Why do optimistic positive people annoy me

Can you reprogram how someone sees the world?


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However, a positive expectation on its own also seems to have an effect. Studies show that. For example, researchers recently evaluated the health data of more than 97,000 women who were older than 50 years and whose well-being the researchers had followed for eight years. There was a group of women who developed fewer heart conditions than their peers - up to 30 percent. These test subjects were not necessarily fitter or thinner, they did not eat better or smoke less. They differed from their peers in one particular feature: They were extremely optimistic about the future.

For another study, US researchers recruited 268 graduates from Harvard University in the 1930s, whose health they continue to check regularly to this day. It showed that at a young age, pessimists and optimists were comparably healthy. But from the age of 45 onwards, the nonsenseers tended to develop health problems that were even more severe than those of their confident fellow students.

But can you reprogram how someone sees the world? Twin studies show that an optimistic or pessimistic attitude towards life is only about 25 percent innate - less than other personality traits. We watch the rest a lot, especially from the parents. If they do not think so, so do we as adults. But such patterns are reversible. People who deliberately wrote down what makes them happy in studies for a few days soon felt happier overall - and complained less about physical complaints and went to the doctor less often than test subjects who had written on neutral topics during the following months. Madelon Peters believes that all people have "scope" for more confident thoughts, except for the most die-hard pessimists. It relies on so-called visualization techniques to bring about a more positive future perspective. Under the guidance of a member of Peters' team, test subjects first write down what they want in terms of their personality, their relationships and their working life. They are then given an MP3 player to take home with them and every night before going to bed they can use a speaker to create scenarios in which their wishes will come true. The first results show: the method works. Anyone who daydreams about a dream future for just five minutes a day will soon start to think more optimistically.

Peters does not yet know how long the effect will last and whether such artificial optimism is as beneficial to health as it is more natural and spontaneous. To test this, she is planning a study in which hospital patients will practice thinking optimistically before surgery. Then she will measure how fast her recovery is progressing.

If Peters ’initial success is confirmed, it might one day be possible to get optimism training on a medical certificate. The only question then is: do we want that? Do we have to think ourselves healthy then? Cognitive behavioral therapies that encourage positive attitudes have their uses, says medical sociologist Clare Moynihan, who works with cancer patients in London, "for example to help someone see the other side of a very negative thought." But she also sees such trends with concern. In any case, patients constantly asked "whether they fight hard enough, how they should fight, how they can please their parents, partners or children by fighting harder. And they complain that their son or husband is fighting" not hard enough. " or 'not have the right attitude' to survive. " This could result in unspeakable suffering, says Moynihan. "Then there is sometimes this feeling of 'It's up to you to get rid of this disease'."

Some psychologists also warn that confidence can also be detrimental. That is when it leads to ignoring risks. In one study, for example, those students who were particularly confident that they would not develop an alcohol problem drank more than those who were worried.

There is also evidence that the immunological advantage enjoyed by optimists can, under certain circumstances, be reversed. It has been observed that particularly positive-thinking people were immunologically more susceptible than pessimists in prolonged stressful situations - perhaps because they continued to search for solutions in hopeless cases and ran the risk of wearing themselves out, researchers speculate.

Peters wants their work to be seen as an aid, not a burden, for patients. "Optimism is one of many factors and there should never be any pressure," she warns. "Sometimes it can be hard to be optimistic." But an extra dose of optimism can never hurt.