Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Cultivate Optimism

Optimistic people are healthier, and optimism is a skill you can improve.  Optimistic people have lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, a stronger immune system, and a longer lifespan.  They also have a reduced risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.  The skills that help cultivate happiness include maintaining reasonable expectations, honing a sense of humor, finding meaning and purpose, and cultivating friendships.

Researchers analyzed data from 1,004 Austrians and found that the probability of suffering from sleep problems or insomnia was about 70% lower for optimists than pessimists.  The researchers theorize that sleep quality is better for optimistic people because prior research has shown they exercise more, eat a healthier diet, and manage stress better.

Lawyers are trained for pessimism.  We utilize worst case scenarios and critical thinking to identify and solve problems for clients.  Consider countering professional pessimism with personal optimism by:

  • Noticing the little things that delight you
  • Focusing on the good things in your day or life
  • Imagining your best possible self.

Takeaway: Mindful attention to the good in life can counter trained pessimism and potentially improve sleep and health.

Sources

Debra S. Austin, Windmills of Your Mind: Understanding the Neurobiology of Emotion, 54 Wake Forest L. Rev. 931, 968-69 (2019) https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3374006.

Neuroscience News, Optimistic People Sleep Better, July 9, 2020, https://neurosciencenews.com/optimism-sleep-16623/.

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