YES. According to this article and most of the studies I found, optimism appears to be good for your health and pessimism seems to be bad. But I also found one study that suggested the opposite – that people who are overly optimistic about their future actually faced greater risk of disability or death within 10 years than did those pessimists who expected their future to be worse. So I guess the question about the glass being half full or half empty still depends on your perspective.
Optimism about the Future
This week I was one of several presenters giving short talks to the World Future Society about what makes us optimistic about the future. Rather than rant about health reform, as I often do, I chose instead to talk about BIG Broadband and Google’s choice of Austin for its next gigabit fiber network, Kansas City being their first. I spoke of the applications enabled by Internet access that’s more than 100 times faster than what we currently have, how it enables exciting new applications and innovations in telehealth, telework, distance learning, e-commerce, e-government, and more.
But this article takes a different spin, with text provided by Anne Boysen, one of the other speakers. Her interesting approach fits nicely with the half empty / half full question, because she looks at several trends that bring out the pessimist in us, followed by balancing trends that give us hope.
In the Future
…there will be far too many people here than can receive enough energy, food and water under our current systems. But in the future there will also be fewer births as more women will have access to education and contraceptive pills.
…society will be challenged by a growing elderly population, which could lay claim on resources and manpower taking away from the productive sphere. But in the future many elderly will be healthier, more independent and able to get many of their healthcare needs met by telemedicine or via the smart grids of their homes.
…we will feel the full effects of climate change, with cities submerging under water, severe hurricanes, typhoons, floods and possibly more extreme winters in some parts of the world. But in the future we will also try to adapt by creating better disaster plans, organizing national and multinational migration policies, by building resilient houses and communities and by taming our cravings for carbon fuels.
…we will see the devastations brought on by a fossil fuel driven economy that sustains itself and it’s members by perpetual growth and consumption. But in the future our economic system will adapt to much more resource conserving, renewable, intelligent and vegetarian forms of production and consumption.
…we will ask ourselves why we allowed a distorted income distribution to let over 1/5 of our children to grow up in poverty. But in the future we will also have learned that trying to fix the problems that result from poverty is far more expensive than preventing them, so the next generation will grow up with better economic security.
…as in the past, there will be people who form much of their identity through conspicuous consumption and signal their worth through status symbols. But in the future a whole new populist shadow economy will allow people to barter, crowdfund, and to form coop networks and sharing communities.
…the learning curve in basic education will follow a trajectory of Moore’s Law and increasing pace of change puts you in a perpetual tailspin where your education is never over. But in the future learning will be what you do when you hike the trails with your dog, when you play Minecraft alongside your child, and when you snuggle up in the cozy chair with a hand held device that takes you to the next free lesson from Khan Academy.
…when we thought that the most beautiful, the most shocking and the most profound of every artistic genre has already been invented we will be stunned once again.
…there will be limits to growth, as we have been warned by Club of Rome. But in the future there will also be Abundance as described by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler from the Singularity University.
About the Author
Anne Boysen (512-568.4941) is a professional futurist with a masters degree in Strategic Foresight. She lives here in Austin, TX and does future oriented market research. She alsowrites a blog, After the Millennials, about the youngest generation we know, the generation born after the early 2000s. More precisely, it’s about the future they will shape and be shaped by in the coming years and decades. This young demographic is sometimes called the New Silents, Generation Z or the Homelanders, and they can bring hope to us seniors.
Stress and Sleep
I encourage you to find your own reasons for developing a positive outlook on life, because Optimism may help you live longer and better in numerous ways. One of those is in reducing stress and improving the amount and quality of regenerative sleep, which we’ve written so much about. Here are some related articles you may also be interested in:
- How to Become a Positive Thinker
- Optimism Fueled By Social Connections Could Boost Physical Health: Study
- The Top 5 Ways to Reduce Stress and Reclaim Your Peace of Mind
- Our own collection of articles on Stress & Sleep