted by experts like Dr. Martin Seligman, who is often referred to as the father of positive psychology, states optimism improves the immune system, prevents chronic disease and aids individuals in coping with negative events.  No one is exempt from stressful situations and there is no magic formula to make feelings of anxiety disappear, however, individuals with optimistic traits deal differently with stress. Studies show an optimistic person typically recovers faster from nasty set-backs.

If you feel you are more of a realist, or even a glass half empty type person, Seligman who also authored the book, “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Life and Mind,” believes your can change behaviors. In the book, Dr. Seligman delivers techniques that makes use of what he calls “learned optimism.” Cognitive psychologist Elaine Fox, author of “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: How to Retrain Your Brain to Overcome Pessimism and Achieve a More Positive Outlook,” agrees adapting an optimistic outlook can be learned.

No matter where you score on the pessimist, realist, optimist spectrum, the bottom line is a little positive thinking can help you maneuver through life’s roadblocks. This week, challenge yourself to find the silver lining and see if by doing so, your stress level lessens. I did, and I can feel the results. 

Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching and the author of the blog www.lifeonthesunnyside.net

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