Two Kinds of People

What is your typical reaction to the nightly news?

“I never watch it,” someone says. “It’s just too depressing!” Granted. There are negative stories practically every evening. Stories about blood and gore tend to get prominent placement. What’s the newsroom creed? If it bleeds, it leads?

“Oh, I see those horrible stories too,” chimes in another person. “They remind me that my responsibility for the coming day is to make someone’s world a little better. I can’t fix everything. But I can make a difference somewhere.”

Depending on which of those responses is closer to your own, you reveal a lot about your personality. Pessimists have a harder time with life than optimists. They have more health problems. They encounter more relationship difficulties. They are more prone to destructive behaviors such as alcohol abuse.

On the other hand, studies by psychologists show optimistic souls lead longer, healthier lives than their gloomy peers. One study whose results I read in the press followed about 1,000 men and women through a decade of their lives. Those who were “very optimistic” had a 55 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 23 percent lower risk of heart-related death.

Optimistic people are more physically active. They drink and smoke less. They exhibit greater self-respect. They enhance the morale of people around them. They value relationships with family and friends and do a better job maintaining them. They cope with stress differently and more effectively.

No, a leopard can’t change its spots. Some features of human personality are part of the hand we get dealt at birth. And some people may need the benefit of counselors or medications that help many deal with anxiety or depression.

But you can change some things. Avoid negative people who complain and criticize; spend time instead with positive, nurturing souls. Walk 30 minutes a day on three or four days of the week; walk with eyes roaming the landscape for beauty around you. Look for ways to help as a team member at your workplace or church; a commitment to helping trumps a lot of critical, negative attitudes. Pray about things that upset you; put someone bigger than yourself in charge.

Learning to see the glass as half full rather than half empty has practical rewards for you, your family, and your colleagues at work. No one but you can make the choice to see your world through different eyes.

A change in your perspective can change everything else in your world.