Following last week’s article on coping with today’s 24/7 news cycle, Dr Stephanie Thornton continues her discussion on optimism – can we (and should we try to) ‘teach’ this in schools?

Positive psychology has been increasingly prominent in recent years. Optimism and positive thinking have been claimed as beneficial to physical and emotional health, to social engagement, to problem-solving capacities. Optimism has even been cited as a key factor in our evolution (Tiger 1979).
From this perspective we should all obviously be teaching the young an optimistic way of being! But over the past decade there has also been a backlash, questioning whether optimism is really that beneficial and whether it can – or should – be taught.

There is quite a body of research suggesting that an optimistic outlook is indeed beneficial to physical and mental health. For example, a review by Harvard Medical School sites a number of research studies showing that those who score as optimists are less likely to have health problems (from cardiac disease to viral infections), to have lower blood pressure, to have better outcomes after surgery, to live longer and be less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.

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